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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

LSAT assesses abstract skill set

Most of us know all too well the feeling of taking a standardized test. The seconds, minutes and hours tick away until the proctor shouts, “Time!” With that, the answer documents are sealed, along with our fate. But it doesn’t always have to be quite so stressful. Although students can’t control the questions that will be on the test, they can influence the extent to which they prepare.

While other high-stakes standardized tests aim to evaluate specific academic skills, the Law School Admission Test aims to evaluate a more abstract set of cognitive skills. This makes preparation more obscure, and best practices are widely debated.

“It isn’t about learning the specific rules of grammar or how to do math problems. It’s learning how to think logically,” Taylor Dawson, a senior majoring in political science, said. “LSAT studying isn’t studying certain material, but it’s learning how to take the test.”

Along with many other aspiring legal students, Dawson took the LSAT Oct. 5. The test included four scored sections, including Logical Reasoning #1, Logical Reasoning #2, Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games), and Reading Comprehension.

Because the LSAT deviates from the usual math, science, English and reading lineup, many argue the true art of the test lies in a deeper familiarity of what the test will ask.

“The biggest mistake students make is not preparing in a methodical way. Yes, practice is important, but if you don’t understand how to logically fit the pieces of the puzzle together as a lawyer would, you will not perform as well,” said Kenneth Ehrenberg, a UA philosophy professor with years of experience working for leading test preparation companies. “You have to really become familiar with good and bad forms of reasoning. We know them; we see them every day. We just have to pay attention and learn to recognize them in that setting.”

Given the narrow scope of tested knowledge, students often struggle between test preparation outlets. Practice tests, study groups and preparation courses can obscure the most valuable asset one can have in taking the LSAT: a solid sense of self-analysis in regards to strengths and weaknesses.

The ability to make a good score lies not in stacks of flashcards or shelves full of preparation books, but within one’s ability to use critical thinking and logical reasoning skills. It is for this reason, since 1948, that the LSAT has provided law schools with information indicating how prospective students will perform both in the classroom and in the field, as this high degree of self-evaluation leads to a wide set of approaches to preparation.

“I didn’t take a prep class and instead had a study partner, and that was honestly the best thing for me because we complemented each other so well. We pushed each other and held each other accountable, so having that person to make sure you did what you needed to do was really important to me,” Thomas Edington, a first-year student at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law, said.

Like Edington, many students prefer preparing with a flexible schedule to specifically addresses focus areas. In contrast, Dawson prefers more organized, lateral preparation through practice tests.

“Practice LSAT tests were definitely the most beneficial study tool. It gives you an idea of where you need to spend most of your time preparing,” Dawson said.

Regardless of preparation approach, performance on the test is one of, if not the most, heavily weighted factor in law school acceptance. In fact, Ehrenberg says he often tells his students, “[The LSAT is a] really good test of the things a law school wants in a prospective student – things they won’t teach you – ways to think outside the box, and ultimately get the best result for your client.”


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