How NOT to Study for the LSAT

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - How NOT to Study for the LSAT by Matt Shinners

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I was on my way to a science degree. I had all-nighters studying Organic Chemistry under my belt. I had completed hours and hours of lab work.

That last one was what changed my mind.

My career plan had been to become a researcher at a pharmaceutical company, but I just didn’t enjoy spending hot days in a glove box measuring out micrograms of catalysts for reactions that almost certainly wouldn’t work. Yes, I’m impatient.

So what was I to do? Law school, of course! It was a respectable profession that would allow me to deal with the cool part of science—when something’s been created and it’s time to get a patent. The rationale was half-baked at best.

That decision, and the LSAT it necessitated, changed my life.

My LSAT prep process was an absolute mess.

I registered at the last minute (end of August for the October exam), which meant I needed to travel from Boston to the suburbs of Philly to take the test. Rather than use prep books to learn test strategy and structure, I focused solely on taking PrepTests to figure it all out from scratch; rather than hire a car, I had decided to reinvent the wheel.

And take PrepTests I did—every day.

That’s right. I’d wake up, hit the gym, take a test, and review it. Eat, go back to the gym, take another test, and review that one. Then, I’d watch an episode of King of the Hill, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day.

Why was I doing daily double sessions at the gym, you ask? Two reasons: 1. My friends and I were really into the “300” workout at the time. 2. Science tells us that exercise improves learning.

Why King of the Hill? You sure ask a lot of questions, huh? It’s just a good show and was a useful way to wind down at the end of the day.

I nearly lost my mind. My neck hurt so bad from leaning over books that my girlfriend was convinced I had meningitis. I spent at least three times as many hours as I should have spent studying since I was brute-forcing my way to understanding instead of using materials to learn from someone else.

I did see results (my PrepTest score went up about 20 points in that month), but my study plan was massively inefficient. I spent way more time and energy than was necessary in my preparation and quite possibly shaved years off of my life in the process.

I didn’t believe my score at first; I thought it was a typo. But I looked at the test, checking my answer sheet against the credited responses, and the score was right. I had received a perfect 180.

I had been on the fence for law school, but my score opened doors that clinched my decision. I ended up enrolling at Harvard Law School and received my JD in 2009.

After law school, I chose not to practice law (firm life just wasn’t for me), but I’m glad I went. I learned a lot during my time there. I met many people who challenged me to consider new viewpoints, and I feel I grew a lot as a person. It definitely helped me frame my own beliefs and arguments better. I also met my wife there, so, of course, no regrets.

In lieu of practicing law, I started teaching the LSAT, and I found using my knowledge to help others to be profoundly rewarding. Today, I’m helping to build the LSAT program for an education company I believe in.

My month in LSAT prep hell was completely avoidable, and my career since has been devoted to finding the most efficient, effective way to prep for the test. At Manhattan Prep, we’ve developed an LSAT curriculum and course structure based on the latest research in learning science, and we’re continuing to work everyday toward perfecting that formula.

The LSAT paved the way to my law school experience and a career I love. I just wish I knew then what I know now about the most painless way to prep for the test.

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Matt Shinners Manhattan Prep LSAT InstructorMatt Shinners is a Manhattan Prep instructor and jdMission Senior Consultant based in New York City. After receiving a degree in Biochemistry from Boston College, Matt scored a 180 on his LSAT and enrolled in Harvard Law School. There’s nothing that makes him happier than seeing his students receive the scores they want to get into the schools of their choice. Check out Matt’s upcoming LSAT courses here

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