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May 1, 2009

LSAT Blog Manifesto

Since I started LSAT Blog, several of you have asked why I blog.

It's not an easy question to answer, but since I intend to continue, it’s time I did.

Aside from the obvious reasons (I enjoy it, and it brings me LSAT students), there's one major reason:

The big LSAT prep companies aren't helping you.

You'd think they'd all have regularly-updated blogs full of free advice to attract clients. They don't.

I've often wondered why. I suspect the companies simply haven't recognized the potential of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. From what I've seen, their efforts are mainly "take our courses" or "buy our books."

They just don't get it. People don't want to read advertisements. People want to support businesses who care about their customers and want to see them succeed.

Before I started LSAT Blog, there wasn't any reputable source of info about the LSAT that was neatly organized, regularly updated, and 100% free. I'm an LSAT tutor, and the Internet lowers the cost and time of distribution to zero. It's so easy to put info out there - there's no reason not to blog!

Sure, there are some decent LSAT books out there, but none are close to perfect. Many prep companies hold back. If they gave away all the good stuff in their retail books, you'd have less reason to pay for their $1500 courses. (This is why some companies force students to sign contracts that they won't ever resell their precious coursebooks. Students who violate these contracts are often threatened with lawsuits.) Many companies purposely leave info out of their coursebooks in order to limit their resale value. Unfortunately, this also harms students who take the courses. The prep companies' practices are immoral at best.

However, even if the companies' books were free, and even if they contained everything that happens in the LSAT prep courses, that still wouldn't be enough.

Why? Because these books don't address the perfectly reasonable questions most of you have. Much of the LSAT's difficulty is not limited to the question-types themselves, but the prep companies fail to address your concerns. LSAT Blog gives you a place to find answers.

Since the big companies have courses in every city and throughout the suburbs, they're afraid of giving away too much info. The companies think: "If we make our retail books too good, students will be able to adequately self-study for the LSAT. Students won't need to take a course, so we'll lose money."

Most people who've taken one of the big prep courses are afraid to admit it, but these courses are a waste of money. Sure, most students who take them see some score improvement. However, any exposure to the LSAT is likely to increase your score, and if you increase your score after the course starts, you lose your eligibility for the money-back guarantee. Plus, you mistakenly attribute your score increase to the prep course instead of to your own natural improvement, and you mistakenly believe the course was a good investment.

Is it any surprise, then, that prep companies recommend students have no exposure to the LSAT prior to starting a course? They're taking credit for score increases students would've gotten anyway. This is shameful and deceitful.

I'm not a big company, so I have nothing to lose. In fact, the more I blog, the more likely you are to find me. Unlike the big companies, I'm not worried about the day when the amount of info I've put on the blog exceeds that provided by LSAT prep courses. Why? Because many students still desire the individualized attention and detailed explanations only one-on-one tutoring can provide. A prep class can never match that.

Even if only 1% or 2% of blog readers hire me, that's still more than enough to allow me to pay the rent, get a slice of pizza whenever I want, and keep writing. If the rest of you can't afford to hire a tutor or already have one you like, that's okay too. I'm glad you can benefit even if you never give me a dime.

All I ask is that you rock the LSAT and tell your friends about LSAT Blog.

Thanks for reading!

-Steve




25 comments:

  1. Steve,

    I appreciate your thoughts. Some of the mystery surrounding legal culture, including the prep courses, has seemed unjustified to me. You are helping to break down old barriers surrounding LSAT prep, and are providing a meaningful service for the rest of us studying for the LSAT. If I lived in Manhattan, I would buy you a pizza. Thanks, Steve.

    Chad

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  2. Steve,

    This is the best post ever. I took one of the big LSAT prep courses, which did not provide any actual instruction in their books because of the reasons you listed. It's a real shame. Self-study has improved my LSAT ability far more than the course.I truly appreciate your ideas and insight into the LSAT.

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  3. I suspect that the most important thing I did today was subscribe to this blog.
    I look forward to reading your posts all summer while I prepare for the September LSAT.

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  4. I am very glad you started this blog - it has helped me with my studying!!
    -Jackie O.

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  5. Steve,

    I just started reading your blog and already my feelings about the LSAT has turned positive. keep doing this great work, you're providing great help to many people.

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  6. spot on! "cold" diagnostic tests are a waste of time as well as a prep test which could be utilized to TEACH the material.

    a meaningful diagnostic for the lsat can only occur when an individual has a working knowledge of the test. obviously the vast majority of people who have no exposure to the test or what's required to answer the questions will bomb it!

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  7. Interesting. However, you are incorrect about losing a money back guarantee if a student's score increases after a class has begun - at least in the case of one of the big prep test companies. Also, to write that a prep course can never offer individualized attention is an extreme statement & flat-out wrong.

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  8. Glad you all enjoyed it! Thank you for the kind words.

    @Ricky Mack

    I agree 100%. Stay tuned for a post coming up this Friday for more on "cold" diagnostics.


    @Anonymous (5/17, 12:17AM)

    Re: money-back guarantee - perhaps it depends upon how you define "big prep companies." My comments on the money-back guarantee are true for the two largest LSAT prep companies. The next 3 largest LSAT prep companies don't offer money-back guarantees at all.

