Episode 30: Graeme Blake Talks About Retaking the LSAT and the Future of the Exam

LSAT teacher and author Graeme Blake joins us to answer a few questions from the Reddit LSAT forum and reflects on the current state of the LSAT and law school admissions. Here are the topics Graeme addresses:

You can read more questions from Reddit on the LSAT forum and law school admission forum.

Take a listen and let us know what you think.

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9 Comments


  1. Nathan/Ben,

    Thank you both for continuing this podcast. I have a question regarding time prep tests. As it stands now, I am taking the October 3 LSAT. I have access to PT 36 through PT 74. During the episode, the importance of taking prep tests was referenced quite a bit. I fully intend on taking every one of these tests before the October test date. As far as the purpose behind taking these prep tests, is there a difference in taking the sections timed one at a time (i.e. spreading the sections out over the day) versus taking it in its entirety over a three hour period? I know the latter will be closer to actual test day, but is it damaging to what I’m trying to accomplish to spread the prep test out over a day as long the sections are strictly timed? Sometimes, a three or four block is hard to come by. I have routinely been taking a test a week for the past month and will continue to do so. Thank you for your time!

    Baker Harbin

    Reply

    1. Hey Baker-

      You should do full practice tests (all four sections) every once in a while, but the bulk of your practice can absolutely be single 35-minute sections. I actually think it’s important to tell students this, because otherwise students might let the lack of a 3-hour block keep them from doing anything at all: “I don’t have time to do a full test, I guess I might as well just get high and play Playstation…”

      If you only have one hour, you can do a 35-minute section and review it. If you did that every day, you’d make steady progress toward your goals.

      Thanks for listening, and for your questions!

      –n

      Reply

  2. Nathan,

    Thank you for your response and time. To take my question a step further, I have been using blind review religiously since starting to prep. For each test I take (4 thus far), I take it timed (of course), print out a brand new copy and take the entire thing over again. The second time around is untimed and I go through each and every question again. During this step on logical reasoning, I will write/type out why each answer is right or wrong in as much detail as I can while giving as many reasons as possible. This takes quite a bit longer than traditional blind review (just going over the questions that I was not 100% sure was correct). By doing this, I feel as though I am reenforcing the correct reasoning, catching mistakes on the timed test and correcting them and exposing reasoning that is completely erroneous if I miss the question on both the timed test and the review. Is this practice a waste of time? So far, I have been spending an average of 2-3 days for both tests and drilling troubling question types on the other days of the week.

    Again, thank you for your time. I apologize for pestering you with questions.

    Baker

    Reply

    1. Hmmm, I don’t know. Seems like an awful lot of work that’s probably not necessary on the questions you understand, which should be a lot of them. I’d rather see you 1) do a timed section, then 2) review your mistakes. It’s simple, and I think you’ll get more bank for your buck that way. (Well, more bang for your studying hour.)

      Reply

  3. Hello guys, this is Chelsea again.

    I am currently doing 35 min sections every night during the week. My scores have not changed since I last wrote. I’m having trouble with completely understanding why I get some things right and some other things wrong (upon review). This is something you guys do mention in this episode. Currently, I’m studying by myself with the LSAT trainer (I do agree that reading the stem first feels a little unnatural, so I haven’t applied it to my timed tests yet). What other critical ways can I review my test so that I get the most out of my practice?

    Thank you,’
    Chelsea

    Reply

    1. Hey Chelsea-

      Do you have a study partner, or a tutor? Sounds like you need someone that you can discuss the questions with, to help you understand. I do a lot of work via Skype… send me an email (nathan@foxlsat.com, 415-518-0630) if you’re interested!

      –n

      Reply

  4. I don’t think the fact that you are all employed in the LSAT prep field went over anyone’s head who was listening to this podcast as you all gave your advice on the Above The Law article on law schools eliminating LSAT requirements, but it still should have been noted in the podcast that your opinions are influenced by the fact that you all earn money off the LSAT prep market, and that if the LSAT were to go away, you would all be looking for a different line of work. I am not saying that any of the podcast-ers are incapable of an objective analysis of the ATL article, but the discussion was shallow in terms of discussing the merit behind using the LSAT as a means of measuring law school candidates.

