When you go in to take the LSAT, you’ll be surrounded by students who have chosen not to do any significant preparation. This might be surprising given the obvious importance of the test, but we’ve heard a lot of reasons for this questionable approach. Below are just a few.
“The LSAT is just a test of my reasoning and reading ability, so preparation is unlikely to lead to any real improvement.”
This is a common misconception that the test makers want you to believe. Their job is to create a test that’s difficult to prepare for, so it is in their best interest for people to believe that it’s simply a test of natural abilities.
This misconception is also perpetuated by those who have already taken the test and achieved a good score. That type of student would also prefer that you not prepare—the fewer people in the vicinity with high LSAT scores, the more impressive that achievement looks.
Of course, this misconception can also be a pretty easy sell—some test takers might be more willing to believe in the futility of test prep if it means that they can avoid expending the necessary effort.
In reality, the skills measured by the LSAT can be developed significantly with the proper approach. In many ways the LSAT is more like a language test than an IQ test, and the more fluent you become in the language and reasoning of the test, the more your score increases.
“My classes and coursework take too much time to allow for LSAT preparation.”
The significance of the LSAT in law school admissions decisions is irrefutable—it’s generally at least as important as your undergraduate GPA. That’s not really fair if you think about it: consider the one college class that required you to do the most work, because of term papers, tough exams, endless reading, etc. The difference between an A and a D in that class would have had a nearly imperceptible effect on your overall GPA. In preparing for the LSAT, the return on such an investment of time and effort would be incomparable.
“I think I’ll just take it ‘cold’ and see how it goes…”
It’s reasonable to be curious about the test, or about how well you might do. But if that is why you want to take an officially administered LSAT, it would be far easier, cheaper and quicker to just pick up a past test (make sure it’s a real one, licensed by LSAC) and take it on your own. If you are really curious about what score you could achieve, then there is no good reason to deprive yourself of some familiarity with the language and style of the LSAT before actually taking the test.
“I prefer to minimize my level of anxiety.”
This is one of the most common reasons that people avoid preparation. If they are going to take the test, they just want to go it, get it over with, and then maybe block out the entire memory if possible. This is not the most effective way to minimize stress. “Test anxiety” can be caused by many factors, but making test day an entirely unfamiliar experience can be a great way to ensure stress. The effort you invest to prepare beforehand can be the difference between anxious fear and confident control.
“My friend’s cousin knows a guy who took the LSAT without any preparation whatsoever and got a near-perfect score.”
Perhaps we’ve all heard the story of the student who walked into the test without a care in the world and walked out with an amazing score. You want to know a secret? That student probably prepared! Everyone likes to “make it look easy,” but a lot of the smartest people prepare to do so!
You can do it too if you like: just be sure to be well prepared. Then you can attribute your high LSAT score to your natural gifts, or huge brain, or whatever!