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March 03, 2005

Pros and Cons of LSAT Prep:

An anonymous reader wrote in to submit three interestsing posts on the pros and cons of lsat prep: Anyone else? Any thoughts from peopel who did take prep courses? Was it worth it to you?

Posted by mowabb at March 3, 2005 09:49 PM

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Yep, Why Law's a she :-)

Posted by: Why Law at March 4, 2005 07:36 AM

I took the LSAT when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I also took it in the middle of my junior year in college because I was out of the country the summer it was offered. I read through the application booklet and did the practice problems that came with it. That was it. I was accepted by Columbia, U. Michigan, NYU, and my safe school.

Posted by: dark goddess of replevin at March 6, 2005 05:24 AM

Why Law: I thought so, but just wanted to be sure.

Generally, I should add that I paid for an LSAT prep course. I believe it was Kaplan's, and it cost about $1100, at least $900 of which was probably a waste since I could have gained most all of the tips and value from the class by simpy buying the books/self-study course. The program certainly taught me great strategies for approaching the different kinds of questions on the LSAT, but the actual class time wasn't all that valuable and certainly wasn't worth over $1000. However, one advantage of a class over books alone is that the class may give you more incentive to actually study. That was a probelm for me, so I knew I was paying for the benefit of having a schedule and a reason to do the reading and work the problems. However, for people in the same boat (those who generally lack the discpline to make themselves study for tests), you might want to reconsider law school altogether because it's basically just one test after another and, to no one's surprise, if you don't study, you just don't do as well.

Posted by: ambimb at March 6, 2005 07:00 AM

I was a person who took a prep course. Of course, being of the short attention span, I had to take a course that would be quick, intensive, and informative. I took PowerScore's weekend course. I spent 16 hours over the course of 2 days in a hotel meeting room learning the ins and outs of the LSAT. It was the best $350 I ever spent. It gave me confidence in the test, and I got the promised 5 points. Of course, when I got to law school it was a whole other story, but me and the LSAT are buddies now. :)

Posted by: Beanie at March 10, 2005 01:18 PM

I taught an LSAT prep course for a while, and I think its usefulness varied a lot from student to student. First off, some people take a practice test, look at a few tips, and are already getting scores in the 170s. A course that targets students with more average scores (and they pretty much have to) won't be of much use to someone like that. Also, in my company the materials were not very good - the usefulness of the class depends a lot on the teacher you get. The three big companies where I am are TestMasters, The Princeton Review, and Kaplan. I taught for one and I've seen the materials and talked to students who took the other two. My impressions: TestMasters aims more at complete coverage, has decent materials and large, less useful classes. Princeton Review aims more at a quality classroom experience, but has pretty bad materials (though apparently they have revised their materials recently, so they may be very different now). Kaplan puts less effort into getting quality teachers (though I'm not sure the actual quality is that much different), and it also has pretty bad materials. For someone who is already scoring high, TestMasters is probably the best of the three. One of the other two is probably better for a low to mid-range student. If a friendly, fun classroom is important to you, The Princeton Review is more likely to fit the bill than Kaplan, though I'm not convinced that there's a lot of difference in what is actually taught.

Posted by: bob at March 12, 2005 10:45 PM

Better late than never to contribute?

I took the LSAT twice. The first time I think I got a 163, just by doing some practice tests. But it was hard to stay focused on regular studying, and I never really found any handy insight on how to work through the logic problems.

So the next year, when I did this all again, I sprang for the review course. This was all new to me I'd never taken a review course before so I shopped around a bit (good idea). I ended up opting for the Princeton Review. I chose it because after attending the free review classes offered by both them and Kaplan (also a good idea), I was much more impressed with the Princeton Review. Or perhaps I should say I was very turned off by Kaplan. I found them extremely hard-selling, smarmy and slick, like snake-oil salesmen. And in one of those free review sessions I found the instructor pompous and insulting. So I choice Door #2 and went for the Princeton Review, who always struck me as much more straight forward and professional in all the introductory dealings I had with them.

They were also candid up front: normally their students see a 7 point jump in their scores, but because I was nearer the higher end of the scale I was less likely to see that much of an improvement. But I did go up 3 points, which was a greater improvement than what you'd expect just from taking the exam again and probably was enough to expand my options as an applicant. I'm actually a little surprised I didn't have a bigger jump, and chalk it up to test-taking fatigue. That might be the downside to taking a class: you're kind of sick of the LSAT by the time it rolls around. On the other hand, it does help pace the studying.

I actually enjoyed the class. The instructor, an undergrad at Stanford, knew how to teach the material, and I thought the insight was handy. Particularly for the logic problems, whose solutions were particularly unobvious, but also for the analytical reasoning sections. In fact, I really enjoyed that part as a lesson in logical thinking and in some way probably still draw from the material today. I did tune out the instruction on reading comprehension though because I did just fine on my own and didn't want to accidentally break what was already working.

So my advice probably boils down to the suggestion to take a few pretests on your own to see how they go. Then depending on what needs to be done to improve, decide whether it's something you can do your own with a book and more pretests, or if you'd benefit by more structure and concrete lessons. If you decide the latter, a class can be worth it.

Posted by: Cathy at April 9, 2005 05:05 PM