    I think the biggest problems with the LSAT are 1) the amount of time given for each section and 2) the weight that law schools place on the exam. The LSAT does contain analytical questions that do capture the line of thinking that one uses as an attorney; however, in my 5+ years of experience working as a paralegal in different law firms I can tell you that there was never a day where a decision involving a difficult, analytical question ever needed to be answered on the spot, or even within that day. The reality of a law office is that cases drag on for years, you have a team to consult with, and decisions are carefully weighed before you select a pathway. The LSAT’s time constraints force most people to rush through the questions, and most people end up running out of time and marking guesses at the end of each section. The fact of the matter is, given enough time, most test takers would select the right answer. The LSAT basically measures the ability to speed read and speed decision-make, a tool that I rarely saw used in actual law offices.

    Second, law schools are giving far too much weight to the LSAT in the admissions process. Some schools weigh the LSAT four to five times as much as GPA (See V. Randall’s articles on the subject), which is completely absurd considering the LSAT is a 4-hour test and you acquire your undergraduate GPA over the span of (typically) 4-6 years. Much of this has to do with U.S. News law school rankings, and the result ends up being that law school admissions offices place a number on the head of applicants instead of gathering a more balanced look at an applicant’s profile.

    I don’t think abolishing the LSAT is the answer; the LSAT does have some value. However, the absurd shortness of time the exam allows for discredits many people in who would likely thrive in a law office environment, where decisions are considered slowly, over several days, weeks, months, or years. The fact that law schools value this test over undergraduate GPA only serves to further discredit students who would be good candidates for law school, except for their low or mid-range LSAT scores. It’s a system that privileges those who are familiar with standardized test scores, who have the money to hire tutors and pay for $1500 LSAT prep courses, and who have the time to go beyond their undergrad studying to learn specific knowledge for a test they will only use once in their lives – for the law school application process alone.

    Something needs to change.

    Reply

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for taking the time to write!

      I do agree that the timing on the LSAT might not apply to most situations in the actual practice of law, but it’s not totally useless. When someone can correctly answer a question quickly, it shows a level of “fluency” with the underlying concepts. This is why we often emphasize focusing on accuracy before speed. As your understanding of the test increases, your speed often increases. There’s usually a difference in someone’s understanding when they can answer a question quickly than when they can’t. In both cases, they might get the right answer. But doing so slowly often, though not always, suggests that they were not as familiar with the underlying logical principle or as good at deconstructing the relevant sentences. These are imperfect ways of measuring someone’s abilities, but they are efficient.

      Practically speaking, I think this is why the LSAT persists. Law school admissions officers tasked with deciding between 100s and even 1000s of applicants have to effectively narrow down their applicant pool. I’m sure the US News rankings distort this process, but again, it’s not all bad. Consider the fact that there’s a high correlation between LSAT scores and law school grades. So although schools probably should weigh a 4-year GPA more than a 4-hour LSAT score, the current system seems to work. In other words, it seems to correctly — for whatever reason — predict how well someone will do in law school.

      On that point, many people take issue with legal education, saying it fails to prepare people for the actual practice of law. But things are changing. Schools, sooner or later, will have to adapt or close, so many of them will adapt.

      Coming back to the LSAT, from what I understand, to get accredited, law schools must offer the same core courses under an ABA rule. This makes all accredited law schools very similar, effectively limiting the ways they can differentiate themselves. For that reason, the only way to be different is to be better on a narrow set of criteria. This is why, according to some people, the US New rankings are so dominant. Business schools, on the other hand, do not have such a rule. So business schools can be ranked in many different ways—the top schools for entrepreneurship, the top schools for management, and so on. Getting rid of that ABA rule might be the key to diminishing the weight the law schools place on the LSAT because they could try to be better in some other way—the best school for trial advocacy, for example—not just better in the traditional numbers.

      In any case, for now, the LSAT is important and—given the current environment—schools that don’t require it are probably doing so for reasons that don’t serve the interests of their students, even though it seems like they are. That would be my main concern.

      Best, Ben

      Reply

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