Showing posts with label interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interviews. Show all posts

How I Changed My Understanding Of The LSAT


LSAT Blog reader Jacob once asked me:

How has the depth of your understanding of the LSAT changed from the day you started or when you started to teach, until now, with the website and tutoring?

LSAT Blog Interview: Mastering Logic Games

LSAT Blog Interview Mastering Logic Games

LSAT Blog reader Jacob conducted a lengthy interview with me about the strategies of top-scoring LSAT takers.

Here's an excerpt from the interview:

The logic games are probably the most feared subject on the LSAT. Yet many students are able to achieve a perfect score on the logic games. So, why are they the most feared and how does this transformation occur?

LSAT Blog Interview: LSAT Time Management


LSAT Blog reader Jacob interviewed me at length about the strategies of top-scoring LSAT takers.

Here's an excerpt from the interview:

Some students get to a place where they [reach a plateau] and they’re still scoring 15 or 20 out of 25 questions on the logical reasoning and 15 or 20 out of 23 on the logic games. How do they break that barrier and get a few more points?

LSAT Blog Interview: Avoid LSAT Test Day Anxiety

LSAT Blog Interview Avoid LSAT Test Day Anxiety
LSAT Blog reader Jacob recently conducted a lengthy interview with me about the strategies of top-scoring LSAT takers.

Here's an excerpt from the interview:

I know a few students who scored close to 180 on practice exams. Then, on the LSAT, they plummeted 10 points. 

How can one make sure the scores they’re getting on their practice exams are a real indicator of what they'll get on the actual exam?

Law School Admission Trends Interview

LSAT Blog Law School Admission Trends
Ann Levine is a law school admission consultant who opened Law School Expert in 2004, and has been blogging about law school application issues since 2006. She is the author of two law school guidebooks: The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert, and The Law School Decision Game.

I recently interviewed her about recent trends and changes in law school admissions. Our discussion follows.


Is the LSAT Relevant to Law School? Question Writer Answers

LSAT Blog Relevant Law School Question Writer Answers
I recently interviewed Stephen Harris, former LSAT question-writer and author of Mastering Logic Games. (He's written hundreds of the questions that appear in your books of LSAT PrepTests.)

Our discussion follows.

You can also:

1. Read ALL of my interviews with him (more than 5!)

Should You Diagram LSAT Logical Reasoning? Question Writer Answers

LSAT Blog Should Diagram LSAT Logical Reasoning Question Writer Answers
I recently interviewed Stephen Harris, former LSAT question-writer and author of Mastering Logic Games. (He's written hundreds of the questions that appear in your books of LSAT PrepTests.)

Our discussion follows.

You can also:

1. Read ALL of my interviews with him (more than 5!)

Read Question Stem or Stimulus First? LSAT Question Writer Answers

LSAT Blog Read Question Stem Stimulus First LSAT Question Writer Answers
I recently interviewed Stephen Harris, former LSAT question-writer and author of Mastering Logic Games. (He's written hundreds of the questions that appear in your books of LSAT PrepTests.)

Our discussion follows.

You can also:

1. Read ALL of my interviews with him (more than 5!)

LSAT Blog Interview: The LSAT Mindset

LSAT Blog Interview LSAT Mindset
LSAT Blog reader Jacob recently conducted a lengthy interview with me about the strategies of top-scoring LSAT takers.

Here's an excerpt from the interview:

In your courses on the LSAT, I know you cover subjects about high scorer habits. Why is it so important to learn about high scorer habits, or about habits in general? 

Choosing a Law School, Financial Aid, and Scholarships | Interview

I recently interviewed Jenny L. Maxey, author of the new book, Barrister on a Budget:  Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank.

We discussed a variety of topics related to choosing a law school, financial aid, and scholarships. Our discussion follows.

Law School Admission Game: Play Like An Expert | Interview

LSAT Blog Law School Admission Game Play Like Expert
I interviewed law school admission consultant Ann Levine earlier this week. In case you missed it, she just released a new edition of The Law School Admission Game.

The second part of our interview is below.

How much time should one spend revising a personal statement, and how can one tell when it's *finished*?

Former LSAT Question-Writer Interview

LSAT Blog Former LSAT Question Writer Interview
I recently interviewed Stephen Harris, former LSAT question-writer and author of Mastering Logic Games. (He's written hundreds of the questions that appear in your books of LSAT PrepTests.)

