Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 2.58.13 PMBelow is an excerpt from Let’s LSAT: 180 Tips from 180 Students on how to Score 180 on your LSAT, which includes an interview with one of our LSAT instructors, Mary Adkins. Mary has degrees from Yale Law School and Duke, and has over 8 years of experience teaching the LSAT after scoring in the 99th percentile on the test.

Jacob: What should one’s goals be when studying for the LSAT?

Mary: I think a misconception that people often have is that they can improve their LSAT score by learning tricks, and the reason I think that’s so dangerous is it’s only going to get you so far. I mean, there are certain patterns to the test and we can teach those patterns. People can learn what to look for and how to spot an extreme term and a wrong answer choice, but unless you really understand the underlying skills that the test is designed to evaluate, your score isn’t going to be in the top percentile.

So, I’d say the goal should not be learning tricks, but learning what the test is designed to test: your ability to think logically. The goal should be to come up to that threshold and become a more logical, attuned, precise thinker. That’s the best thing you can do to be better at the LSAT, but the beauty of this is that it’s not just going to make you better at the LSAT – it’s going to make you a better logical thinker overall, which will make you a better student and a better lawyer.

Jacob: So, if your goal is to become a more logical thinker, it’ll show in your LSAT score, will it not?

Mary: I believe it would. I was just going to say, as a tutor and teacher, of course I’m very excited when my students reach their goal scores or when my students see a lot of improvement, but one of my most rewarding moments, as a teacher, was when one of my students, at the end of the course, told me that he felt smarter having taken it. That’s exactly what we’re going for. It’s like an overall improvement in thinking ability. One way that’s manifested is in the LSAT, but it’s not exclusive to the LSAT.

Jacob: How long would you recommend studying for, as far as being able to change your thinking?

Mary: It’s so specific to the person, so it’s really hard to say, to be honest. I think several months, at least. To be safe, you should give yourself several months. I wanted to bring this up at some point, actually, because my colleague, Matt Sherman, has a brilliant response to the idea that you can peak too soon when it comes to the LSAT – he thinks it’s a myth.

There is no peaking too soon: you only get better at the LSAT the longer you study it. You don’t get worse. So, starting as far in advance as possible, in that view, would be beneficial. I mean, life’s realities make that impossible for most of us. We’re not going to study the LSAT for years, but if we did, we would be better at it when we finally took it. So, several months is kind of the general answer that I would give to that question, but even students starting to study two or three months in advance find that they’re really under a lot of pressure. They’re trying to do too much in a really short amount of time.

So, even 3-4 months in advance is still putting a lot of pressure on yourself, particularly if you have other obligations, like work or school, but I find students tend to find six months in advance much more manageable. Again, six months is not always long enough for them to see as much improvement as they want. So, that’s when it really becomes person-specific.

 

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law school application season 2014It’s almost mid-August, and that means the application season for 2015 matriculation is gearing up. At this time of year, I always get asked a lot about timeline. When should you be working on your personal statement? When should you ask your recommenders for letters of recommendation, and what deadlines should you give them? Can you plan to take the LSAT in December, or should you cram for October (if you haven’t already begun studying)?

Here we go—a thorough guide to the timing of law school application season, by category!

The LSAT

At the front of most people’s minds is the LSAT, and rightly so; it’s the most important part of your application along with GPA. If you don’t have an LSAT score yet (or don’t have one you plan to rely on to get into law school, yet) but plan to apply for admission in 2015, that means you’re either looking at the September or December exam. Notice I didn’t say February. If you plan to apply to start in 2015, do not plan to take the February LSAT exam because (1) some schools don’t take it, and (2) even for the schools that do, you’ll be at a disadvantage due to the rolling nature of admissions.

Which brings me to the next question—to take September or December? Almost across the board I am going to recommend taking September. Again, rolling admissions means aiming for the December test not only puts you at a disadvantage, time-wise (no law school is going to review your application until the entire thing is in, LSAT score and all), but it also only gives you one shot to get the score right. Taking September, on the other hand, means that if something goes wrong, you aren’t completely out of the running for fall 2015 entry. You can still take the December test.

So who doesn’t this apply to? Right now, there are about six weeks left before the fall LSAT. If you can’tstart studying pretty hardcore ASAP—and I mean tomorrow—you have two options. Either you sit down and take a practice test and you are scoring within 1-2 points of where you hope to score, in which case, you don’t need to hardcore study between now and then. Or you sit down and take a practice test and you need to improve more than 5 points to be happy with your score. For you, the person who needs 5+ points but doesn’t have the time to study between now and the end of September—I suggest applying next year. As a second, less ideal option, you could also study this fall and take December and apply, but again, for the reasons I mentioned above, understand that you will be at a disadvantage.

Personal Statement

This is something that will take you a couple of weeks to get right, most likely, and that’s including drafts that you have others read and that you revise until it’s working. Not to mention, many schools offer the option of writing the secondary essay (often a “diversity” essay) and/or include in their applications other questions to be answered, as well. Starting now is a good idea if you don’t need to devote 100% of your free time to getting a good LSAT score. If LSAT study does need to remain your sole focus, however, keep it that way—save essay-writing for the 3 weeks after you’ve taken the test before you’ve gotten your score back.

