Jeff Klein, LSAT Expert

Jeff Klein is an instructor of Manhattan Review. He has seven years of teaching experience, helping to prepare students for the SAT, GRE and LSAT. He also served as the Director of Education at another educational services firm, where he created lessons and managed teachers in classes ranging from grade 2 to postgraduate. He is a graduate of Binghamton University.

What do college admissions teams want to see from an LSAT score? How does it affect a prospective student's total application?
The LSAT composite score ranges from 120 to 180 and is drawn from the four scored multiple-choice sections. Roughly half of all LSAT scores fall between 145 and 159; the average LSAT composite score range is 149-151. The range of scores that an admissions department looks for varies by school, but the LSAT is the only part of a law school application that quantifies and standardizes an applicant's projected aptitude.  Furthermore, LSAT scores can weigh significantly in an applicant's financing strategy-scholarship offers are in large part dependent on an applicant's performance on the exam.

What is the biggest mistake aspiring law students make before taking the LSAT?
The biggest mistake an aspiring law student can make before taking the LSAT is failing to prepare properly for the many subtle variations of question types. The LSAT measures a student's facility in using a very specific skill-set germane to contemporary legal education, i.e.:  argument formation; argumentative structure and analysis; logical validity, necessity and sufficiency; critical thinking and evidence analysis; reading comprehension. As such, it is critically important for a test-taker to enter an LSAT administration armed with comprehensive knowledge of the exam's structure and format. The test taker should be fully prepared for each section's potential question types in order to most accurately represent his or her true aptitude to prospective admissions departments. 

How much time should students spend preparing for the exam before test day? How much time should they give themselves when registering? Should students plan enough time between the test date an application deadline to take the test a second time if their scores aren't high enough?
The preparation process for each student is different. I typically recommend a minimum of three months of dedicated preparation for a student to gain the required familiarity with each of the question types and all of their variations.  If conditions allow, I prefer to gradually increase the intensity of study over a four-plus month period, ensuring that my students are gaining both the knowledge and the confidence needed to perform at their peaks on test day.  You should have a good idea of what to expect out of both the exam and yourself on test day, but should you be unhappy with your performance and decide to retake the test, be aware that it is offered in June, September/October, December, and February. Taking the test in June ensures there is adequate time to review your score and retake the exam in late September in advance of fall semester application deadlines. Registration availability can be limited in some areas in advance of the more popular administrations, so plan accordingly.

In your opinion, what is the best way for one to prepare for the LSAT? There are many books, classes, practice tests, etc., available. Is one method preferable to another? Why?
There are as many ways to prepare for the LSAT as there are students who take it. Each student knows how comfortable he or she is with standardized testing and should plan accordingly. The various books and online information available is a good way to start, and practice tests are essential for measuring how your performance is coming along. When individual questions come up, a student may find classes and in-person tutoring a good way to get answers and develop strategies for improving LSAT performance.

What advice do you have for students the night before and during the test?

  • Try to get a good night's sleep. Make sure you set an alarm clock (or three).
  • Make sure you have a number of writing implements, a sweatshirt, water, etc.
  • Make sure you have your identification documentation in order.
  • Plan your route to the test site. Give yourself plenty of extra time to account for traffic and acts of nature. If you get there 45 minutes early, you can relax and meditate or give yourself a nice, long pep talk. The point is that you really don't want/need the stress of rushing, potentially being late, looking for a parking spot, etc.
  • Don't plan on doing any heavy studying. You might want to spend some time on mechanical skills like diagramming arguments or identifying and setting up for logic games, but be wary of intense last-minute preparation-if you've put in the effort to be well-prepared, the extra few hours of studying will have little effect; if you're badly under-prepared, last-minute frantic attempts will likely do more harm than good.

What about after law school when preparing for the bar? Should students prepare similarly?
A state bar association admission exam is a very different test from the LSAT. The LSAT measures a student's general rational aptitude; it is designed to provide insight into his or her ability to think critically. It establishes and quantifies the ranges and limits of a test-taker's intellectual agility and poise under pressure.  In contrast, state bar exams are designed to determine an applicant's fitness to represent clients and to actually practice law.  While law schools want to ascertain your ability to comprehend the theoretical underpinnings of contemporary legal systems, bar exams instead measure your mastery of the practical features of a particular legal system.  Preparation for a bar exam requires an applicant to become intimately familiar with a wide variety of very specific statutory regulations and procedural requirements, whereas preparing for the LSAT calls on the student to adjust his or her critical technique to conform to the general rules of logical validity, and further to practice quickly and accurately implementing that technique under the changing conditions each new test question presents. 

In short, the LSAT is an altogether different animal from a state bar exam; the respective preparation strategies that each exam calls for are similarly divergent. Once you have completed law school, you will have a greater understanding of the sort of information and knowledge that the bar exam tests for.

To learn more about the LSAT, read our LSAT Guide, or visit our LSAT Directory to find helpful test preparation materials.

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