Our discussion follows.

You can also:

1. Read ALL of my interviews with him (more than 5!)

LSAT Cultural Bias Interview


LSAT Blog LSAT Cultural Bias Interview
I recently interviewed Stephen Harris, former LSAT question-writer and author of Mastering Logic Games, about whether the LSAT is culturally biased.

(He's written hundreds of the questions that appear in your books of LSAT PrepTests.)

Our discussion follows.

You can also:

1. Read ALL of my interviews with him (more than 5!)


Do you think the LSAT is culturally biased? If so, what steps can be taken to correct for that? In writing questions, did you take measures to reduce your own cultural bias or does the question selection process correct for that? Is the LSAT a test of acculturation?

“Biased” is a word that is used in different senses. In some sense, the whole point of a test is to discriminate. A good test discriminates on the basis of reasonable considerations; a bad test not so much. For most tests, the basis for this discrimination will be cultural factors. Is a spelling test biased against bad spellers? In some sense, the answer is clearly yes. And that’s the point, even though spelling is a cultural phenomenon.

Likewise, the whole point of the LSAT is to help determine the extent to which test takers possess certain abilities, and these abilities are clearly cultural in some sense, like reading and drawing verbal inferences. But does this mean that either a spelling test or the LSAT is culturally biased in a troubling way? Not necessarily. They might be, by choosing idiosyncratic words to spell, for instance, or allowing extraneous factors that privilege one group over another to play a role on the LSAT. We can, and will, argue over which skills are the important ones, and whether a tool tests these skills in idiosyncratic ways that disadvantage otherwise qualified students inappropriately.

By any reasonable measure, it seems to me, the LSAT tests generally relevant skills in a manner that rarely prevents students who are likely to perform well in law school from gaining admission to some school or other. But bias in this pejorative sense is more like crime – you can never eliminate it, only combat it, especially since the standards by which inappropriate bias is judged are subject to dispute and undergoing constant change as a result of larger cultural conversations.

As for socioeconomic bias specifically, undoubtedly LSAT performance is correlated with socioeconomic status; life expectancy, quality of health care and education, and virtually everything else that people think is good is correlated with socioeconomic status. It would be really surprising if LSAT scores weren’t. But it seems to me that the problem with LSAT bias in this sense isn’t the LSAT per se as much as these other factors, and I doubt that there is an LSAT-specific remedy for this issue.

The most reliable way to limit one’s own inappropriate biases, I think, is to choose item topics carefully. Topics that one group might be more familiar with than another are generally poorly suited for test items. As an example, questions about sports very often risk the possibility of gender bias, since for some sports whether people play or follow them is pretty strongly correlated with gender.


Photo by 51170735@N02

Will Some Law Schools Close? | Video

Former law school dean and current law professor Nancy Rapoport, an expert on bankruptcy and ethics, was recently interviewed by Bloomberg News. She discussed whether Congress will make student debt dischargeable, as well as the impact of debt on law students and schools.

True Life: I'm in the Baylor Law Email

You may remember that, last week, Baylor Law's Director of Admissions accidentally emailed a spreadsheet containing individual names, LSAT scores, and GPAs, as well as race and scholarship information, to over 400 admitted students.

While we've heard a lot about the information in that spreadsheet, we haven't heard much from the students to whom that information belonged. What do they think?

I recently interviewed one of the affected students (a former LSAT Blog reader). Since her info's already been a little too public lately, we'll call her "Kelly."

LSAT Blog: Media Coverage in NYTimes and Others

Apparently, I wasn't the only one interested in the fact that LSAT tests administered are at a 10-year low.

The New York Times picked up the story the next day, quoted me, and was kind enough to throw in a link to LSAT Blog. The story hit #3 on the most-emailed list. A bunch of other media outlets covered it, too.

Law School Applications: Diversity Statement and Addendum Tips

LSAT Blog Law School Diversity Statement Addendum TipsI recently interviewed Stefanie Arr of The Advanced Edit via email.

(Also see our previous interview about law school personal statement topics.)

Our discussion follows.

***

1. Now that it’s “application crunch-time” or, that much closer to Thanksgiving, what is your advice to students reaching burnout already?

