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LSAT Prep | Reading Comprehension

Introduction

The law school admission test (LSAT) consists of four scored sections, each section representing one of three section types: (i) logical reasoning, (ii) analytical reasoning, oftentimes called “logic games “, and (iii) reading comprehension or “reading comp”.   This blog entry will focus on the reading comprehension section of the LSAT.

Reading Comprehension Overview

Reading comprehension accounts for approximately 28% of the scored questions on the LSAT, while logical reasoning makes up about 50%, and logic games about 22%.  Reading comprehension is therefore the second most important section of the LSAT in terms of numerical impact on one’s score.

However, reading comprehension seems to have become increasingly difficult in recent years, making it the “haymaker” section of the LSAT for many students, including those who are scoring well into the 170s. This increase in difficulty may be attributable to a heightened recognition by the test makers that reading comprehension is an indispensable and top-value skill for the successful law student.  But whatever the reason, students must be aware that reading comprehension cannot be treated as an afterthought in one’s study regimen—which is all too commonly done as a result of the over-emphasis of the “games” section by most LSAT prep companies.

Check this blog periodically for more information on how you can “Test at Your Best” on actual LSAT day.

Happy reading — and comprehending!  !

LSAT and Bar Prep | Constructing and Destroying Arguments

One key skill tested in the logical reasoning section category of the LSAT is that of building—and tearing down—arguments.  This skill can appear on the test in many ways, including:
__________

  1. Making a statement of facts into an argument, either by drawing an inference or by providing support to an unsupported assertion
  2. Finding an additional premise
  3. Presenting a “counter-premise”, i.e., a statement that would serve as a premise in a counter-argument

__________

This skill also plays a significant role in bar exam essay, performance test, and MBE sections.

Check this blog periodically for discussion of the argument-construction/destruction skill, how to develop it, how to spot questions that test it, and how to separate good from bad answer choices.

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More Things that Make Law School Cool

Idea Wars

Philosophizing can be fun.  As undergrads, perhaps through a philosophy class or maybe just during a night out, we often entertain far-fetched ideas and discuss them at length just for the fun of it (“What if our whole universe is just a single atom in another universe?” seemed to be a favorite with some of my friends).  Such talks not only provide entertaining social exchanges but also mind-expanding exercise, enhancing both the flavor and substance of a good liberal arts education.

In law school, those discussions still happen.  But there are major differences.  Because law is like philosophy that matters.

That line always gets the biggest laugh at the “Introduction to Law School” talks that LEX hosts, but it does so because it’s true.

Let’s discuss why.  Arguing about Thomas More’s Utopia or Plato’s Republic can be challenging and interesting, but it won’t get anyone out of prison or regain custody of a child.  Law does.  And when a medical malpractice victim has suffered a traumatic injury at the hands of an incompetent hospital staff member, she doesn’t call a philosopher.  She calls a lawyer.

Law is where a society embodies its highest philosophical notions regarding truth, justice, freedom, choice and human dignity into tools that have hard-core, real-world consequences.  Law calls upon all the intellectual powers that go into a philosophical discussion, but it doesn’t end there.  It matters.

Accordingly, during law school, students are confronted with issues that require each individual to stake out some sort of philosophical basis for his or her point of view.  Issues like abortion, capital punishment, same-sex marriage, drug use.  Both in and out of the classroom, the idea wars get hotly debated.  And that debate is all the hotter this time around,  because—unlike that night out with the college friends—this time the full significance of those ideas is being brought to bear on the lives of actual human beings.  A real person with a real name and a real face will live or die; a couple will marry or not; a child will or will not be born—all these human lives will be forever and fundamentally altered  on the basis of which idea carries the day.

And that’s another reason why law school is cool.

Things that Make Law School Cool

Invisible Strings

Experiencing a great novel (I’d recommend Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) for the first time can be very exciting.  Each plot twist fuels a need to turn the page and find out what happens next.

But once a person has had that first-time experience, he or she may have hard time recapturing that thrill by re-reading the same book.  All those invisible strings that tied the plot together have now been revealed.  The mystery, the illusion, and the naïvete have been stripped away.

One reason why law school is cool is its inherent process of similarly stripping away illusions and revealing how things really work.  The invisible strings that attach to each and every person are made plain, never to be re-concealed to those who have been initiated.

Constitutional rights are a good example.  Before law school, one’s next-door neighbor appears to be just a person who likes to grow tomatoes and to play with her three cats.  But after law school, her appearance has changed:  she wears  plates of armor and carries a sword and a shield wherever she goes.  The law student asks himself or herself, “How did I never notice all that stuff before?”

