International LSAT Advice (Ep. 302)

Ben Olson's headshot.

This week’s internationally-focused episode features listener mail from students in Nigeria and Canada. Ben and Nathan share their thoughts on international students not having as many chances to take the LSAT. And they discuss whether their “don’t pay for law school” advice applies outside of the United States. They also break down another logical reasoning question from PrepTest 73, contemplate the agony of working 100 hours a week in big law, and shed light on the Demon’s new rating system. Be sure to listen to the end for a surprise announcement!

1:17 – Logical Reasoning Question 8 from PrepTest 73

First up, the guys tackle a logical reasoning question about jellyfish eyes. The passage begins with a biologist explaining that box jellyfish have eyes with lenses capable of producing images with fine detail. But, because of where their retinas are placed, they see only blurry images. The biologist then uses this one example to draw a sweeping conclusion: “Eyes are adapted only to an animal’s needs rather than to some abstract sense of how a good eye would be designed.”

Ben and Nathan point out several problems with that conclusion. First, we don’t know what the animal’s needs are. Second, why would box jellyfish have evolved lenses capable of producing fine detail if they don’t need them for that purpose? Third, who decides what the design of a “good eye” would look like?

It turns out to be a Necessary Assumption question. What is something the biologist absolutely must assume to be true? Nathan offers an example: The author must agree that Flying Spaghetti Monster did not design the box jellyfish’s eye to match His abstract sense of how a good eye would be designed. If that weren’t true, the argument would fall apart. That makes it a necessary assumption. The answer is another, equally necessary assumption of the argument—that box jellyfish need to detect prominent features of objects but not fine details.

19:11 – Big Law 100-Hour Work Weeks

A recent Bloomberg News article reports that senior associates of some big law firms are receiving as much as $164,000 in bonuses (on top of their salaries) to entice them to keep working 100 hours a week. That’s over 14 hours a day, seven days a week—brutal.

Ben questions whether this is the most effective way for them to leverage talent. It’s well documented that working too many hours leads to diminishing returns. Is hiring more attorneys not an option? Nathan points out that it’s the senior associates who are getting these big bonuses. Junior associates at big law firms are expected to work crazy long hours for much less. And they’re all underpaid compared to the partners who are making millions of dollars a year. Big-law money might sound appealing to young people, but is it really worth selling your life away?

27:58 – Taking the LSAT Internationally

Maggie from Nigeria writes in with some helpful advice for international students planning to take the LSAT. She tried to register for the August exam online and was surprised to find out that it wasn’t available. But when she changed her location to the United States, the August test date suddenly appeared. She emailed LSAC to ask why an online, virtually proctored exam isn’t being administered internationally on all test dates. Their response was not very helpful: “The August 2021 LSAT is not scheduled to be administered internationally.” Even though it’s online, students may not take the test internationally on that date “due to security reasons.”

As Maggie mentions, it’s odd that security reasons preclude the exam from being administered globally in August but not in June. Five test dates out of the year are safe for international administration, but the other four have security risks. Nathan surmises that the real reason may have to do with time zones and budgetary concerns. LSAC might not want to pay ProctorU for 24-hour proctoring on every test date. They’re inviting speculation because the reason they gave Maggie makes no sense.

41:05 – Paying for Law School in Canada

Don’t pay for law school—you know the Thinking LSAT mantra. But are there any exceptions? Listener and Demon user George asks the guys if they are as adamant about not paying for law school in Canada. Tuition there is considerably less than it is in the United States. It generally ranges from $12,000 to $21,000 per year, George says. Scholarships, especially full rides, are scarce at Canadian law schools. Is he a total sucker for planning to pay $18,500 per year?

Ben and Nathan agree that, while it’s still a lot of money, that amount is cheap compared to the outrageous overpricing of U.S. law schools. The reason they yell so much about not paying for law school is because the tuition is so outrageous here. Tuition is outrageous because scholarships are out of control. When schools charge everyone a different price, you’re a sucker if you pay the full amount.

But that advice is directed toward students applying to U.S. law schools. The Canadian system isn’t broken like ours is. Instead of handing out scholarships to some students while ripping off others, Canadian law schools charge everyone more equitably. If you know that a school doesn’t let anyone in for free, you’re much safer paying sticker price to attend.

Of course, you should be careful what you pay no matter where you are. Think about the return on investment. Are your lifetime earnings as an attorney going to outweigh paying not just tuition, but also student-loan interest, living expenses, and the opportunity cost of not working for three years? If so, then it may be worth the investment.

54:01 – Question About Khan’s Prep Tests

Listener K is starting her third year of undergrad in the fall and wanted to get a head start on prepping for the LSAT. The Demon helped her raise her score from a diagnostic of 157 to a most recent practice test score of 180! K has been taking her practice tests on Khan Academy's platform and wants to know if their prep tests are representative of the real thing.

Ben and Nathan note that it looks like Khan hasn’t adapted to the new testing format and scoring method. They’re still using five-section practice tests that are scored according to the old scale. (Pre Covid, two scored sections of logical reasoning counted for half of the test, while logic games and reading comprehension each counted for a quarter. Nowadays there are only three scored sections, and each is weighted equally.) This might skew K’s score a little, especially if LR is her strength. Either way, she should start doing her practice tests in the Demon. She has access to all of the same official tests and, in the Demon, they’re scored using the current scale. Plus she’ll be able to watch and read the Demon’s superior explanations and use the Ask button.

1:04:28 – Demon 2.0 Metrics

Josh has been using Demon 2.0 and considers it a vast improvement on the original. He is curious about how the new rating system works and asks if the guys can shed some light. Ben explains: The ratings reflect the average difficulty level of the questions you’ve completed recently, on a scale of 0–100 points. Time is also factored in. So if you take a long time, you won’t earn as many points.

Both Ben and Nathan advise not to think about these numbers too much. Instead, go drill a question, and make sure you understand it before you move on to the next. That’s where improvement comes from. If you just keep drilling, the Demon is going to keep giving you questions that are at the appropriate difficulty level to challenge you. Let the Demon do its work with the metrics. And you do your work, which is to understand the LSAT, one question at a time.