Law school admissions is such an arduous process-- between LSAT studying and putting together all the actual application materials, it’s no wonder many students reach burnout levels relatively quickly.

To combat this, I often recommend that students rotate what they are focusing on so that they don’t become so bogged down with the task at hand that they want to just throw in the towel. As I’m sure you advise your own students,, a break is highly recommended when you feel you just can’t go on.

When working on such an important essay, the last thing you want to do is make careless mistakes out of oversight or tiredness. That is easy to do when staring at the same piece of writing day in and day out-- it can become rote and downright mind-numbing, allowing for mistakes to happen. Taking a break would prevent this, as it’ll allow you both time to rest and to stay alert when working on it.

A break is also beneficial because you’ll often come back to your essay with a refreshed, newer perspective and catch things you would have otherwise missed, or come up with newer and better material than you did the first time around. So, if your eyes are starting to glaze over and the term “personal statement” makes you cringe, maybe you should think about working on other parts of your application, and letting go of your statement for a little while.


2. Now, about supplemental essays. What do you tell your students about writing diversity statements?

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the diversity statement. Two of those are that:

1. Diversity statements is only for underrepresented minorities (URMs)
2. Diversity statements are mandatory.

Both of these statements are far from correct.

You don’t have to be an underrepresented minority to write a diversity statement. Similarly, diversity statements are not adversity statements, either. Anyone who feels that their background or upbringing has allowed them to have a more diverse experience can write one. This also goes for anyone who feels that, by being part of the representative admitted class, will bring diversity to the student body of their prospective school.

That being said, you don’t have to write a diversity statement. Yes, it can be a valuable asset to your application package, but it’s not mandatory and, therefore, isn’t necessary. If you are considering writing a diversity statement, be sure that you have something well-argued and genuinely compelling to say; it’s better to submit your application “as is” with its required materials than to submit an extra essay that is questionable or, worse, written poorly.


3. When should applicants write addenda?

I appreciate your use of the proper plural form of “addendum”, Steve.

Addenda are used to explain extenuating circumstances arising from low LSAT scores or less-than-stellar GPA, or from disciplinary actions that must be disclosed. In an addendum, you can explain how getting mono during the school year resulted in you having to withdraw your fall semester junior year, or how illness prevented you from doing as well as you hoped during your first LSAT exam.

However, do note that this is not a place for excuses. Rather, it’s for genuine explanations of extenuating and adverse circumstances that negatively affected you. Also, some schools require an addendum to explain LSAT score increases of 5 points or more; so, if you’re lucky to have improved your score considerably, check with your school to make sure an explanation is not required. And, congrats.

Similarly, if disciplinary or judicial action has been taken against you, you must disclose these circumstances-- part of succeeding in law school lies in being admitted to the bar, which includes a Character and Fitness examination. Some schools specify whether they want you to disclose convictions, violations (even moving violations). However, for uniformity, and to be on the safe side, I recommend that you always disclose. An important thing to remember is that you won’t be penalized for disclosing such information, but you definitely risk being penalized if you don’t.


4. Anything else?

When writing your personal statement, remember to breathe. Keeping your head clear is probably one of the best things you can do to guarantee a well-written statement.

If you want to write a diversity statement, think carefully. If you’re stuck and find yourself grasping at straws, don’t force yourself. Remember, it’s not mandatory.

An addendum is not for excuses. If you have viable reasons as to why you didn’t do so well in school or on the LSAT, you already know them. When deciding whether that moving violation/academic warning/disciplinary hearing needs to be disclosed, just do it. When in doubt, always disclose, disclose, disclose!

***

Stefanie Arr is a professional writing tutor and editor based in New York City. She has nearly a decade of publishing and editing experience and offers expert, in-depth editing and revision services. She can help you develop and improve the skills necessary to deliver a clear, finished product, including brainstorming and paper organization, grammar and syntax mechanics, academic research, argument structure, style, and draft revision.

Photo by nicmcphee

Law School Personal Statement Topics: Interview

Law School Personal Statement Topics: InterviewI recently interviewed Stefanie Arr of The Advanced Edit via email.

(Also see our other interview about burnout, diversity statements, and addenda.)

Our discussion follows.

***

1. How can someone write an impressive personal statement if they haven't ever *done* anything impressive? After all, not everyone applying to law school has founded NGOs to save orphans from smallpox.

