One of the questions our tutors get asked the most from students is how they should practice- do they do specific drills, should they do timed or untimed sections, or should they be tackling full practice tests. The response is usually the same every time: “it depends.” Generally, LSAT students are going to be doing all three of these things throughout their time studying, and each has distinct benefits and drawbacks.
Deciding how to split your time between these three methods can be daunting, we will detail the pros and cons of each to help you get from thinking about how to study to actually studying.
Many students begin their LSAT studying by learning how to do different question types and drilling them over and over again. There is a great reason for this; the main benefit of drilling is that you get the opportunity to practice and hone the core skills required for the exam. If you need practice identifying the conclusion, you can do a large set of main point logical reasoning questions to build your strength in that area. If you absolutely get lost in a group game, drilling group games lets you tackle the game type head on. It’s a great way to build familiarity with what you need to do, and so earlier in your studying it makes a lot of sense to spend time drilling.However, it loses a little of its utility the later in the game you are. It might help you nail the timing of a specific question type, but it won’t help you get a feel for section pacing overall. Also, it might help you do a question type in isolation, but not necessarily in the context of a full timed section. That all said, you don’t need to leave it behind entirely. If you are still struggling with a question type or want to brush up on some fundamentals, it’s a great way to get targeted practice, especially when paired with the other two methods.
When you become familiar with the different question types, it’s often a good idea to move into full sections. Sections are excellent for getting a feel of moving from question type to question type, game to game, passage to passage, all while working within the 35-minute time frame. Additionally, doing every type of question is a great way for you to get a wide range of practice and put all of your skills together. Ultimately, the real exam is going to be made up of four of these sections, so you want to be as comfortable as possible within them. And, while full length practice tests can be draining, doing just a section allows you to put in your best effort for 35 minutes and take a well-deserved break and an opportunity to review the section in isolation. The flip side of that, of course, is that sections don’t simulate full test conditions, and therefore will be less effective at building the required stamina for the exam itself.
LSAT students tend to start doing practice tests at different points of their studying and do them at very different frequencies. Whatever practice schedule you do end up following, it is vital that you incorporate full practice tests into your studying. Doing a practice test is the closest you are going to get to the exam itself. It will help you build the stamina of doing four sections essentially back-to-back (with a short break). Doing a fourth reading passage after completing three other full sections can be entirely different than doing the same passage at the beginning. Practice tests are also the best indicator of how you are actually going to do on test day. That said, doing too many of these consecutively can burn you out, and leave you with fewer resources to work with quickly, so you certainly should take these with a sense of balance.
Each of these practice methods have value, and it’s worthwhile to consider ways to incorporate all three depending on your specific needs and where you are in the studying process. The most important thing, however, is that you keep on putting in your best effort in every way you choose to study so that you can hit your dream score. Best of luck with the process!