The ultimate test: Law students prep for the LSAT

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Students everywhere are burying their noses in books, taking classes and studying more than 50 hours for the same reason: They all want to get into law school.

The Law School Entrance Exam-the entrance exam that is required for most U.S. law schools-is the most important and determining test that prospective law students can take. It is given four times a year by the Law School Admission Council.

Last year, the council gave around 134,000 tests to potential law students.

Different schools have different policies for looking at LSAT scores and GPAs in determining which students to accept. Most schools will weigh 70 percent of the admissions index alone on a student’s LSAT score.

This can put tremendous pressure on students’ minds.

Reuben Cawley, a student at the U College of Law, remembers his LSAT.

“It sucked,” Cawley said. “The test lasts all day.It was tiring.”

LSAT test sessions usually last between four and five hours.The test portion is 175 minutes long, and a writing sample-which is not included in the score, but sent along with the application-is 30 minutes.

These testing sections, according to the council, help to determine students’ ability “to read and comprehend complex texts with accuracy and insight, organize and manage information and draw reasonable inferences from it, think critically and analyze and evaluate the reasoning and arguments of others.”

Heather Rupp, also a student at the U law school, took the LSAT two years ago.

“I bought two or three practice books and did the practice tests,” Rupp said. She recalled spending more than 40 hours in preparation for her test.

Cawley did his study through Kaplan, a test preparation class.

“They went through the different types of questions that were going to be on the LSAT and gave you a lot of study tips,” Cawley said.

Preparatory classes for all types of entrance tests, including the LSAT, are also available through the Continuing Education program at the U.

The LSAT prep class is offered two evenings a week, or every Saturday.It comes with a $525 fee and is designed to help those students who wish to do their best.

Other sources, such as practice books, classes and Web sites have been designed to help students study for the test.

Reyes Aguilar, associate dean for admission and financial aid at the U College of Law, offers some insight.

“Students have a concept in their head to believe that the LSAT is a knowledge-based test,” Aguilar said. “What they will come to discover is that it is actually a skills-based test.A lot of what is being tested is their different skills and how they think things through, rather than what they know.”

Rupp agrees.

“It all has to do with how you think,” Rupp said. “And I do believe it [is very useful] in law school.”

For students wanting to excel on the test, Cawley has simple advice.

“Study your ass off,” he said. “Take as many practice exams as you can.It benefitted me to take a class.Time yourself so you know how much time you’ll have to complete the sections.And study.”

Aguilar and Rupp say concentration and familiarity are key.

“You have to be able to concentrate,” Rupp said.”You’ll be sitting there for four or five hours and you have to know what it’s like so when the time comes, you don’t lose concentration on what you’re doing.”

Aguilar says, “Practice the test in a realistic situation…Have someone time you. Also, have a number of practice tests under your belt.Always use tests [provided by the council]. They are the ones that develop the tests, so they would be the most accurate source to study from.”

Aguilar also advises prospective law students not to panic.

“Students should recognize that the LSAT is not the sole determinant of the law school admission process.Don’t put too much emphasis on it, as in it is the only thing guaranteeing or preventing you from getting in to law school.Prepare, of course, and do your very best, but realize also there is more to the admissions process than the LSAT.”

The regular registration due date for U.S. law schools was Nov. 4. The late registration due dates are Nov. 6 through Nov. 17.The test will take place on Dec. 6.

To register for the LSAT, call (215) 968-1001.

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