I always warn my students of falling into that death trap of “Oh no, I didn’t volunteer/start up a business/end world hunger, what do I do?!” It’s a terrible thing to start doubting your abilities and accomplishments just before writing an essay where you have to showcase them. Personal statements are not about what impressive things you've done as much as they are about how impressive you are, as a person-- specifically, a mature person going on to an advanced degree. This is seen mainly through effective writing skills; even the most altruistic feats come off as boring and uninspiring if written about poorly or without good argument structure. Law school as an institution exists to train students to become persuasive and effective writers, and any lawyer worth his/her/its salt has to good at persuading people. So, admissions counselors want to see promise of that in each applicant.


2. Applicant after applicant will write personal statements stating their reasons for wanting to go to law school. How can each one of our dear readers write a compelling essay on this topic that will stand out to admissions committees?

If your wonderful readers choose to write a “Why Law School” essay, they should focus on tailoring it specifically to themselves, not to what they feel admissions counselors want to hear. A common mistake is to write an essay thinking that admissions counselors want to read about why law school will help an applicant end global warming, develop his/her own corporate empire, or fulfill the family legacy of lawyering. A “Why Law School” essay should provide realistic reasons why you should go to law school, and explain why your own qualities and experiences make this a natural choice. So, it’s less “Why law school would be a good idea” and more “Why I want to go to law school and how my background and abilities make it a great fit for me.”


3. How much time should one spend revising a personal statement, and how can one tell when it's *finished*?

It’s impossible to set a firm amount of time and have that work for everyone. Everyone works at different speeds and everyone has different amounts of free time available to them. So, whether it’s one month or an entire application cycle (about four to five months), one has to allot enough time to write multiple drafts and to revise and review appropriately. It’s also important to be honest with yourself about how much time you actually have, and to be realistic with your goals. Rushing should NEVER be an option.

You’re done with your essay when you’ve exhausted your own resources-- when you feel like you can’t possibly add or edit anymore! This is when giving your essay over to someone for review may be a good idea. Yes, applicants do give me their essays to review, but a professor or trusted colleague can help as well. You are your own worst critic and own worst slave-driver so, sometimes, someone else has to tell you to step away from your computer. And, usually, they’re right.


4. Anything else?

It’s important to note that the personal statement is the ONLY chance for admissions counselors to get to know you. Yes, hard factors (like the LSAT...ahem) are critical and often deciding elements, but your statement has significant sway. Your essay is also the only part of your application that you have complete and utter control over. So, don’t squander it, but don’t lose sight of what it’s about, either.


***

Stefanie Arr is a professional writing tutor and editor based in New York City. She has nearly a decade of publishing and editing experience and offers expert, in-depth editing and revision services. She can help you develop and improve the skills necessary to deliver a clear, finished product, including brainstorming and paper organization, grammar and syntax mechanics, academic research, argument structure, style, and draft revision.

Photo by bobaubuchon

Law School Personal Statement Artist | Interview

LSAT Blog Law School Personal Statement Artist InterviewI recently interviewed Michelle Fabio, Esq. of Personal Statement Artist via email.

Our discussion follows.

***

1. Is it possible for an applicant to write a successful personal statement about why he or she wants to be a lawyer? If so, how?

The wording of this question implies that writing such a statement is a usually bad idea. I'd say that's correct, especially if it's a "save the world" theme (it's difficult for it to come off as sincere and credible -- sorry!). Also the topic is simply overdone *but* if you've had a particularly formative, recent experience that has stirred your passions for practicing law, sure, it can work.

Just about any topic can work, in fact, so long as you always focus on your "law school qualities" that you exhibited and or learned from that experience -- focus, dedication, organization skills, leadership, thoroughness, attention to detail, hard-working, etc. Regardless of your topic, those qualities should be the theme of your essay.

That said, anything such as high school or worse, elementary school, moot court and the like should be avoided at all costs. And the "my parents always told me I should be a lawyer because I like to argue?" Yeah, don't go there either.


2. What about a personal statement about a traveling experience or time abroad? If so, how?

Interesting travel experiences and/or time spent abroad can also be good topics, but again, you have to zero in on *your* qualities that you brought to and/or learned from the experience -- and usually, a very specific experience within the broader experience.

