Monday, June 14, 2010

How to Incorporate Experimental Sections in LSAT Prep

We've already discussed the Zen of 180 overarching approach to LSAT self-prep, including the distinct phases of pre-study, diagnosing, self-correcting, practice, and endurance.  The diagnosis step for the October 9, 2010 LSAT should start this week, so if you'd like to follow along with our clients at home, you should watch how to add our LSAT calendar to your Google calendar.

Pre-study (time-to-test: 1 year to 4 months)
Diagnosing (time-to-test: 4 months to 2 months)
  • Take 1 to 2 full (i.e. with experimental sections) LSATs per week for 5 to 10 weeks, until you have at least 10 full LSATs to analyze
  • Record the questions you miss into some meaningful classification system (either Zen task standards, or by question stem for LR and RC and game type for AR) 
If you look at the Zen of 180 LSAT self-prep calendar, then you'll see a week-by-week breakdown of what material you should be using.  For instance, during this first week of the diagnosis phase, you should take PrepTests 23 and 24 with an added experimental section.  This means you should be spending about seven hours split across two sessions.

We wanted to clarify what we mean by an "added experimental section from PrepTest 19."

LSAT 101: the LSAT has four scored sections, two of logical reasoning and one each of analytical reasoning and reading comprehension.  In addition to these sections, there is a fifth, unscored section, termed an "experimental" by LSAC, which serves as a measuring stick for new LSAT questions.  While individual test-takers' experimental sections vary--even those taking it on the same day in the same site--it always occurs during the first three sections.

Thus, in order to accurately diagnose your ability to perform on the LSAT, you should practice as closely to the conditions of the actual test.  That means five full sections, not four.  And in order to maximize your practice, we suggest using actual LSAT material from older PrepTests in order to fill in the "experimental" role.

So, the steps to appropriately using LSAT materials for your diagnosing phase:
  1. Get the older PrepTests in the the "10 Actual, Official LSAT PrepTest" series.  The cheapest place we've found is the Amazon store, where you can get a 4-for-3 deal.

  2. Take the first section from PrepTest 19 and use it as an experimental section mixed in as section 1, 2, or 3 when you sit down to take PrepTest 23.  
  3. Be sure to give yourself a 10-to-15 minute break after the third section, as that will also happen on the day of the test.  So, 15 + 35x5 = a little more than 3 hours for each practice session.
  4. Continue using the remaining sections from PrepTest 19 as "experimental" sections for PrepTests 24, 25, and 26, then repeat the process for later PrepTests as outlined in the Google calendar.
And that's how to use the experimentals in your diagnostic phase!  If you'd like to read about our general approach to LSAT training, and why we even care about approximating the real thing during your first practice, read this original post on the matter.