This is also true for any addenda you may want to write (explaining away a bad semester, grade-wise, for example, or a criminal conviction or disciplinary action).

Letters of Recommendation

Ask for them yesterday. Recommenders like to have time for these, not because they actually plan to spend two months writing, but because their schedules invariably fill up like wildfire come fall when school resumes. You call follow up with them occasionally (every few weeks or so) to politely check in if they haven’t submitted the letters. And as for what deadline to give them, well, since admissions are rolling, I’m entirely comfortable asking them to have the letter in by whenever you plan to have your application in for optimal consideration. That could be as soon as you get your September LSAT score, or it could be the first day applications are accepted. As long as you give the recommender ample notice, this is unlikely to be a problem.

The Rest of Your Application

The rest of the application—resume, transcript, score reports—are either out of your hands or shouldn’t take a great deal of time to perfect. Most of you have drafted resumes with the help of your college’s career counseling office, for example—but if not, absolutely get some advice and review, even if it’s just online, of proper resume drafting for law school applications.

When to Submit

Again, because of the nature of rolling admissions, you are best off applying as early as possible. This means you should check when the schools to which you are applying begin accepting applications and submit yours as close to that date as possible. Of course, you are going to be restricted by the release date of your LSAT score if you haven’t already taken it. That’s fine. Just have everything ready to go so that as soon as your score is available, you can promptly submit your full application.

Hang in there, be systematic, and it’ll all be over before you know it!

Manhattan LSAT

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Today, we’re going to look at the game that had everyone talking after the June 2014 LSAT exam: Summit Company. Summit Company had everyone thrown for a little bit of a loop, and it’s not surprising why. It has been awhile since a Transposition game has shown up on the LSAT. Watch this video to hear Christine Defenbaugh explain the four step process to attack and conquer Transposition games.

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All Manhattan Prep instructors earn $100/hour for teaching and tutoring – up to four times the industry standard. These are part-time positions with flexible hours, allowing you to pursue other career interest. Many of our instructors maintain full-time positions, engage in entrepreneurial endeavors, or pursue advanced degrees concurrently while teaching for Manhattan Prep. (To learn more about our exceptional instructors, read their bios or view this short video).

Learn about how to transform your passion for teaching into a lucrative and fulfilling part-time career by joining us for one of the following Online Open House events!

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About Manhattan Prep

Manhattan Prep is a premier test-preparation company serving students and young professionals studying for the GMAT (business school), LSAT (law school), GRE (master’s and PhD programs), and SAT (undergraduate programs).  We are the leading provider of GMAT prep in the world.

Manhattan Prep conducts in-person classes and private instruction across the United States, Canada, and England.  Our online courses are available worldwide, and our acclaimed Strategy Guides are available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.  In addition, Manhattan Prep serves an impressive roster of corporate clients, including many Fortune 500 companies.  For more information, visit www.manhattanprep.com.

 

LSAT-humor1. How do you sleep at night?

2. Do you have any friends?

3. How much could your job possibly pay?

4. You’re in Mensa, aren’t you?

5. You tell people at parties that you’re in Mensa, don’t you?

6. Do you date online?

7. On your dating profile, do you put as your job, “Writes the LSAT?”

8. Do you get asked out people who only want you for your insider LSAT knowledge?

9. Do you yell at these people at some point, “YOU ONLY WANTED ME FOR MY LSAT SECRETS!”

10. Is your kid prohibited from taking an LSAT you write because that’s like really corrupt?

11. Do you dream in conditional logic?

12. Is the best answer B?

13. If Oliver gets a 160, and Miguel gets a 172, for how many people taking the test do you know their exact scores?

lsat-humor1. It’s too cold. No, too hot. No, too cold.

2. It’s too muggy, that’s the problem.

3. If it’s too muggy, then I cannot concentrate. What’s the contrapositive of that?

4. Where the *!& is the clock? Oh, there it is.

5. Um, why is the clock in the room not working? Oh, it is.

6. What am going to do with all the free time I’ll have after this? I should go to the beach.

7. The amount of construction going on outside cannot be normal.

8. Did I bring enough pencils because what if all seven break?

9. Who smells like Thai food?

10. I don’t even know how to feel about what just happened in that section.

11. I’m going to have the biggest margarita after this.

12. Stop thinking about margaritas.

13. I can already taste it.

14. It is disorienting how naked I feel without my cell phone.

15. Essay time! Almost done! Okay, focus. No, not sleep, FOCUS!

16. Where is my car? Wait, did I drive here?

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lsat-study-myths-busted1. MYTH: You should just keep taking practice tests until you’ve taken them all.