That formerly invisible armor includes a right to free speech that was designed by some of the brightest thinkers of the last millennium; was embodied in a document that describes one of the longest-running, still-active governmental structures on the planet; has been defended by millions of soldiers, guns, tanks and planes; and is excercised every day of the latest political campaign, protest, demonstration, or debate.

Other such armor includes a right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by police; to trial by jury; and so on.  These mechanisms—just abstract and theoretical to the student entering law school—have become palpable, real, and unmistakable to the student exiting law school.  He or she can never go back to the way things were, back to viewing his neighbor in the same way, any more than he or she can re-read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the first time.

And that’s one thing that makes law school cool.

Law Reviews and Law Journals | Law School Insights

Making the Most of One’s Time in Law School

Many students have heard about “making law review” without really knowing what that means.  Some insights ahead of time may help one make better decisions before and during law school about this topic.

What Is Law Review?

Law reviews may be described as sort of the academic equivalent of a magazine.  Most law schools publish their magazine—their “law review”— between four and eight times per year. The magazine is edited by students.  This editing process includes both article selection (i.e., deciding what articles to publish in the magazine) and article proofreading, fact-checking, and polishing.

The authors of the articles in the magazine are usually law professors, but the authors are not necessarily from the school that publishes the magazine in which the articles run.  In other words, UCLA Law Review may publish articles that are by UCLA professors, but they may also publish articles from law professionals who have no formal tie to UCLA.

What Does It Mean to “Make Law Review”?

When a student “makes law review,” he or she is invited to be part of the magazine’s staff.

How Does One Make Law Review?

The process of being selected to join a given school’s law review staff depends on the institution.  One can typically be accepted by achieving a certain academic standing during one’s first year of law school, by being in the top 10% of one’s first year class, for instance.  One can also “write on” to law review at many schools by prevailing in a writing competition.

Check this blog again soon for more discussion of law reviews and law journals.

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The Importance of First Year (1L)

Performing well during your first year of law school can have some pretty interesting consequences.  Law reviews and other journals typically make their membership decisions based on first-year grades and tryouts.  Law firms generally only have your grades from first semester upon which to base their decisions in offering summer associate positions.  Even one’s peers and family members can get pretty serious about comparing grades.

Meanwhile, these outside decision-makers are, in turn, shaping your job prospects after law school.  For instance, making law review may have a lasting effect on your competitive standing in the job market.

Finally, the first-year experience can impact your own attitude toward law and a legal career, perhaps leaving you feeling confident and excited or frustrated and self-doubting.

For all of these reasons, getting off to a good start is crucial.  That’s one reason why LEX academic director Shelton Harrison created the LSAPP Law School Bootcamp.

 

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MBE | Bar Exam Tips

1.  Reading comprehension: the seventh subject. The MBE is often characterized as testing six subjects: constitutional law, contracts, criminal law/pro, evidence, property and torts.  But, in fact, probably the most important “subject” is none of the above.  It’s reading comprehension.  Many times, the key to the right answer choice is but a few words in the stimulus.  If you miss those words or do not understand them in context, it does not matter how well you know the law.  You will still have no way to recognize the right answer.

Thus, reading comprehension is something that you should practice consciously.  Develop a reading style that adheres to the correct pace and focuses on relevant information rather than irrelevancies that distract you from the trail.

2.  Take advantage of the format. The MBE is a multiple-choice test.  There are a number of classic multiple-choice test strategies that should be second nature to you by exam day.  For instance, even when you cannot see what’s right about the right answer, you can oftentimes see what is wrong with the wrong answers (good old “process of elimination”).  Every time you eliminate even a single wrong answer choice, you make a big step toward the right answer choice.

3.  You take the test; it does not take you. Do not let the test be in control.  Set your own pace, and attack the questions in the order that you have worked out with your tutor.  Stick to your game plan, and do not let yourself get into a time deficit.

4.  Be a mercenary. Your task on test day is not to please your professors, show your knowledge of the law, or understand the nuances of the cases that confront you.  Your only job is to get points and thereby pass the California Bar Exam.  Everything you do that is not directed toward getting the most points that you can is but wasted time.  Therefore, stay detached enough to avoid getting fixated on interesting or difficult problems.

5.  Go the distance. The MBE can be pretty tiring, but you cannot afford to run out of gas.  You should start the test at your best and maintain that concentration level throughout the day.  (Hence, our Test at Your Best™ motto.) Know your vulnerabilities and plan to offset them.

 

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California Bar Exam | Performance Test Tips

1.  PRACTICE. While studying the substantive law is crucial for the essays and MBE, preparing for the performance test is all about doing.  By the time test day rolls around, the doing—performing—of the performance test should feel like old hat to you.

2.  ANSWER THE QUESTION. Sticking very closely to the assigned task is half the battle on the PT.  Read the task memo as many times as you need to read it.  Patiently.  Then simply stick to what the memo has asked you to do, doing everything required and no more.

