It’s always recommended to have a few full months of preparation for the LSAT in order to get the score that you want, but fitting that studying into a jam-packed schedule is rarely in the conversation. Studying while going to school full-time or working full-time is like playing the world’s least fun version of Tetris, and it usually takes a while to adjust.
Some background on me: I took the LSAT September 2018 for the first time after studying using LSAT Engine’s online course for around a month and a half or so and got a 167, a 7 point increase from my diagnostic test. I decided to focus on school/study abroad that year and didn’t touch the test for a year. This past summer, while working a full-time internship in New York City, I decided to take the test again on July 2019. I picked up studying again with LSAT Engine early-to-mid June, and was able to raise my score up to a 171.
Here are my top tips that worked for me to get the score you want, when you just cannot afford to pause your life for a test.
1. Commit to sleeping a little less
Never a tip that people are willing to say, but sacrificing a little sleep is most likely necessary. Figure out if you are a morning person or a night person, and dedicate a few hours before or after work/school to study. Coffee and energy drinks are lifesavers. Especially if you have a tight schedule, sacrificing one month’s sleep quality is worth it.
2. View Your Tiredness as an Asset, Not A Hindrance
Yes, studying after being mentally exhausted after a full work day is the worst. Everyday I would get home from my 45 minute commute, dead tired, and the last thing I wanted to do was study. But this was actually a great way to boost my mental stamina. On test day, your brain will not be as sharp on the 5th section as it was on the 1st section, and looking at my practice tests, that was always a reason I lost points on easy questions near the end of the test. However, by practicing questions and sections while tired, this taught me to get faster at diagramming and recognizing patterns in the test in less than optimal mental conditions, a skill that I later applied during the actual LSAT.
3. Spend 90% of your time studying the section that gives you the most room to grow
In the month I studied this summer, I never touched RC, except during practice tests. This was my strongest section, and my time would be much better spent on LR and LG. And during the last two weeks, I only studied LR because my score for LG was beginning to plateau, and a steadier increase in my LR score was probably my best bet for increasing my overall score.
4. Spend Time Practicing, Not Studying
Most people I’ve spoken to say that if time constraints were removed, their scores would increase astronomically. So even if you are finishing the test on time, the time constraint does provide a significant amount of pressure that negatively impacts your score. Because of this, I knew my time would be best spent doing full sections and full practice tests and watching Justin’s videos on the questions that I missed.
5. Learn to Use Apple Calendar, Google Calendar, etc.
Put every single thing you need to do on your calendar, including your classes and 9-6 jobs that happen every day. Then schedule in blocks for studying, gym, social, and other commitments. These can be flexible, but by having a visual guide of your to-dos, it gives you foresight for your days, making it easier to fit in studying on a long commute or during the hour you have between work and meeting up with a friend.
6. Do Not Nix Your Social Life
This is another rather unconventional tip. But I knew that if I stayed at home and isolated myself from the things I wanted to do and the people I wanted to see, my productivity would be low. I would be sitting at home, trying to study, being sad that I wasn’t doing the things that I wanted to. Therefore, I never stayed in to study unless I wanted to. Instead I used my activities with my friends as motivation to study. I was only in New York for 2.5 months, and I wanted to make the most of my time there. For example, if I was going to meet up with friends for brunch on Sunday, I would plan to study for 2 hours (around 3 practice sections and a few practice questions) or take a full practice test before I left. Then, I wouldn’t feel guilty while I was out, and I would’ve needed a study break during that time anyway.
7. Do A Little Cramming
Cramming is usually the number one thing that LSAT instructors and Justin would advise against, but hear me out. When you have a tight schedule and a tight time frame, studying heavily the last week can help, if and only if you aren’t prone to test stress. During the week leading up to the test, my motivation was finally kicking in and I was willing to give up most of my social commitments to dive into a test immersion. The last week leading up to the test, I took 3-4 practice tests, and drilled the problem types I had issues with in Quiz Central on LSAT Engine. For me, it was all about getting my mind in the LSAT mindset leading up to the week.
8. Relax the Night Before and Morning Of
The July 2019 LSAT was Monday at noon, so the night before, I watched TV and hung out with my roommate. I did some light studying, mainly just looking over the questions I had previously missed and studying the LR Cheat Sheet the LSAT Engine program provides. Morning of the test, I went to my normal 7AM boxing class to clear my head and made a nice breakfast before leaving early to take the subway to the test center. Try to relax! Worrying can only hurt at this point of the process.
I hope these tips provided a little insight on how I personally fit LSAT studying into my life. Take these all with a grain of salt, as no method is a universal fit. LSAT Engine worked so well for me, because it fit my unique schedule and time constraints, and that freedom allowed me to get in the studying I needed to achieve my goals.
Thanks for reading and good luck LSAT Engine students!
Senior at the University of Southern California