Please don’t do this. As we repeat again and again over here at Manhattan LSAT, preparation for this test is all about quality over quantity. If you just plow through tests without taking time to learn the proper strategies, to apply them, and then to evaluate your work with close and careful review using all of the study tools at your disposal (free explanations of questions by our 99th percentile teachers on the forum, in-class review sessions, and instructor office hours, among others), you will not be maximizing your study time, and your score will likely not improve as much as it could.

2. MYTH: You can’t improve at reading comp.

You can. It’s just slower than, say, improving at logic games, because you essentially have to learn how to read for the LSAT. Reading comp on the LSAT requires several skills that can feel and seem diametrically opposed: You have to be efficient but also thorough; you have to understand what you’re reading but not get bogged down by the details you don’t understand; you have to be sufficiently well-versed in the subject matter to be able to answer 5-7 questions on it but don’t need to try to become an expert on what you don’t need to become an expert on.

The solution here is going to be to take advantage of learning opportunities but also, to allow yourself enough time to improve on reading comp if you really need to. A month is generally speaking not enough.

3. MYTH: If you get a 180 on the LSAT, the school will just let you in regardless of what the rest of your application looks like.

You may have heard the legend of the guy who got a 180 and just drew a smiley face on the essay portion of his exam, then got into Harvard. If you haven’t, there’s a legend about a guy who got a 180 and just drew a smiley face on the essay portion of his exam, then got into Harvard.

I highly doubt this is true. But either way, I am going to say something frank and perhaps harsh, but listen up: If you actually want to use this as a guideline in approaching your own LSAT and application and major life decisions, please, by all means, do. Because the world doesn’t need any more dumb lawyers, and this will help weed them out.

Schools read your applications. They may or may not read your LSAT essay—but just in case, write one. And write it well (or, as best you can after sitting for four hours).

4. MYTH: You can rig your chances of scoring higher by which test you choose to take—February, June, October or December.

Nope. They’re all the same folks, at least for your purposes. Can’t plot this one, so don’t waste any more time thinking about it. Go do a logic game.

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lsat-tactics1. Spend an entire hour working on one problem.

Sometimes, a really difficult problem can teach you 10 times more than doing 10 easy (or medium ones). That’s why I sometimes recommend the super pile to my students. Need more practice? You can take a shot at our latest LSAT Logic Games Challenge, designed to help you flex those LSAT muscles.

2. Sleep.

It breaks my LSAT-tutor heart when a student walks in with bags under her eyes and a droopy face and tells me she’s been getting five hours of sleep a night because she doesn’t get to bed until midnight and wakes up at 5am to study. STOP! YOU NEED TO SLEEP! Your brain needs sleep for learning. It’s science. From a little place called Harvard.

3. Do the same game over and over again.

Think about it this way, you’re making a template in your brain of a game. And when you see a similar one next time, your brain is going to drag out that old memory, dust it off, and give you a nice push as you struggle under anxiety and panic and a sneezing neighbor.

4. Teach your mom an LSAT problem.

Been there, done it, got the t-shirt, and the t-shirt said: This was a really good exercise in making sure I actually understood a question. Key: Make sure you tell your mom (or dad, or aunt, or roommate) to really push you to explain why the wrong answer he/she likes isn’t right.

5. Turn off your cell phone.

You won’t. I know you won’t, because I know you, and you’re like me and everyone else on this forsaken 2014 tech-obsessed planet. But listen, do this much—put it on silent and flip it over. And then don’t look at it until you’ve done a whole section. Seriously, this will make your studying better.

6. Let the dog pout, let the cat kill you later.

I swear I’ve looked at cats that want to kill me. If I had one, or a dog, and I really needed to focus, I also swear I would lock them out of the room. You feel horrible, I know, because you love your pet. But since they love you back, they will understand (forget). The LSAT is a temporary priority over man’s best friend’s need for unending attention.

7. Making yourself read a whole boring article in a magazine or newspaper.

Choose whatever you find boring, something that doesn’t actually grab your attention and keep it for long. Try The Economist, or Scientific American. And then make yourself read the whole thing without taking a break. You’re going to start appreciating reading comp passages more after this, I guarantee it (maybe not)!

8. Only let yourself read each word one time.

I’m sure you aren’t someone whoever re-reads a sentence because you found yourself drifting the first time, right? No, that’s not you. That’s none of us. But regardless, I’ve assigned this as an exercise both in logical reasoning and reading comp for students who get into the bad habit of re-reading because their minds wander, and it’s great re-training.

9. Reward yourself for studying well.

This isn’t just a depressing list. There should be pay-offs for good study habits. Buy a cupcake (there are so many cupcake places near Manhattan LSAT!) or a beer or a movie on iTunes…whatever your treat of choice, but do make yourself study well to earn it. You’ll like it even more.

10. Stop scoring your tests.

This last tactic isn’t for everyone. But if you’ve become someone who’s so focused on that number, you can’t actually find the energy to do thorough review and believe in your ability to more forward because all you keep thinking about is “I WENT DOWN TWO POINTS?!” do yourself a favor and just: stop. Stop scoring. Learn it, get better, keep your chin up. And when you’re ready, score again.

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