Being exposed to different cultures and languages (if you've studied abroad, for instance) as well as showing compassion for and a desire to help others (if you've volunteered abroad, for example) are certainly positive characteristics and make for an interesting, well-rounded candidate, but on their own, those experiences just aren't going to convince an adcomm that you deserve a place in the 1L class.

You really need to hammer home what a great law student you'll be as illustrated through a particular experience, whether it's traveling abroad or starting your own business -- and so we're back to those "law school qualities."

Sensing a theme here? ;)


3. What are some examples of successful "diversity statement" topics you've seen from applicants who are not traditionally classified as being racially diverse?

This is an excellent question because many applicants think only race is an appropriate topic for a diversity statement, but there are many others; now is a great time to start thinking outside of that proverbial box you'll be hearing a lot about during law school.

Some of the best diversity statements I've seen come from students who grew up in low-income homes/communities, maybe are the first to go to college in their family. I've also seen some good ones that focused on non-traditional childhoods such as being raised by grandparents because parents were out of the picture for whatever reason and even being homeschooled. Overcoming a disability is another "diverse" diversity statement topic that can work as well.

Just as with personal statements, though, it's all about how you present your law school qualities vis-à-vis that experience.


4. What are some of the most common / funniest mistakes you've seen in students' personal statements?

You might have thought I was joking in #1 about applicants' writing about people who said they were good at arguing, but I've seen that in more than one rough draft. It's never good. Ever.

Another common mistake is what I call the "resume rundown," where the applicant simply restates his or her resume from college on through every job. Aside from being boring, the resume rundown wastes the only opportunity applicants have to present the more human side of themselves to the adcomm. The personal statement should round out the application and show the adcomm the full person, highlighting qualities that exist between the lines of the resume and that deserve to be emphasized, so don't throw away that chance by repeating things that can be found elsewhere in your application.


5. What are some examples of addendum topics that applicants should avoid?

I've had several people write to me and ask about whether they should write an addendum about a low LSAT score, and generally I say no -- especially if you're going to explain that you're not good at standardized tests since law school is all about one-and-done tests. If it was because of testing conditions that day or something outside of your control, the question that comes up in the adcomm's mind is, "Why didn't you take the test again then?"

A low GPA can be an OK topic if you've shown marked improvement over the course of college, while a low course grade may also be an acceptable topic under certain circumstances, e.g., the death of a parent or someone extremely close to you. This should go without saying, but don't lie when you're writing these kinds of explanations -- adcomms do go back and look at transcript and make sure your dots connect, so to speak.

If you do decide to write an addendum, make it as short and to the point as possible, and accept full responsibility where appropriate. The worst addenda end up looking like the applicant is scrambling to make excuses and that doesn't reflect well on a candidate for law school and could even harm the application.

***

Michelle Fabio, Esq. is a professional writer and editor, law school survivor, attorney, and former About.com Guide to Law School. After helping hundreds of applicants with essays through About.com, she has started Personal Statement Artist, a review and editing service dedicated exclusively to law school applicants. At PSA, Michelle offers several different levels of assistance, including brainstorming help, to help future law school students turn their applications into works of art.

Being an LSAT Testmaker | Interview

LSAT Blog Being LSAT Testmaker InterviewLast week, I interviewed Stephen Harris, former LSAT question-writer and author of Mastering Logic Games. (Yes, he's written hundreds of the questions that appear in your books of LSAT PrepTests.)

Our discussion follows.


You can also:

1. Read ALL of my interviews with him (more than 5!)

***


1. You mentioned in our last interview that you worked on a freelance basis and that ACT/LSAC only bought the items (questions) they liked. What were you paid per item accepted, and, once you got the hang of things, how many items would you typically write for every accepted item (e.g. 1 out of 5)?

The LSAT format changed in the early 1990s, and I started writing items late in 1992. At first the pay rate was $75 for each accepted LR item, but it went up to $85 per item at some point, and that’s what it was when I stopped writing LSAT items in fall of 1997. I imagine that it has gone up a bit, but I will say that, compared to most other item writing gigs, that’s a pretty high rate even today.

An LR item writing assignment consisted of 10 items of various types – two weakeners, one assumption, etc. I probably averaged somewhere around 8.7 accepted items per assignment. Most writers I knew who averaged much fewer, say 6 or so out of 10, didn’t write many items, or didn’t write for long.


