Student creating an LSAT study schedule

The LSAT, more than most other standardized tests, requires a deep understanding of the exam itself. It is not an intuitive exam.

Consider the Games section—how much time do you spend in everyday life considering whether two poodles can go to a fair only if one schnauzer or one corgi joins them? While this canine question may seem irrelevant to your daily life, the method of reasoning you’ll use to solve it will guide you through law school and your future career as an attorney. You’ll need to cultivate LSAT-specific problem-solving skills. The good news: that’s an achievable goal! If you follow these five steps to create an effective LSAT study schedule, you’re likely to find yourself well prepared on test day.

Step #1: Take a practice exam before you begin studying

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to obtain a baseline score on an official practice exam. Don’t fall into the trap of skipping this step for fear of doing poorly on the test and losing your confidence. Remember that LSAT mastery is an acquired skill: even though the exam assesses no specific knowledge per se, you still have to prepare thoroughly for it. And the first step is finding out what you know—and what you don’t.

The good news is that a high baseline score obviously demonstrates the ability to perform well, but a low one doesn’t necessarily mean the opposite. Would you feel self-conscious about getting a bad score on a physics or French test the day before you began the class? Of course not—and you shouldn’t worry about floundering a bit on your first LSAT exam, either.

If you’re enrolled in an LSAT course or tutorial with a reputable test-prep company, your instructor will use your baseline report to gather insight into your strengths, weaknesses, and unique error patterns. If you’re preparing on your own, you will need to analyze your responses on this test very carefully so you can chart your improvement in different areas.

When you take your initial practice LSAT, be sure you’re working under simulated testing conditions—avoiding interruptions or distractions, and timing your sections and break precisely. Keep in mind that the LSAT also measures mental (and physical) stamina, so refrain from eating, drinking, or reclining while taking the exam. These activities are prohibited during the actual test and can therefore inflate (or deflate!) your baseline score.

You can always sign up to take a free practice LSAT. This practice test, like other official LSAT exams that LSAC makes available, has four sections. Keep in mind, however, that the real LSAT will have five sections—the standard four, plus one additional experimental section. If you want to replicate the experience of sitting for the full duration of the exam, you can add a randomly chosen timed section after section two, take your break, and then proceed with the remaining two sections. (You can score and analyze your “experimental” section separately, if you’d like.)

Step #2: Determine how much time you will need to prepare based on your baseline score and admissions goals

Everyone wants an extraordinarily high LSAT score, but most students don’t actually need one. Law schools typically make admissions decisions based on the combined strength of a candidate’s LSAT score and undergraduate GPA, along with lesser factors such as the personal statement, work history, graduate coursework, extracurricular activities, and character.

Keep in mind, however, that a high LSAT score can land you a coveted scholarship. If you're definitely in need of large amounts of financial aid, you should factor in that need when contemplating your LSAT goal.

If you’re not sure how high a score you’ll likely need to get into—or secure a scholarship from a particular school, call the admissions office and ask to speak with a counselor (they are usually extremely helpful)! Then, plan accordingly.

In total, we recommend devoting about twenty hours per week for a period of three months (approximately 250 to 300 hours all together) as a good benchmark. Here are some tips for determining exactly how much time you should spend studying for the LSAT. As a rule of thumb, if your baseline results fall far short of your target score, you may need more time to prepare. Keep in mind that everyone’s learning needs are different, and many students who are ultimately successful end up needing more prep time than they originally anticipated.    

Step #3: Adjust your lifestyle and work schedule to accommodate your LSAT preparation schedule

Studying successfully for the LSAT is not something you can do sporadically in your spare time. Ideally, you should consider LSAT preparation your primary undertaking during the months you devote to it. While you may not have the luxury of forgoing your academic, professional, or personal obligations, you should plan to make some adjustments. Reducing your school course load, taking vacation time from your job, and taking a break from a few hobbies are the types of sacrifices that can make a dramatic impact on your LSAT prep effectiveness.

That said, constant studying with no opportunity for fun or social contact is counterproductive, and can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion. It’s critical to strike a delicate balance between working hard and giving yourself time to decompress. One way you can do this is by scaling back your non-LSAT obligations so that, when you need it, you will have the time to kick back.

Step #4: Prepare detailed weekly schedules in advance

Be sure to make a schedule for your study sessions and assignments, as well as your other activities and obligations—and then try your very best to stick with it! Twenty hours per week for LSAT prep is a hefty commitment, so effective time management is critical. Scheduling all your activities well in advance will enable you to make strategic decisions and allot an optimal amount of time for prep, recreation, and other pursuits. You’ll need a study schedule right down to the day before the LSAT.

You should also have a good idea of what you need to accomplish during each study session, and plan accordingly. A qualified course instructor or tutor will provide the benefit of systematically organizing your homework assignments and practice exams for you. (Here’s how to find the best tutor for your needs.) If you’re studying on your own, you’ll need to make certain that your self-prepared assignments are adequate and reflect your learning needs. Keep detailed notes of every error you make or problem you encounter so that you can set aside time to address these issues. Make sure to work in a secluded setting that’s free from noise and other distractions (including your own cell phone)!             

Step #5: Set aside a minimum of one hour per week for vocabulary review

This step is very important and can give you a significant competitive edge. Above all else, the LSAT tests your ability to read with precision! The exam requires a high level of verbal competence and a sophisticated vocabulary. If you don’t know the meanings of the words used on the exam, particularly on the Reading Comprehension and Arguments sections, then you won’t be able to reason effectively.

But there’s a ready solution! Whenever you come across a word in an LSAT question or passage that you cannot define, write it down! Then make flashcards—transcribe those words onto index cards, and write their definitions on the back—and test yourself weekly. You can also use vocabulary-building apps, or read on an e-reader so you have ready access to the definitions of unfamiliar words.

The test writers tend to favor certain language, so there’s a good chance that a once-unfamiliar word you found in a previous exam will show up again on a later one. Consistently using this technique will not only raise your LSAT score, but will also improve your performance on the writing sample by honing your verbal skills.

If you follow these five steps, you’ll have a distinct advantage on the LSAT. Earning your highest-possible score can serve not only to earn you a place at a top law school, but it may even help you get merit-based aid to attend.

If you’re looking for best-in-class courses and tutoring, check out our LSAT prep offerings.