## Articles published in September 2014

### Hitting Harvard: How to get a 175+ LSAT score

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You study, read books, take a practice LSAT exam, and walk away with a 170. Not bad, but not your goal either.  You review, understand why you got every single question wrong, and take another practice test. 172. Ok, progress. Repeat your system again and get a 171. Hm. Something’s wrong with this picture.

It’s time to change things up with a more complete strategy. 175+ test takers get into habits that help them throughout the test and change their study habits so they get the most out of every problem. Some of these things you may already be doing (hey, at the high 160/170 range, you’re no slouch), but take a look at what top testers know so you can add to your strategies and join the 175+ ranks.

Know what you don’t know.

One of the best signs that you’re ripe for improvement is the ability to tell when a question isn’t going well. As you’re going through the test, you should have questions you’re confident with and questions that you may not be certain on. Once you know you’re on a challenging question, you can kick your reasoning into high gear.

Know the questions you missed.

After you take a practice exam, do you find yourself scanning it quickly? You read the right answer choice, read the answer choice you picked, and saying “Oh yeah, I can see why the other one is the right answer.” Then you just move on? Well, stop it! Stop it right now! It does you absolutely no good to understand why an answer choice is right. Instead, you need to understand why you were misled by another choice and what you need to change about your approach so you’re not misled in the future. And keep in mind that an appropriate strategy change is never “Think harder” or “Don’t miss connections.” Those may be the goals, but you need a concrete way to reach those goals. Thinking harder is not a process. Underlining key words or diagramming the core of an argument is a process.

Know what’s wrong with all four answer choices.

This can sound simple, but it’s actually difficult to come with concrete reasons why each answer choice is wrong. Often, people eliminate an answer choice because it doesn’t sound right or because it’s not what they predicted. Those are both bad reasons to eliminate an answer. A 175+LSAT test taker will be able to identify specifically what word, idea, or phrase makes an answer choice incorrect. For most questions, there will be multiple problems with each answer choice. While you only need to find one when you’re taking the test, in review, try to find them all. A great way to practice this is change each wrong answer choice to a right one, making as few changes as possible.

Know how much time a question takes.

On average, an LSAT question takes about one minute twenty seconds. In theory, you can spend exactly 1:20 on every question and finish the test on time. 175+ test takers don’t do that. Instead, they go through the easier questions quickly without sacrificing accuracy, then spend extra time making sure they can carefully analyze those difficult questions. In order to do this, you’ve got to have a sense of when a minute has passed. You’ll have a watch on test day (if you don’t have one yet, go get one now) but it’s unrealistic and unproductive to look at your watch every minute. Figure out what one minute working on an LSAT problem feels like so you know whether you’ve spent too much time or have extra time left.

Know the test.

The LSAT is unlike any exam you will ever take. It requires no content knowledge and tests skills that you’ve probably never had tested on a standardized exam. Yet people still continue to seek out ways to outsmart the test. The LSAT tests your logical reasoning ability. Given a set of facts, what conclusions can you come to, can you debunk another person’s conclusions, and can you derive a set of facts from a larger piece of text? These are all skills you absolutely must have to succeed in law school. Why not take the LSAT as an opportunity to improve these skills and give yourself a head start for law school? The LSAT is considered a predictive test because those 175+ test takers tend to do better in law school. They, and soon you, develop their logical reasoning  skills in ways that will continue to benefit themselves.

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Emily Madan is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Philadelphia. Having scored in the 99th percentile of the GMAT (770) and LSAT (177), Emily is committed to helping others achieve their full potential. In the classroom, she loves bringing concepts to life and her greatest thrill is that moment when a complex topic suddenly becomes clear to her students. Check out Emily’s upcoming GMAT courses here. Your first class is always free!

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### Last 10 Curves on the Last 10 LSATs: What a (Non-) Difference a Curve Makes

In case you haven’t heard, getting a 170 on the LSAT (or a 180 for that matter) doesn’t always mean missing the same number of questions. Due to a phenomenon commonly referred to as the LSAT curve, there can be a swing as large as five or so points from test to test when it comes to what constitutes a 170 (just choosing that particular score to illustrate). Take the last 10 released LSATs (excluding February, as it’s not released):

 Test Date Could Miss to Get 170 June 2014 -13 Dec 2013 -14 Oct 2013 -12 June 2013 -11 Dec 2012 -12 Oct 2012 -10 June 2012 -10 Dec 2011 -14 Oct 2011 -13 June 2011 -11

ISN’T IT OBVIOUS? TAKE DECEMBER, RIGHT? You can miss 14 and get a 170, while June and October tests are often so harsh that you can only miss 10 to get the same score!

Not so fast. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t actually matter; you can’t game your score by choosing in which season you will take the test to strategize around the curve in this way (maybe Nate Silver could, but if you’re Nate Silver, don’t go to law school).

