Ep. 307: How Long Should I Study?
It’s natural for new students to wonder how much time they will have to spend preparing for the LSAT. The simple answer—as long as it takes—isn’t all that satisfying. But the reality is that some people may need a lot more or less time than others need. On this week’s episode, Ben and Nathan review an article that advises a more concrete timeline and compare it to their own advice. They also respond to listener questions about résumés and personal statements, share some helpful tips from a rising 2L, and explain how to overcome a “score plateau.”
As always, if you like the show and you want to get more from the Thinking LSAT community, check out the links below. You can connect with other folks studying for the LSAT, and get more useful resources from Nathan and Ben.
08.14.2021 — August LSAT Testing Begins
08.25.2021 — October LSAT Registration Deadline
3:30 – How Long Should You Spend Studying for the LSAT?
Demon student Nya asks Nathan and Ben for their thoughts on a Princeton Review article she found with tips about LSAT prep time. The first thing the guys notice is that the webpage is heavy on marketing. There are ads for Discover student loans, the GRE, and clickbaity discounts on their exorbitantly priced courses. Anyway, the article lists four “tips” as follows:
First, “Understand that the LSAT is different from other exams and requires more preparation.” Nothing objectively wrong there, but Nathan takes issue with one of the subtitles, which says, “It requires you to retrain your brain.” Lots of people do well on the test using common sense. You may have to train yourself to be less sloppy if you’re not already a careful reader, but you don’t necessarily have to “retrain your brain.”
The second tip is to aim for 250–300 hours of LSAT preparation. They say that 20 hours per week over a three-month period is a great goal for most students. Ben and Nathan both respond that 20 hours per week is too much—that’s 3 hours per day, every day of the week, with no days off for three months. It’s more civilized and generally more effective to commit to 1–2 hours of focused study per day, six days per week.
The next tip starts out okay, then quickly turns into a turd. “Allocate time for in-depth analysis.” Ben interprets this to mean “review carefully.” Yep, reviewing your mistakes is important. But then it says to identify “patterns in the errors you make.” Now it’s a turd. Ben explains how people may see this as an invitation to focus more time on specific question types, which can detract from overall progress on the test. What you need to do is understand each question you encounter, one at a time. Nathan wants everyone to stop categorizing and labeling everything. It’s not helpful. Instead, just review and focus on understanding.
Lastly, “Do not take the test until you’re ready.” This is pretty solid advice. Don’t sit for the real thing until you’re routinely scoring close to your goal on practice exams.
They threw some extra stuff into this article, but when you boil it down, their advice is to study for at least 250–300 hours over three months. Overall, the guys give this universal advice a turd. Some people may get it done in a lot less time than that. Some people may need a lot longer. The average amount of time it takes is meaningless, Nathan says. Ben also comments that it’s hard to see any value in telling someone to get ready for 300 hours of studying. It sounds almost overwhelmingly long. What matters most is that you sit down today and do something to move the ball forward.
24:31 – Choosing a Personal Statement Topic
New listener and Demon student Madi writes in to run some ideas for her personal statement past Ben and Nathan.
The first topic—a story about the “woes” of growing up on the Mexican/Texan border—sounds sad and sounds like a story from childhood. It might be okay for a diversity statement. But Nathan wants your personal statement to be about you as a winner and as an adult.
Madi’s second idea is to talk about how she got an LLM with a foreign degree. Neither of the guys are excited about this as a personal statement topic. It’s already on her resume.
Last one: “working within the bureaucratic bullshit of the immigration system.” Ben thinks this sounds like a personal legal challenge—which usually doesn’t work well as a personal statement topic. Nathan agrees. While they feel for Madi and whatever she went through, statements written about personal legal struggles tend to come off sounding naive and whiny.
The guys have a couple of tips for Madi. First, she doesn’t need to be worried about personal statement topics this early in the process. She’s only just begun to study for the LSAT. She needs to focus her energy into getting the best score she can possibly get. As far as picking a personal statement topic, they would like