2. How is the item-writing process different today than when you worked as an item-writer? Does LSAC still use freelancers, or is it in-house?

I haven’t worked on the LSAT in a long time, but as far as I know it’s pretty much the same as it was back then. In fact, relying on contract item writers is now probably the industry norm. Since about 2000, the testing industry has exploded, and lots of folks who worked on the LSAT went to other places to oversee freelance item writers for other tests. I’m pretty sure that most tests work on the freelance model to a large degree. The GRE may be an exception; ETS may produce that one primarily in-house.


3. In our last interview, you mentioned that LSAC sent you to a training workshop where they gave you a guide covering all Logical Reasoning item types, and a list of what not-to-do. Can you elaborate on what each contained? What sort of feedback did LSAC offer on improving submitted items?

LSAC’s item writing guide was quite helpful. It made some general points about content, style, item stems, etc., and then they worked through exemplars of each item type. I seem to remember pointers for constructing good distractors, tips for disguising correct answers, etc. You quickly internalize most of it, so I don’t remember much about the details. But I remember thinking that somebody put a lot of work into it, and that it was helpful.

After each assignment was reviewed by my editor I had a phone call with him, and he would give me good, detailed feedback on all the items. I was given a clear reason why any rejected item was found unsuitable, and the accepted items that could have used some extra polish were discussed with me as well. It was in everybody’s interest to make the process as efficient as possible. I will say that, given my experience working on other tests, the LSAT was especially good in the feedback department.


4. What's the formal process by which an LSAT question goes from being an item-writer's draft of a question to becoming part of an actual scored exam?

Here’s how the process works, as best I understand it: first, an item writer sends the items to the testing company, which I believe for the LSAT is still ACT. Editors pick the ones they like, make whatever changes they think are appropriate, and then send the items to LSAC. The items receive another level of editing/review and then are placed on experimental test sections. The tests are administered and statistics are gathered. Then some of the items (the “good” ones) go to real test forms, while others go back for more editing and then another shot on an experimental section. [Ed. Read my series on the test-equating process.]


5. How are Reading Comprehension passages chosen?

I’m not exactly sure how RC passages are chosen for the LSAT; it’s probably pretty idiosyncratic. I am sure that writing assignments specify the general type of passage – natural science, humanities, etc., but after that it’s probably up to the writer. In each released LSAT test, you’ll find references to the articles that the RC passages are based on, so that will give you an idea of the kinds of sources that are used.


6. Are Logical Reasoning passages based on actual scholarship? A lot of them seem like real arguments.

One of the points that I do remember from the LR writer’s guide is that, to the extent the stimulus makes factual claims, they should be true, or at least reflect the current state of research in a field. So yes, many stimuli are based on real scholarship. But a stimulus might discuss a hypothetical vaccine, for example, that is not based on anything factual. So while it is the case that many LR items are based on actual scholarship, many are not. Often the basis for an item is a reasoning style, or a type of error, and then the item writer is simply looking for a topic to cloak the idea in. This is at least in part because item writing assignments specify the items that the writer needs to come up with by task, rather than by topic.


7. Would you agree that Logic Games have generally become easier over the years? Why don't we see pattern games anymore, and why do "rare" game-types show up so sporadically?

Well, I will say that preparing for logic games has gotten easier over the years, and I think this is really the phenomenon that your reader is remarking on. More specifically, if one were to grab your basic, pretty smart off-the-street person who wanted to go to law school and give her an AR section from an old test, and then a new one, she’d do about the same, on average. [Ed. Analytical Reasoning = Logic Games].

But, for someone who is actually studying to take the LSAT, there are definite differences. As your reader points out, the range of games seems to have shrunk significantly; virtually all recent games are instances of just a few types. But these games aren’t intrinsically easier than the less frequently seen games, in my opinion. Rather, the point is that one who prepares today has a smaller “strike zone” than test takers in the past, to use a baseball metaphor, and that mastery of a few game types is more likely to translate into success today than it used to.


8. Do you see the LSAT's emphasis moving in any particular direction now or in the future? Do you see LSAC making any major changes in any section, like the addition of Comparative Reading in June 2007?

I’m not sure where the LSAT is headed. I do know that they considered making it a computer-based test at one point, and that they were toying with the idea of items that were auditory - played through headphones - rather than written. For whatever reason, perhaps the cost of using testing centers, they decided to stick with the paper-and-pencil test. A safe assumption: the LSAT won’t change much, or quickly at least, unless people start complaining about it (even more than they do now).


