Gaming the System (Ep. 194)

Ben Olson's headshot.

Nathan and Ben are just back from a weekend in DC delivering a Personal Statement Workshop and they jump right into the show debriefing each other on their experiences teaching the class. And while Nathan laments he couldn’t spend more time causing mischief with Ben’s kids, they both had a blast going deep on personal statements with 2020 1L hopefuls. After the workshop recap, the guys touch on a bunch of topics ranging from how to properly time yourself during practice tests to whether community-college grades can be a boon to your LSAC GPA. They also take a look at a listener-submitted graph covering 5 months of practice-test data, and they break out the knives and blow torches for a personal statement review.

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Thinking LSAT Personal Statement Workshop

If you missed out on Nathan’s and Ben’s personal statement workshop this weekend, don’t fret. The guys have posted the class online! Check it out here and follow along with the personal statements they cover in the workshop:

The workshop.

The personal statements.

6:21 – Gaming the system?

Listener of the show Will recently asked a question via the comments section on the Thinking LSAT website. Will’s sitting pretty with a 176 official score backed up by a 3.9 LSAC GPA. Pretty sweet, huh? But ‘not so fast,’ Will says. It turns out that Will had a GPA of 3.7. It was only when he factored in his good grades from (non-transferrable) community college classes that he got this boost. Now he’s worried that the elite schools he’s planning to apply to are going to scour his transcripts and determine that he “gamed the system,” with community classes. Should he worry, he wonders? The guys weigh in and basically tell Will he’s going to make a great lawyer. Not only is he not gaming the system, but admissions staffers probably aren’t going to look that hard at his transcript. And if by some odd chance they come to that conclusion? They’ll probably see it as a very lawyerly move on Will’s part. Good luck applying, Will!

22:08 – Practice test data

Chris submits a graph of his overall and per-section practice test scores from the past five months and the data tells all. He started out with a 164, dipped as low as a 162, nailed an official 165, and scored as high as a 173 on a practice test. The guys talk about Chris’s moving average, about variance, and note that if you can show up and do the work, and if you can stomach the swings, you can make some serious improvement.

34:01 – Timed Questions

Can you imagine having just 1 minute and 45 seconds to answer each LR question? Doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it? Well in a recent tutoring session, Ben’s student mentioned that they were worried they were spending too long on a given question. It turns out they were experiencing a GD Pavlovian response to a practice Manhattan Prep implemented in another course the student took wherein the instructor gave students 1:45 to answer each LR question. The guys talk about how harmful advice like this can be, and discuss some other poor practices they’ve seen from other test-prep companies.

51:22 – Pearls vs. Turds

The guys consider some LSAT wisdom from LSAT Max that encourages students to not worry about time in the early stages of test prep. Instead, LSAT Max encourages students to focus on understanding and promise that speed will come. The one exception is in LG, where they offer up a method for timing and tackling questions. Nathan and Ben give this advice a tie. While they agree that speed comes with understanding, they also recommend running the clock from the very first day you start preparing for the test.

58:42 – Personal Statement Review

Kendall writes in and asks the guys to critique her personal statement. Ben and Nathan oblige and burn it down in true Thinking LSAT fashion.