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The Virtue of Simplicity in LSAT Prep

Advise-In’s very first blog post was about simplifying the LSAT. I warned about the “blizzard of paper” that LSAT study guides and programs produce, which make studying for the test more difficult rather than easier. There are too many decisions to make and each one of them takes you away from the words on the test page, which is what you need to focus on during a pressurized exam day.

Since then, little has changed in the LSAT prep industry. There are more and more study guides with more and more techniques, and certain programs have gotten even more complicated and jargon-filled than they used to be. Still peddling the same stuff, just more of it. Good for them but exactly the wrong approach for you (there’s a reason Advise-In hasn’t published an LSAT study guide, despite the financial upside).

I love football. I especially love great defense. I’m struck by how many times a new defensive coordinator comes onto a team and team defense improves. The reason usually is that the new coordinator has simplified the defense. The defense of my beloved Denver Broncos in their 2016 Super Bowl championship was simplicity itself. And maybe (with the 1986 Chicago Bears) the best defense in Super Bowl history.

That isn’t the approach of most LSAT prep. If there’s a way to complicate, one study guide or another, one program or another, will do it. Now, you can understand the multiple different techniques that each gives you (and if you add them all up, people are telling you about 20 different things, and they’re usually jargon-filled) to answer, say, an assumption question. But so many techniques become their own distraction and suddenly, the offense—or the grouping game—has scored on you.

I understood the various recommendations in a gazillion study guides, and then threw them all in the trash. Why? Because I couldn’t execute what they were telling me to do in the 35 minutes I had per section. Even less did I have time to decide which of the 20 techniques I had was the right one for this question. And every decision I had to make took me away from what the questions were actually asking.

And then the light bulb went on. I needed one process for each question type and it had to be flawless—I could be flawed, but the process couldn’t be. Part of flawlessness was simplicity. That’s what produced my score of 180. Simplifying the test. What I knew was that if I followed a simple process each time, I’d get the right answer. I didn’t always do it, and that’s ok—I did it enough.

I didn’t have self-confidence, really, but I had a lot of confidence in the processes I’d honed. I had that confidence because it worked—as long as I did things the same way every time, I got the right answer every time. Plus, when I got distracted—as is inevitable on test day and during every practice test—I could re-ground myself by locating where I was when distracted and simply asking, OK, what’s the next step? Back in the flow.

I work hard with my clients to help them make the LSAT simpler rather than endlessly complex. That, along with admission and application advising, is why they are extraordinarily successful in getting into top law schools and getting significant merit-based financial aid.

The LSAT is a hard test. It’s supposed to be. It’s hard because the writers of the test are superb at preparing questions. It’s not because they’re trying to trick you; they’re not. But they also don’t mind if you trick yourself, and the more complicated you make the test, the more you’ll trick yourself. Simplify, simplify, simplify. It’s still true.

by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on May 23, 2017.

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