9. Do you believe the LSAT to be a test of innate skill or something people can learn to master?

This is an interesting question. On any reasonable sense of “innate,” the LSAT does not test innate skills; they are all cultural skills. Sure, certain abilities tend to make one better or worse suited for possessing these skills; a good short-term memory, for instance, is undoubtedly helpful on the AR section. But all of the skills tested on the LSAT are cultural and acquirable, not innate. One interesting point that the question presupposes, but that I think is especially important, is that the LSAT is a test of skills, “know-how” rather than “know-that.” The LSAT is a lot more like tying your shoes, or playing a game of cards, than recalling chemistry facts - with each item, getting the correct answer is a matter of what you do, not what you know.

Now for some people certain skills come “naturally,” we like to say. Some folks are just really good at throwing a ball, others have a knack for long division. The rest of us, after some effort, can eventually learn the skill in question.

When it comes to the LSAT, some people are undoubtedly “naturals,” but pretty much anybody who wants to can master the relevant skills. It just involves a different, more reflective procedure for some of us than for others. Specifically, for us “learners” the key is to take a complex task that a natural LSAT test-taker performs intuitively, and to break it into its components so that we can learn the task piece-by-piece, until with practice and repetition the complex task becomes second nature, like tying our shoes. I’ve tried this approach with hundreds of LSAT students, and several shoe-tying kids, with great results all around.


10. Do you think certain groups of people are at a greater disadvantage preparing for/taking the test than others, particularly those of lower socioeconomic status?

Well, this is a complicated issue, and “disadvantage” is a funny word. There is no question that LSAT scores are correlated with family income, which I guess means socio-economic status. There are thousands of individual exceptions to this trend, but as generalizations go it’s pretty reliable. So, yeah, when it comes to taking the LSAT low socio-economic status probably puts one at a disadvantage, statistically speaking. But this is hardly unique to the LSAT, first of all.

Second, this doesn’t mean that the test is biased against those of low socio-economic status, any more than soccer and chess are biased against people who don’t grow up playing them. All of the skills necessary for the LSAT are acquirable by any literate person comfortable with English, although (regardless of one’s income level) the less familiar one is with these skills to begin with, the more work it will typically require to master them. But this is no different from most other aspects of life, and way “fairer” than some.

Consider, for example, how relevant height is to being good at basketball. And height is something that a person has virtually no control over. By contrast, test takers have much more control over whether they possess the key attributes conducive to success on the LSAT, and any initial disadvantage faced by a particular individual is surmountable, through study of the relevant skills.

One thing I’m pretty sure of: LSAC goes out of its way to make sure that the LSAT lacks cultural bias. Items are screened by representatives of several groups to ensure this. When I wrote items there was even a guy whose job it was to make sure that the test didn’t discriminate against Canadians.


11. Aside from completing lots of LSAT PrepTests and getting your book, of course, what are your general LSAT prep recommendations?

This is an open-ended question but I’ll mention a few points that I think are really important.

i. When you study, focus on a particular skill per study session. The more focused the better – not LR, but assumption items, for example; or not working through complete AR sections, but just setting up a bunch of different grouping games one after another, without worrying about solving the items at that time.

ii. The process of elimination is very important; obviously for AR, but in a different, more procedural way for LR and RC. With these latter two, it is almost always a good approach to try to eliminate three answer choices first, and then to go back and select the correct one from the remaining two.

On a related note: with LR and RC, the point of studying items is not just to identify the correct answers, but especially to understand the reasons why the others are incorrect, and to learn the general “distractor” strategies that will help you become more efficient in identifying these in the future. Repetition is key – look at the same items over and over. It is much better to be extremely familiar with several hundred items than to have a passing familiarity with a few thousand.

iii. After you’ve taken a few practice tests, the value of taking additional test plummets, from an improvement perspective. The key to improvement is working on individual skills in isolation, not mindlessly plowing through a hundred items at a time, hoping to have done better this time than the last. Obviously, one wants to take enough practice tests to be comfortable on test day. But taking tests is not generally an efficient use of study time.

iv. Practice with real LSAT items. They are cheap, and there is no substitute for the real thing.

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