The reason why, in short, is that this curve reflects a response by LSAC to measured difficulty of a particular exam—an easier curve, in other words, actually means more difficult.

So how is difficulty measured? It’s measured based on how many people are getting how many questions right across three years of data. This measurement gives LSAC a “percentile” for each numerical score on a given LSAT—if you score a 170, and that’s in the 97th percentile, it means you performed better than 97 percent of other people taking the test, but not on the same day as you. Technically, you’re “competing” against everyone who took the test in the three years prior.

All of this is to say, when you first learn about the LSAT curve variation, don’t get excited and decide to choose a test date based on it. Choose a test date based on factors like when you are going to apply and what gives you sufficient time to prepare.

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### 6 Ways to Study for the LSAT More Efficiently

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#### 1. Quality, not quantity.

The good news about this maxim is that not only is it true when it comes to effective LSAT studying, but it can also save you loads of time. Instead of sitting down and saying, “I’m going to do three sections no matter how long it takes me,” sit down and say, “I’m going to turn off my cell phone, shut the door, close my computer, and do these three sections without any distractions. Benefits are manifold—your studying is better, and you’re done sooner.

#### 2. You are what you consume.

I don’t mean to sound like your mom or your doctor, and I’m sure we’re all well-versed in basic nutritional principles, but it is true that if you are living on excessive amounts of caffeine, you’re probably not studying as well as you can be due to the anxiety and overall jitters that it is known to cause. So again, don’t mean to be your babysitter here, but if you’re having trouble focusing and are one of these constantly-sipping-java-or-soda folks, consider cutting back a bit—replace it with decaf tea or seltzer every now and then.

#### 3. Change the time of day you study.

When I was preparing for the LSAT, I found that my morning sessions were really productive and satisfying while my night sessions often dragged on and left me tired, discouraged, and feeling like I didn’t get enough accomplished. I’m a morning person, always have been. If I could do it all again, I’d just cut out the night sessions, or trim them substantially, and add to my morning sessions. You know what your own circadian rhythm is. Don’t try to bend it to your will; you’re better off bending to accommodate it, not vice versa.

#### 4. Sprints, then breaks.

Focused study is the best study. Short stints of untainted focus on the material is superior to longer sessions when you doze off or check your texts or read Twitter or grab another handful of chips. If you have trouble focusing for a longer period of time (which is what we call “being a human”), set an achievable goal like: I’m going to focus only on the LSAT for the next 15 minutes. Then I get a two-minute break. If that sounds short to you, great! That means you can do it! Try. If it’s easy, add some. But training yourself to focus for shorter bits, then adding to those bits, beats punishing yourself for your inability to sustain focus by making yourself sit half-focused for longer stretches. Forcing yourself to sit unfocused for long stretches teaches you to sit unfocused for long stretches. Forcing yourself to focus for stretches of any length teaches you to focus.

#### 5. Teach someone—yourself or someone else—the hard problems.

To be able to teach means to truly understand. Albert Einstein said that. Just kidding, I said that, but keep reading, anyway. When you have to teach something to someone else, it forces you to think about it in a way that just learning it doesn’t. You can’t hide. You have to get it. Good standard for mastery, right? Understanding as a requirement? I find mothers to be an excellent option as make-believe LSAT students.

#### 6. Create realistic, defined goals.

Some of the most discouraged, burnt out, and plateaued students I’ve worked with are the ones who set unrealistic expectations for themselves that are so unachievable that they wind up in this vague and ambiguous space permeated with chronic disappointment. “I’m going to study for as long as I possibly can every day,” may sound like a really impressive, ambitious approach, but what it really does is set you up for failure. You study four hours and are exhausted, and instead of congratulating yourself on studying for four hours, you spend the rest of the day thinking, “Could I have studied longer? Should I be studying now?” The same is true for two or eight or nine hours, because you have no standards by which to measure your actual achievement. This is bad for another reason: affirmation and the feeling of satisfaction are very important to your progress. We don’t excel by feeling like failures all the time. We excel by feeling like failures when we’re not doing our best, and feeling great when we do. We get hooked on that feeling and want more of it, and that’s a good thing. Give yourself goals that you can achieve so you can reach this feeling and allow it to motivate you to keep moving forward. Studying for the LSAT is a long and hard process. Don’t make it more miserable for yourself than it needs to be. 📝

Don’t forget that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person LSAT courses absolutely free. We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.

Mary Richter is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York City. Mary has degrees from Yale Law School and Duke. She has over 10 years of experience teaching the LSAT after scoring in the 99th percentile on the test. She is always thrilled to see students reach beyond their target scores. At Yale, she co-directed the school’s Domestic Violence Clinic for two years. After graduating she became an associate at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP in New York City, where she was also the firm’s pro bono coordinator. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, and more. Check out Mary’s upcoming classes here.