A Pearl and Some Cringeworthy Personal Statements (Ep. 317)

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Today on the show, Nathan and Ben uncover a rare pearl of LSAT wisdom. This listener-submitted advice promotes a deeper understanding of the test and can be applied to both Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension. The guys also relay some important announcements from LSAC and discuss why September is the best time to submit law school applications. Then, they review some cringey personal statements and wrap up with another list of rule violations.

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

2:06 – LSAC Updates

LSAC has announced registration deadlines and score release dates for the remaining LSAT administrations for the 2021-2022 testing cycle:

Nathan and Ben remind everyone that they strongly recommend applying in early September. If you haven’t applied by the time this episode airs (in late September), you should plan to apply next year. Ben breaks down the ideal order of operations for prospective law school applicants as follows:

  1. Study and get the best practice test scores you can get.
  2. Get the best official score you can get. (You can take the test up to three times during one testing cycle.)
  3. Apply in September, and apply broadly.

16:59 – Pearls vs. Turds

Listener S started his LSAT journey with a diagnostic score of 144. He has been studying with the Demon since June and recently scored 180 on a practice test. (Way to go, S!) He mentions that he postponed his test date following the Demon axiom that one ought to be perfect at Logic Games before taking the LSAT officially. While that advice may sound harsh to new students, Nathan emphasizes that it is possible to master the games if you invest the time and do the necessary work. For some people, it might mean doing all of the nearly 400 games available for practice. The reward—attending a great law school for free—is worth the effort.

S describes an imaginative strategy that he uses to tackle Logical Reasoning questions. As he’s reading the passage, he mentally “blurs out” the question and answer choices. He makes sure he understands the passage completely before “unblurring” the question. Then, he makes a solid prediction before revealing the answer choices to himself.

Ben and Nathan think this is a great technique. It’s similar to one they both used to teach back in the pencil-and-paper days of the LSAT—they would have students physically cover up the question and answer choices with a piece of paper. The guys deem this strategy a pearl.

36:09 – Jon’s Personal Statement

Nathan and Ben immediately say to cut the first sentence, which describes Jon receiving a phone call from a client. “Receiving” is too passive. A sentence with an action verb would be better. The next sentence is much too wordy. It quickly becomes clear that the whole first paragraph needs to go. Jon’s just not starting his story in the right spot, Nathan says. He hasn’t shown himself doing anything besides taking a phone call.

There are some very odd sentence constructions and grammar issues in the second paragraph. It’s wordy and overly descriptive. The guys point out that, as a paralegal, Jon should be a presumptive admit to law school. But he’s not delivering his message very well.

45:55 – S’s Personal Statement

S may be overselling it by introducing himself as a “public servant.” Nathan spots a misplaced hyphen in the second sentence. Ben adds that the whole sentence about growing up can be omitted. Every applicant grew up somewhere. No variation of the phrase “I grew up” should ever appear in a personal statement.

S then talks about serving as a teaching assistant for a writing seminar. The word “serving” again comes off as overselling. Worse, there’s a missing preposition and a few other grammatical errors. These mistakes are inexcusable for someone claiming to be a writer.

The guys lose patience after S breaks three commandments within the first paragraph. First, he talks about his mental state (“I became interested”). Then, he wastes space by mentioning years and seasons (“during fall 2018 and 2019”). And lastly, he uses the vomit-inducing word “unique.” Back to the drawing board, S!

56:12 – Blackbelt’s Personal Statement

The first thing Ben and Nathan notice about Blackbelt’s statement is its poor formatting. The paragraphs all run together because there’s no spacing or indentation. The writing is worse. Blackbelt introduces himself as an “International Medical Graduate”—which should not be capitalized. He says that he moved to Canada to find a better quality of life “like every other immigrant”—which is simply not true. Ben loses his breath reading a 58-word-long sentence with a bunch of haphazardly placed commas.

Later, Blackbelt claims to have “perfected English and French as both second languages.” This sentence doesn’t make sense. The essay is full of run-on sentences and grammatical errors. Nathan and Ben stress that lawyers are professional writers. Blackbelt must work on his writing if he wants to succeed in law school and legal practice.

1:07:00 – Today’s Violations

The following rules were violated by one or more of today’s contributors:

  • Cut, cut, and cut again. Avoid wordiness.
  • Don’t talk about growing up.
  • Don’t talk about mental states.
  • Avoid vague verbs like “serve” and “work.”
  • Don’t talk about your writing experience when your writing is imperfect.
  • Don’t mention specific dates or seasons.
  • Don’t use the word “unique.”
  • Don’t start a sentence with “My job was.” Instead, use “I” and an action verb.
  • Avoid Trumpian capitalization of random words in the middle of sentences.
  • Limit sentence length to 25 words.