10 Reasons Why People Fail the LSAT

Gary Ryan Blair is the creator of a website I strongly recommend. It’s called “The Goals Guy” (www.goalsguy.com). I particularly find Mr. Blair’s Goal-Setting Tips, Techniques and Ideas useful.

In one area, “Ten Reasons Why People Fail,” I realized that Mr. Blair offered powerful insights into why some people struggle miserably with the LSAT. The LSAT is hugely important to your plans for law school, because the US News & World Report ranking system has enormously inflated the importance of the test. Law schools want the bragging rights to the highest LSATs they can get. I’ve seen law schools discount their tuition to zero, and even offer lavish stipends and other perks, just to draw in new students with high LSAT scores. The LSAT is your enemy. You must defeat it decisively in order to move forward into a law school that the marketplace of employers will respect. But how to do this? Consider the lessons offered by Mr. Blair, as they relate to the LSAT.

1. Taking Action Without Planning
Taking an official LSAT without careful planning in advance is what I call “the sucker punch.” I see it all the time. People say, “Well, I thought I would just try it to see what happens. Maybe I’ll get lucky.” Luck. As if LSAT results were a lottery. Then they end up with a 137 (an 8th percentile score that shouts to the law schools “Unqualified”).

Do not, do not go down this path. Instead, start here: Taking the LSAT.

2. Planning Without Taking Action
Sometimes, people, driven by their fear of the real LSAT, spend endless amounts of time (and large amounts of money!) in LSAT preparation classes and in the exercises of LSAT preparation books. They comfort themselves that they are preparing effectively for their future, but they never engage the enemy. If this is you, test your current level of readiness, now, by taking a complete practice test. I mean by this an old official LSAT, under true timed conditions, and then score it. What’s your score? What’s your target score? What should your target score be? Feel free to contact me with your result and your thinking about your goal. I’ll let you know if you are on track, or wasting your time in an ineffective approach.

3. Unrealistic Timeframes and Expectations
“I’ve got two weeks free. I can prepare for the LSAT in that amount of time, right?” Maybe, but probably not. The score results from old LSATs—taken under true timed conditions—will reveal your readiness. If you are truly an LSAT “prodigy” (only about 4% of test takers, in my experience), your first practice test will reveal a strong score. But if you are like the overwhelming majority of people (the remaining 96%) you will need time to master the LSAT. It can be mastered. But you may need a considerable amount of time. Don’t give yourself a short, artificial timeline. That can be a formula for failure. Listen to your practice LSAT results.

Here’s my favorite LSAT preparation story:

"It took me about half a year to prepare for the test since I was still in school and had other exams to cope with. What I did was really simple! I took a test under simulated conditions on Monday. On Tuesday, I went over the test again, problem by problem, and analyzed the answers and marked the questions I didn't really understand well, without any time restraint. On Wednesday, I took a break. Thursdays through Saturdays I repeated my Monday through Wednesday schedule. On Sunday, I restudied the difficult questions in the two sets I took in that week. The entire process took me 17 weeks. I took two weeks off to deal with school exams. In total it took me 19 weeks. At first glance, you may think I spent a great deal of time preparing for the LSAT. I took 34 practice tests! But counting the hours, it's not that much. I believe I spent an average of six hours on each test, including two review sessions. That adds up to around 200 hours in total. My score improved from 151 on the first test to low/mid 170s on the last five tests. My actual test score was 177.

My improvement from the low 150s to the low 160s was quick, about seven to eight tests. But it took me 15-20 tests to go from 160 to 170. Once I broke 170, I stayed in the low to mid 170s for the remaining seven to nine tests. It seems to me that about three weeks and six to eight tests are needed to consolidate a level. That's why I think it's important to take as many real tests as possible (at least 25, 30+ is preferred).

I graduated from a college in northeast and am going to law school in the same region next semester."

He was admitted to Harvard Law School with his 177.

4. Reasons “Why” Are Unclear
Why do you want to go to law school? What basis in life experience do you have to make such a decision? Are you being pushed to go by someone else, like your parents? Are you secretly trying to torpedo your chances by failing on the LSAT? If so, you need to have a frank conversation with those around you. Get your life on a solid course. Make ambitious, achievable goals that are in line with your heartfelt desires. LSAT preparation and law school will be absolute misery for anyone not truly desiring to become a lawyer.

5. Denial of Reality
Are you operating solely on your own theory about how to achieve excellence on the LSAT? If so, stop immediately and test it, by taking a timed practice test on an old official LSAT. Score it. How did you do? What do you need to earn? What’s the gap?

6. Conflicting Values
This relates to item 4 above. Who is driving you to law school? Your own ambitions? Or someone else? Is law school your main vocational objective now? Or is it someone else’s? If your values about this project are in conflict, you won’t be able to do your best.

7. Diffusion of Energy
“How can I study for the LSAT? I’ve got school, a job, family members to care for, my car payment to earn, problems from my past to solve (etc.)!”

One can make endless excuses—and often good ones—to avoid the often painful investment of time to master the LSAT. But if you want to win admission offers from respected law schools, you are going to have to restructure your life in order to defeat the LSAT. Don’t let schedule pressures push you by default onto the road of poor performance in the LSAT. If you do, you won’t reach the law schools—or in the future the legal employers—that you really want.

8. Lack of Focus
In your time of LSAT focus, you have to make LSAT preparation your “weird hobby”. You’ve got to give it a large, measured, consistent amount of time and effort, regularly including practice tests. Hold the image in your mind of the e-mail you will receive in the future from LSAC, with your name on it and your targeted, high, LSAT score. Work towards that steadily as part of your schedule, six days each week.

9. Trying to Do It All Alone
Get help if you need it. After you take and score a practice test, come to a 100% understanding as to why each correct answer on the LSAT is correct. If you can, great. Then move to the next one. If you cannot, you may need the help of an LSAT tutor or an LSAT prep class. But remember, no tutor or class can substitute for you proving to yourself, over and over through timed practice tests, scored by you, that you are truly ready for the LSAT. Consider these Top 15 LSAT Tips.

10. Fear of Failure
“I’m not preparing very much for the LSAT because I’m afraid I will fail it.” But then your lack of preparation assures your failure. Stare your opponent straight in the face. Attack it regularly, in practice test after practice test. Learn from every mistake you make. Track your practice test score results. If you practice diligently, extracting the maximum possible learning from each practice test, you will climb the LSAT learning curve.

For assistance, please contact me.