    Re: individualized attention - I said, "A prep class can never match that." This doesn't mean that a prep course never offers individualized attention at all. Of course, any prep course may have some moments when a student can get individual questions answered. However, it does mean that the attention one receives in a prep course can't be equaled (matched) by that which a student receives in one-on-one tutoring.

    I appreciate that you attempted to read critically. It's an important skill to master for the LSAT and law school. However, you committed a straw man fallacy. You misrepresented my argument to be more extreme (and therefore, more difficult to justify) than it actually is.

    Thanks for reading, and good luck in your LSAT preparation!

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  9. WOW! I feel so much better having read this. I was considering a class with a VERY popular prep company (yeah, them),but I have tons of books and prep tests I've already bought. I have already improved, but thought maybe I could improve more with a class. I'm glad I didn't sign up. I'll just continue my self study plan.

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  10. Steve, I find that providing quality advice FREE to law school applicants brings on good karma. Thank you for adding to the quality of info available and not just to the quantity.And, of course, thanks for giving me some good comments for my book on law school admissions....

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  11. Thanks,

    I paid 1500 plus for a course and after I was done... they pushed me aside. I called them to have access to the website so I could review before my LSAT, but they said my window is closed. They also told me I could have PAID more to have access for a year, but it was too late. So, I am completely against paying for these Big Company Study Courses.

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  12. Thank you for your LSAT Blog. It is really helpful!

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  13. Have you thought about starting a VLOG for those of us who need visual aids? :)Thanks Steve.

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  14. After studying from the books since June (gearing up for December 2009) I am kicking myself that I didn't find your blog sooner! I have appreciated everything from your posts on LSAT Burnout to your modified study schedules - Steve - you rock! After feeling insecure about the time elapsed between my last test and now, I am instead hearing the Rocky Anthem in my head and chanting Bring It :) Thank you!! I am definitely spreading the word!

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  15. Your blog is great! I wish I found it sooner!

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  16. Thanks so much for your web site. It is helping me "collect my thoughts" about applying to law school and taking the LSAT.

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  17. Thanks so much for your web site. Like many college students, I couldn't afford to pay for a prep class and decided to go it alone. Your blog has really helped me improve my score! Wish me luck tomorrow! Thanks :)

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  18. Obviously, today is the the day of my LSAT. Before I took off for the test center I just wanted to send you a note to say thank you for your blog. I don't know what my score will be today but I do know that it would surely be lower without your blog. Between the book recommendations, difficult problem posts, and the incredible analysis that I have depended on for the last four months you have made studying for this test somewhat bearable.

    Anyhow, thank you again for all of the time and energy you put into your site. I will most definitely be recommending it to anyone who is thinking about taking the LSAT.

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  19. I'm taking the LSAT in October, and I wish I had found this blog before spending $100+ on Prep books that WEREN'T the latest preptests. I love this blog, I love you.

    <3

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  20. Just to add onto what others have said. I took a prep course and it did me almost no good. The only thing that works is butt on chair and working at the problems. Thanks for pointing this out.

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  21. Kaplan and Princeton Review are JOKES!

    How they have been able to continue their dominance over standardized test preps is beyond me. Not to mention their so called importance is perpetuated by post-undergrad schools throughout the country. Im sure the CEOs of these publishing companies (kaplan/PR) are laughing their a$$es off...

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  22. Hi Steve,

    Just now beginning to start in my LSAT Prep. Your Blog was referred to me by an adviser at my University. I really like your approach and thank you for you generosity and care for those of us trying to navigate our way to our goals. :)

    ~Jared

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  23. Hi Steve,

    I'm new to this blog (just bought your 4 month study schedule a few minutes ago) , and i'm commenting for no other reason than to say thank you for democratizing this process for all of us. I hope you realize how this (not so) little blog is making law school accessible to so many otherwise deserving students, and I don't doubt that at least a few of them will eventually pay it forward. If only more people were as willing to share their knowledge the way you do; the world would have waaaay fewer problems than it does now, I can tell you that. So thanks, and keep doing what you're doing!

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  24. Hey! I actually work for one of the big two Prep companies as an instructor :-) (I guess it's only The One now, since TPR just got sold?) I do appreciate the value of one-on-one attention; that's why I am known as "The Teacher Who Never Sleeps", as I am up until 4 am every night answering emails and drawing up long and involved exercises for individual students. I understand how easy it is to develop a dislike for the "big company" mentality, because you will always find bad apples in every bunch. But please remember that there are some of us out here who have a true passion for helping students get into law school and realize their dreams - and that some of us are constantly working against the bureaucracy that is in inherent in large companies so that we can do our best for the students. I wake up in the middle of the night to frantically write down a new analogy for explaining difficult LR concepts. :) Anyway, you're doing wonderfully, and keep up the awesome energy! We're also fighting for goodness in the Big Company alongside you :)

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  25. I can't even tell you how thankful I am to have found LSAT Blog! I purchased your 3 Month Day-to-Day plan and several other PDFs - best money I've spent so far. I was getting overwhelmed on how to even get started and your plan has given me direction and organization. So, thank you!!!

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