3.  ONE STEP AT A TIME. It’s interesting how widely the model answers can vary from one another; some model answers even contain inaccurate statements of law.  This variation demonstrates that doing the tasks like a competent and thoughtful professional and presenting your work product in the right package will serve you well, perhaps even more so that having the “right” answer.

4.  STAY COOL; DON’T FREAK OUT. Part of what the PT tests is your ability to handle uncertainty.  If you can simply carve out a reasonable response to uncertainty, you can pass.  While the other portions may select for mastery of the law, the PT selects for those who can master themselves.

5.  KEEP IT SIMPLE. The easiest way to adhere to all of the above rules is to adhere to this one.  Be very simple in your approach.  If you can’t see the big picture, do a good job on the parts that you can see.  If you don’t know what the whole thing should look like, simply do whatever step you do see needs to be done.

 

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California Bar Exam Essays | Some Tips

1.  Remember that your essay is being graded by a human being. Many people studying for the bar exam get so caught up in memorizing obscure rules and rigid outlines that they forget the basics of writing a decent essay.  An essay is not an outline.  It is not an unprocessed mass of all the things you know about a topic.  Instead, it is a communication between you and the reader.  Write like a human being who is writing to another human being!

2.  Establish and maintain the correct tone. The tone used in writing an essay is different from that used in writing a performance test deliverable.  In an essay, write as though you are addressing an educated person who knows little about law but who can be brought up to speed by a clear, concise explanation.  Thus, you want to mention basic principles briefly without belaboring them and then move on to cover the specifics of the present stimulus.

3.  IRAC works. There is a reason why the IRAC ( issue, rule, application, conclusion) structure  is taught in virtually every legal writing class: it works.  Some people complain that this structure is too rigid.  But the fact is that you are not writing an essay to become a famous author.  You are not trying to appeal to the masses. You are trying to get points and pass the bar exam.  Well-written IRAC applied to each of the major issues is a good way to get that job done.

NOTE:  BarRev created the ILFAC™ method, because that method scores higher and allows students to move faster. The ILFAC™ method is still the best choice, but IRAC works if done well.

4.  Get some points right up front. A one-paragraph “roadmap” of the major issues and what you are going to say about them makes a good first impression on the reader.  If the reader knows in advance that he or she is going to get high-quality work from you, he or she is more likely to be in a receptive frame of mind while reading the remainder of your essay.  Use this psychology to your advantage.

5.  Hit the right stride and stick with it. You must develop an internal gauge for the right mix of reading time, organizing time, and writing time.  Don’t get yourself backed into a corner by over-analyzing, but don’t rush into writing without any sort of plan.  Finding the right balance is a matter of practice, review, and more practice.

 

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LSAT Prep | Reading Comprehension | Overview

History

The reading comprehension section of the LSAT acquired its basic present form in 1991 but underwent a minor change in 2007. This minor change consisted of replacement of a single traditional passage with two smaller passages to be compared.

Importance

The reading comprehension section typically contributes twenty-seven (27) or twenty-eight (28) of the approximately 100 questions that go into a test-taker’s final LSAT score. This section, therefore, accounts for approximately 28% of the test-taker’s score, making it the second most important section on the LSAT (logical reasoning is first at about 50%, and analytical reasoning (often called “logic games“) is last at about 22%).

Content

Each LSAT comprises one scored reading comprehension section. The reading comprehension section consists of four subsections. Three of these subsections include a single long passage followed by five to eight questions. One of these subsections includes two shorter passages followed by seven or eight questions; the two shorter passages are related to each other in some way so as to serve as grounds for questions that call for comparison of the two passages.Each question is followed by five possible responses, lettered A through E. Only one response of the five possible responses is a credited response, i.e., the “right answer.”

Timing

The reading comprehension section is allotted 35 minutes.

Technical Information

Unlike the GRE or GMAT, the LSAT is a paper-based test. A test taker’s answers must be recorded (“bubbled in”) on an answer sheet using a soft lead pencil, which answer sheet is then scanned and electronically graded. No credit (or penalty) is given for marks in the test booklet. There is no penalty for guessing.

Strategy and Tactics

Many LSAT preparation companies are available today to assist students in preparing for the LSAT and the logical reasoning section thereof. LSAT prep companies typically provide in-class instruction regarding logical principles, test-taking strategy, and diagramming techniques. These LSAT prep courses may also include proctored mock LSATs. LSAT prep providers may also offer online LSAT training, computerized analysis of a student’s LSAT performance, and one-on-one LSAT tutoring.

For More Information

Students preparing for the LSAT reading comprehension section are advised to get a free copy of “Eight Questions for Your LSAT Tutor—and One for You” from LSAT Tutor.net.

 

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