Major Score Increases and More Personal Statements (Ep. 316)

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Listener personal statements have been rolling in, and Ben and Nathan are doing their best to respond to as many as possible. In what may be a new record, today’s episode features ten submissions. The guys pull no punches as they critique each one and compile a list of rule violations. But first, they hear from a listener who improved his official score by 27 points using LSAT Demon, and they tackle a Reasoning question from PrepTest 73.


Reminder: If you want to submit your personal statement to be read on a future episode, go to lsat.link/statement and answer the questions first.


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Important Dates


5:45 – Major Score Increases


Listener Volodymyr studied with LSAT Demon for six months and increased his score by a whopping 27 points—from a diagnostic 142 to an official 169. Way to go! That 97th percentile score and his impressive 3.86 GPA make him an excellent candidate.


Nathan and Ben revel in the fact that major score increases are becoming so common among dedicated Demon students, they’re almost unremarkable. The thing that sets LSAT Demon apart from other test prep companies is the emphasis on actually understanding the test—not on gimmicky shortcuts.


14:13 – Logical Reasoning Question 16 from PrepTest 73



Nathan breaks down the argument and summarizes the main point: The top award for architecture should go to the best building just as the top award for movies goes to the best picture. Why? Because creating a building is a team effort, much like creating a movie. Ben and Nathan are sympathetic to the argument but also point out its weaknesses. They then discuss their strategy for answering a Reasoning question. The right answer must accurately describe something that the argument did—nothing different, nothing extra. Ben adds that it’s okay if an answer describes the argument incompletely, but it can’t be inaccurate.


Answer A makes perfect sense. The argument did use an analogy to reach its conclusion. Answers B, C, D, and E have a lot of the right words, but they’re all inaccurate and thus wrong. Nathan reminds listeners that the most efficient way to improve your Logical Reasoning score is to dig into one question at a time.


43:12 – Z’s Personal Statement


The first few sentences of Z’s statement are somewhat vague and fail to capture Ben’s or Nathan’s interest. There are some awkward sentence constructions and too many uses of the word “would” throughout the first paragraph. (Instead of saying that you would do something, just say that you did something.) Z then claims to teach students how to construct “the clearest possible prose.” Meanwhile, Z’s prose is unclear and contains several grammatical errors. Nathan and Ben both say they’d stop reading at that point.


49:30 – Kamilah’s Personal Statement


Kamilah’s first sentence can be edited down significantly. Ben and Nathan recommend losing the adjective “interesting.” If something is interesting, show the reader why it’s interesting—don’t force the conclusion. Kamilah follows with several more conclusions and too much detail about her attorney uncle. The reader cares only about you, the applicant. Don’t talk about family members.


Skimming a couple paragraphs ahead, the guys learn that Kamilah has worked in HR for 18 years and is now “responsible for the investigation of statutory complaints raised by and against Intel employees and its contractors.” They encourage her to cut the entire first paragraph and lead with the important work that she does today.


1:00:57 – Georgios’s Personal Statement


Georgios’s work as an Air Force intelligence officer sounds cool. But his first sentence is way too long and hard to read. Nathan recommends reading your statement out loud to easily spot long sentences that should be shortened or broken up. There’s also no reason to spell out “United States Air Force” and then add “USAF” in parentheses. Just say “Air Force.” No one’s going to be confused. The guys recommend avoiding initialisms in general. They also suggest omitting a bunch of useless adjectives. Georgios has some impressive work experience. He just needs to clean up his writing.


1:10:29 – Michael’s Personal Statement


Michael makes the smart choice to lead with his biggest, most important facts. His statement is easy to read and shows the reader what he did as the leader of 120 soldiers. Ben and Nathan suggest a few edits and remind everyone to avoid references to mental states. For example, instead of “I decided to transform…” say “I transformed…” Ben would also like to see a few more “we” statements mixed in with all the “I” statements to remind the reader that he was leading a team. Overall, Michael’s statement is a clear winner.


1:24:36 – Brittany’s Personal Statement


Brittany introduces herself as a second-grade teacher and a small business owner. Nathan advises her to choose one topic to focus on. The fact that she increased reading fluency test scores in her classes for seven consecutive years is a definite point in her favor. But the grammatical error in the next sentence is inexcusable—especially since she’s a teacher. The second paragraph has some good content, but her writing needs to be cleaned up. The guys point out several adjectives that should be removed. Brittany may also want to add a sentence or two about why she’s applying to law school, as it isn’t obvious from her work experience.


1:35:51 – Another Michael’s Personal Statement


Michael’s statement is oddly written in the past tense, which leaves the reader to wonder what he does now. As Ben reads, Nathan calls out several unnecessary adjectives, such as “often” and “large-scale.” The second paragraph has two references to mental states. Michael does have some interesting facts, but the guys lose patience with his clunky writing style and poor editing.


1:44:18 – A’s Personal Statement


A’s first sentence is long, vague, and uninformative. Ben and Nathan both say to drop it and start with the second sentence (sans the adjective “often”). The rest of the first paragraph is wordy and hard to read. A needs to use shorter sentences with fewer commas and semicolons. She should stop referring to her mental states. Eliminating adjectives and adverbs would also help to tighten up her writing.


1:57:38 – Volodymyr’s Personal Statement


The guys find glaring grammatical errors in each of Volodymyr’s first three sentences. They stop reading after the third strike and encourage Volodymyr to try again. Don’t submit a rough draft. You will get more out of what Nathan and Ben have to offer if you put more effort into your writing in the first place.


2:00:45 – Patricia’s Personal Statement


Patricia’s first paragraph is strong up until the third sentence, where she mistakenly leaves out the word “of.” She mentions that there are “fewer than ten” women in her position. Nathan suggests stating the actual number. Patricia’s facts are awesome, but she doesn’t earn any points by complaining about “cis-gender male banter.” The guys recommend keeping her statement focused on positive facts about her.


2:17:12 – Grace’s Personal Statement


Grace’s first paragraph is super vague. She tells the reader that she has “professional experience” in the theater and legal industries, but it’s unclear what she actually does. Ben also points out a grammatical error in the third sentence. The guys both recommend cutting the first paragraph entirely and leading with her work at Goodwin Procter. Her facts are interesting, but she doesn’t need to keep reminding the reader that she was a student employee. She may also want to include something about what she did for the theater or just not mention it. Overall, Grace’s statement gets a B+. With some editing, it could be an A.


2:30:00 – Today’s Violations


Ben and Nathan recap all the personal statement rules that were broken on today’s show:

  • Avoid initialisms and acronyms. If your reader isn’t likely to know what an abbreviation means, don’t use it.
  • Don’t specify dates or seasons unless it’s necessary for clarity.
  • Limit adjectives and adverbs. These extra words clutter up your statement and add no value.
  • Don’t talk about mental states. Your reader cares about what you did—not what you discovered or realized.
  • Write shorter sentences in general. And avoid starting sentences with unnecessary preambles.
  • Don’t use annoying, heavy-handed words and phrases. Some examples are passion, unique, obtain, and as well as.
  • Don’t capitalize job titles, places, or any other random words that have no business being capitalized.
  • Cut, cut, cut—and then cut again.
  • Don’t use “would” before verbs. Say what you do or did, not what you would do.
  • Don’t protest inexperience or anything else that you lack. It’s okay to omit facts that aren’t favorable to your story.
  • Don’t complain. If you’re not solving the problem, the reader doesn’t want to hear about it in your personal statement.