Does Everyone Really Need to Prepare for the LSAT?
If there’s one thing I can promise you about the Litigious Quest you’re embarking upon, it’s this: When you walk into Your Dream Law School on Day 1, there’s going to be some guy there who claims he didn’t even prep for the LSAT. You’ll know him by the snooty lilt to his voice. (He’ll probably be going into patent law.) He will be implying—or will he be inferring? (LSAT tip #1: learn the difference between implying and inferring)—that he is so innately brilliant that he was able to earn a top score without any of the desperate measures you had to take to eek out your score. He will be implying that his Road is the Higher Road, and that you should be ashamed of the prep you did.
But the thing is, everybody who gets a good score on the LSAT prepped for it. Only some people did a lot of their prep work months and years before they ever took the test, in some form that might not have involved The Official LSAT SuperPrep.
Patent Guy might not have memorized every different species of logic game, but then maybe he didn’t need to because took a formal logic class when he was an undergrad. And if he did, good for him. But for those of us who preferred not to be miserable in college (and so took Intro to Sculpting, or Chinese Literature, or any class that met once a week in the afternoons), we might have to spend a bit of extra time reviewing contrapositives before we take the LSAT.
Maybe Patent Guy was lucky enough to have a fourth grade math teacher who spent an extra month on word problems, just long enough for him to know how to put something like “The flight to Brussels leaves before the flight to Antwerp unless it leaves after the flight to Copenhagen” into a diagram. But you might have been stuck with a fourth grade math teacher who told you to practice your multiplication tables while he edited his Middle Earth fan fiction.
Or maybe—like your author here—Patent Guy’s mother was an attorney, and so when he was growing up, learning the tools of rhetoric was life or death. If he didn’t decipher the trinity of Premises-Assumptions-Conclusion, and fast, he was never going to get that extra half hour of TV before going to bed. Don’t let Patent Guy’s arrogance make you regret growing up in a functional, lawyer-free, argument-free household. It was a blessing! Only now, to make up for it, you might have to spend a few more weeks splicing every argument you see into its premises and its conclusion before test day. But that’s not a bad thing.
The thing is, everyone in the room with you when you take the LSAT will have taken a different route to the test. And if yours involves a lot of prep work, there’s no shame in it. A lower LSAT score won’t look any better just because you didn’t study for it, even though a lot of people convince themselves that’s the case.
Most of the people I know who have taken the LSAT without prepping for it did so for one of two reasons. The first is that they are so afraid of doing poorly, they seemed to want a preemptive excuse to fail, and so didn’t prep as a means of preserving their pride (because that way, if and when they didn’t do well on the test, they are able to blame it on not having studied). The other reason is simple overconfidence. Whatever the reason, all the people I know who took the LSAT without prepping for it didn’t score as high as they wanted to. That first reason—wanting to preserve one’s pride–is easy enough to dismiss, if you can only remember what it is pride goeth before. The second can be dismissed with a simple analogy.
Think of your quest to get into law school as a long and arduous journey. Let’s say you are to complete this journey by car. It’s entirely possible that, when you first strap into the driver’s seat, you will already have enough gas to complete the journey. But if you really care about getting where it is you want to go, aren’t you going to at least check the fuel gauge to make sure? That, I think, is why you should prep for the test. Don’t be Patent Guy. Nobody should want to be Patent Guy.
About the Author
Steve holds a BA from Northwestern University and scored in the 98th percentile on the LSAT, a test which he spent many hours preparing for! He’s a Senior Tutor with MyGuru, which provides customized 1-1 LSAT tutoring in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and several other large cities. MyGuru’s perspective is that intelligence is like a muscle that grows with use, and with the right mindset, study habits, and planning, almost anyone can achieve impressive academic performance in high school, college, graduate school, and on standardized tests.