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Messages - Graeme

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Studying for the LSAT / Re: Writing Sample Critique, Please
« on: January 14, 2011, 04:04:16 PM »
Hmm, no one's answering.  I'll give it a try.  I think thing with writing samples is that both sides are about equal in their advantages and disadvantages.  There is no one right answer.  You may wish to more explicitly acknowledge the disadvantages of downtown, and the advantages of suburbia.

THEN explain why downtown's advantages aren't as big as they seem, and suburbia's disadvantages aren't as big as they seem. 

An interesting experiement to try would be this:  write the strongest possible case you can for suburbia.  Pretend you were answering this the other way.  Then, write this essay, arguing for downtown.  Take your strong argument for Suburbia, and stick it into the essay, and proceed to demolish it.

 The best arguments show why even the strongest argument of the other side is weak.  This type of reasoning becomes very important in trials and appeals.  The writing sample itself is not very important though, law schools usually don't give it as much consideration as they do to other factors.

Studying for the LSAT / Re: so discouraged and need some advice
« on: January 14, 2011, 03:58:31 PM »
Bigs makes a good point.  I think everyone has a different baseline level of LSAT skill, and they can improve from there.  Eventually, you will plateau.  You don't want to keep practicing and practicing if your score isn't budging.  You shouldn't give up to soon, but the opposite mistake is to keep going and going and going even when you're not getting better.

So how can you tell if you've hit your peak or not?  Track your practice score results, and also see if you're still learning and understanding things which you didn't before.  The quantity of tests you write doesn't really matter; it's whether or not you get the concepts which will let you write ANY LSAT well. 

Your score on the practice tests is still moving upwards, so I'd say you should still keep trying.  When it stops budging, then you have to find out if there are any concepts to learn to help you improve your weaknesses.  Only once you've done that and your score stays stable, should you decide to call it quits. 

Keep going for now, and use practice tests to gauge how you're doing.  Five isn't that many to have written.  I probably wrote at least ten before I took the LSAT.  It's for that reason that I suspect you've still got some margin for improvement left.  It's impossible to be sure, but you'll never know unless you try.  Good luck!

Studying for the LSAT / Re: so discouraged and need some advice
« on: January 13, 2011, 11:04:51 PM »
1.  It's definitely possible to see that kind of improvement. 

2.  Studying too hard is also quite possible.  The goal of your study should be improvement.  Focus on quality --> learn techniques which will let you understand questions betters.  THEN practice to solidify your grasp of those techniques.

 -One good way to do this would be to identify a weak area, then ask your course instructor after class to teach you ONE thing which will help it.  Get him to watch you do a problem if possible.  Then focus on mastering that one skills.  Repeat. 

3.  Do the schools you're interested in look at highest score, or average?  If they only look at the highest, I strongly suggest you write in February, and June (if you don't do well enough in February).  Quite a few students can get freaked out the first time they write the LSAT, but are much more relaxed the second time.  That tends to help their score. 

Good luck, and focus on identifying weaknesses, so you can eliminate them :)

Studying for the LSAT / Re: Bay Area Private LSAT Tutor Recommendation
« on: January 12, 2011, 10:18:12 PM »
I sent you a PM.  For anyone looking to hire a tutor, I'll repeat the advice I gave:

"I recommend answering a few tutor ads on Craigslist.  Any tutor confident in their ability to help you should at the least offer to chat on the phone with you, or some sort of moneyback guarantee after the first lesson if you don't find it useful.  Quality varies greatly between tutors, so I recommend talking to a few of them.  Ask about their teaching philosopy, or ask them to explain a question you found confusion, check what concepts they'll teach you.  At a bare minimum they should be able to teach you the skills I mentioned in the post above.  "   

Also, take a look at rates in your local area.  Most tutors will come down on price a bit if you can cite an alternative which charges less.  Score is important, but it's not the only thing.  They should be able to understand why you're NOT understanding, and explain things in a way which makes it "click" for you.

I prepped using a Kaplan book, worked through the exercises, and increased how many practice tests I did as test day grew nearer.  Logic games were my worst area, so a week and a half before the test I bought the Kaplan logic games book, and worked through those quite intensively.  It logic games score improved to the level of everything else, and I made a 12 point improvement overall.

That said, I wouldn't recommend you use the Kaplan books.  I only used them because I was living in a small town in Eastern Canada at the time, and they were what the bookstore had.  That was in 2007, I don't think it occurred to me to order books on Amazon.  Now I would recommend you use the LSAC books to prep.  They're pretty cheap.

First focus on understanding the questions, and doing them write with unlimited time.  Then focus on doing a section well in 35 minutes.  Then improve your stamina by writing full practice tests. 

As for how to learn to do them well....there are several options.  There seems to be a lot of free and useful info on the internet, but it takes some sifting through.  Any of the corporate prep books will give you a decent base, but don't take them as gospel.  The powerscore books seem pretty good.  If you've got the budget for it, you could hire a tutor for 1-2 sessions, to learn the following skills:

1.  How to diagram.  All dogs are cute becomes     D --> C, or      not C --> not D,

(meaning, if it's not cute, its not a dog.  That's called the contrapositive, and normally you would draw a line through the letter.  You should learn how to link diagrams together, and how to tell if something goes on the left or right of the diagram, using words like if, only if, etc.)

Diagramming is useful for both logical reasoning, and logic games.  If there's time, you could also ask to learn about statement negation (for assumption questions), quantifiers (words like most, many, some, all).

2.  How to set up a linear and a grouping logic game, and which symbols are the easiest to use.  How you should make sketches on your page.

3.  How to look for structure in a reading comp passage, and how to improve your understanding of a passage. 

4.  Lastly, you should have them watch you do a few questions, and see if they notice anything obvious to change. 

Any good tutor should be able to teach you those things.  You should be able to find a good one for about 50$ an hour on craigslist, and they should be able to teach you all of that in 2-3 hours.  The rest is practice, to master the skills you've learned, and you can do that on your own if you're motivated.

I did well somehow, without having mastered those things, but I'm better at the LSAT now that I know how to do all of that.  I scored a 177.  I recognize that the things I mentioned may sound very simple - that's because they are.  Yet not many people know how to do all of those things on the LSAT, so hopefully something in there will let you improve.  Good luck!

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