Personal Statement-Palooza (Ep. 310)

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The start of the 2022 application cycle is almost here. Anyone following Ben and Nathan’s advice is going to apply in early September with their best LSAT score—and with a fact-based personal statement that portrays a winner. On this week’s episode, the guys reprise their roles as mock law school gatekeepers and evaluate three more personal statements. Spoiler: They don’t make it through any of them.

Here’s one tidbit of advice for any listeners who are writing a personal statement: Think about what reaction the reader is likely to have after reading each sentence. Then ask yourself whether that sentence presents a fact about you that puts your best foot forward and makes them closer to accepting you.

Before diving into Personal Statement-Palooza, Nathan and Ben discuss a lengthy Pearls vs. Turds candidate, answer a logical reasoning question from PrepTest 73, and remind you why you should never miss a Sufficient Assumption question.

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.

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Important Dates

08.14.2021 — August LSAT Testing Begins

08.25.2021 — October LSAT Registration Deadline

4:24 – Pearls vs. Turds

Listener Sydney shares some “LG tips for accuracy under time pressure from a 170+ scorer” that she saw on a 7Sage forum. She already has strong feelings about the post, but she would like to hear Ben and Nathan’s assessment.

Nathan immediately shoots down the recommendation to write out all the rules. He wants you to go for a solution, and if you can incorporate the rules into a solution, that’s vastly better than writing them down. Plus there are some rules that are easier to understand than to figure out how to notate. You don’t get any points for writing down rules.

Next the advice says to check if the fourth game is easier before spending all your remaining time on a tough third game. There are a couple of problems with this strategy. For one, Nathan and Ben can’t tell at a glance how easy or how hard a game is going to be, which means you can’t either. You’d have to invest a few minutes into a game before you would get an idea of its difficulty level. It’s also just not a good idea to plan for anything less than a perfect score on LG. It’s the most learnable section of the test.

The guys skim a couple more of these fifteen bulleted tips and duly toss the whole lot into the turd pile. Ben notes that even the title is poorly chosen. Your approach to logic games shouldn’t change depending on whether you’re “under time pressure.”

21:38 – Logical Reasoning Question 12 from PrepTest 73

Ben and Nathan again demonstrate why Sufficient Assumption questions are some of the easiest questions on the test (as they explained in episode 305). The argument in this example is simple—it has only one premise and one conclusion—but it’s far from proven. Predicting the correct answer is about adding a new piece of evidence that would force the conclusion to be true. In other words, a sufficient assumption makes the argument win.

Before reading any answer choices, Ben knows that the correct answer must indicate that if the chairperson didn’t consult any other members before releasing the report, then they shouldn’t have released it. Nathan adds that anyone who wants to do Sufficient Assumption questions properly needs to learn how to predict the answers.

Answer A essentially matches Ben’s prediction. It requires the plausible assumption that “consent” requires consultation. But the guys explain that it’s unequivocally better than any of the other answer choices.

Try this question here.

45:21 – Alan’s Personal Statement

Alan begins his statement with a quote about overcoming adversity, which Nathan and Ben both say is a mistake to include. A personal statement should be about you. Parroting someone else’s platitude wastes the reader’s time and doesn’t tell them anything about you.

Alan goes on to talk about the quote’s impact on him and why he decided to recite it during a speech at his university. Nathan finds it condescending. Remember that the person reading your law school application is almost guaranteed to be older than you. They aren’t interested in being lectured about the human condition.

Ben and Nathan are ready to bail by the end of the first paragraph. They both think Alan sounds like a nice, well-intentioned person. But what he has presented here are not ingredients for an effective personal statement. The focus so far has been on what Alan thinks and what he wants to do. They want to know what Alan has actually done. They encourage Alan to start over and submit a statement with more facts and fewer conclusions.

57:24 – Ivey’s Personal Statement

By comparison, Ivey’s statement starts out strong. Her first sentence gives the reader a clear idea of what she does: She’s a student, performer, designer, and technician for her school’s theater department. She states facts that allow the reader to draw their own conclusions about her work ethic and time-management skills. So far so good.

Unfortunately, her second sentence veers into overselling. Nathan points out that she’s clearly exaggerating when she claims to be in class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. No undergraduate actually spends that many hours in class. That one statement invites skepticism of her other claims about working on various theater projects until 2 a.m. Ben adds that even if her claims are true, overstuffing her schedule like this demonstrates poor judgment.

Ivey then flouts Nathan and Ben’s advice further by throwing a bunch of conclusions at the reader. Don’t just say that you respond well to criticism, command a room, and creatively meet criteria. Explain what you actually did.

Skimming the rest of her statement, the guys spot more conclusions about thriving and being a hard worker and a passionate person. Her personal statement comes off as scattered and unfocused. The guys recommend that she pick a story and stick to the facts.

1:25:59 – JP’s Personal Statement

JP is a pharmacist looking for a career change. His first sentence should be reworded so that the subject is “I” and not the pharmacy he worked in. But it at least gives the reader a clear image of him as a working professional.

After a small step forward, JP’s statement abruptly topples backward. The next sentence is poorly written and sounds like a snooty criticism of the “dilapidated” city he commutes to from “ritzy” Manhattan. Ben and Nathan are annoyed enough by the first paragraph to say goodbye. But they give him the benefit of the doubt and continue reading.

After two paragraphs, the guys have learned that JP is a bilingual pharmacist. He could have said that in one sentence. Instead he wastes the reader’s time with a ton of repetition and overselling. He comes off as condescending and grandiose. The guys encourage JP to start over and write about what he did in a more down-to-earth tone.