How Long Should I Study Before Taking the LSAT?
This is a common question and answers range greatly.
Some sources will tell you it’s 3 months. Others will scoff at the ones who say 3 months and insist that a year is more appropriate. Still others will say that 6 months is a safe and happy medium.
Allow me to offer an answer of my own: this is the wrong question to be asking to begin with.
(Yikes – you came here to get a quick answer to a simple question and instead you got hit with some good old fashioned condescension! My apologies – keep reading though.)
Instead, what you should be asking is, “What score do I want to get on the LSAT?”
And then, you have the answer to your first question – as long as it takes you to get that score.
Simple, right? Hear me out.
Your LSAT score will determine, to a very large extent, where you can go to law school, and with how much scholarship money, if any. Where you go to law school will determine what your odds are of getting the job that you want out of law school, what your legal career path will be, how much money you will make over the coming decades, and so on.
Ergo, your LSAT score could have a gigantic impact on what your life will look like for the foreseeable future. Financially, if you add it up, 1 extra point could mean many millions of dollars (yikes again).
The whole reason you want to slave away studying for the LSAT is to get into the legal career of your dreams, isn’t it? Well whatever that legal career is, there’s an optimal law school to go to in order to maximize your chances of getting it. Whatever that school is, there is an LSAT score you need to get in order to get in (putting GPA minimums aside). And whatever that score is, there is an amount of time you can study in order to get there (assuming you’re using the right methods).
You probably don’t know exactly how long it would take. Which is why I always tell my students: study until you’re consistently getting the score that will get you the career of your dreams, and then register for the next LSAT. It could be a month, 6 months, a year, or longer, but boy, will it be worth it.
People make very rash decisions with their livelihoods when it comes to taking the LSAT. I’ve seen it firsthand. People are convinced they must take the LSAT as soon as possible – it’s a bug in their head that’s very hard to chip away at. Reasons differ for each person – usually people just want to get it over with. I get it – the LSAT can be a painful journey. Oftentimes, taking a “gap year” between college and law school is thought to be a horrific waste of time (parents usually don’t help with this).
But think about it rationally. Even if committing to an LSAT score means going to law school a year later than you otherwise would have, if that score buys you the career of your dreams, then how is it not worth it in the long run? If you go to a law school that doesn’t end up placing you in the job you want, then that’s an actual waste of three years.
And believe me, if you’re graduating college now and want to get to law school as soon as possible, you won’t be kicking yourself 30 years from now about the year in your early twenties you “wasted”, as much as it may seem like it. (Hopefully, you’ll be making millions and thanking yourself for it.)
You’ve done your research – you know the legal field is insanely competitive. Many, many law students graduate each year without a legal job at all, let alone the job they wanted. The single biggest factor in your legal success in literally in your hands right now, and you want to rush it?
Even if taking a few extra months or a year longer than you would have wanted got you a measly extra 5 points…those points could be the difference between getting into Fordham and getting into NYU. If you want a good shot at BigLaw, that’s the difference between a 6-figure gamble and a sure bet.
Or, maybe you’ll go to the same school you would have gone to anyway, except now you’re going on a $100,000 scholarship. (All of a sudden, your “gap year” has essentially become salaried.)
Let’s even say you’re 100% sure you don’t want to work in BigLaw, or the type of job a top law school will get you. Or maybe you’re unsure exactly what you want to do as a lawyer. That’s fine, but that’s all the more reason to give yourself as many options as possible. There is a lot at stake here!
Not that I’m a qualified life coach, but I’ve noticed that the recipe for success in life is what I call “backwards thinking”. In other words, decide on the things you want to achieve – what your dream life is – and then work backwards to figure out exactly what you have to do in order to get there. There is always a path, and if you commit to the end goal, you’ll find it.
Don’t be afraid to be bold with your legal aspirations! You’re committing 3 years of hard work, so why not have the job of your wildest dreams when you’re done?
The LSAT is learnable. Whatever you’re scoring now, if you can eventually understand all of your wrong answers on a test after looking at them for a month, then that means you can someday have the ability to understand them in 140 minutes. Don’t settle for a low LSAT score and play the dice with your future. Commit to a safe score. For the vast majority of people, that’s 170+.
So, now you know how long you have to study for the LSAT. The good news is that not having an impending deadline to hit your target will allow you to feel less pressured, think more calmly, and possibly even improve quicker and enjoy your study time more. It’s win-win.