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Dec LSAT - is a 170 possible?

Posted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 7:23 pm
by Tnkim
Hi guys,

I'm a senior at a top 50 undergraduate university and currently am a political science major and psych minor. I am still in school and currently taking a lighter load to compensate for studying the lsat (12 units). I have a 3.68 gpa.

I took a Powerscore course from August 7 to early October, and self-studied since. I use the course textbooks and the 3 bibles, and all of the past lsat exams although I have not used all of them yet, and study for 5-6 hours a day.
My first diagnostic test I took cold and at the first class of Powerscore (August 7) was a disappointing 143. Since last week however, I've been hitting the low 160s (an 18-21) point increase. I was wondering if you guys think it is possible for me to break 170 by the upcoming dec 7 lsat?

Granted, whenever I take the preptests, I usually recognize 1-2 LR questions, none of the games, and 1-2 RC passages although remembering none of the questions. I recognize these things not because I've taken these tests before, but because I've seen them come up in the bibles and textbooks as examples or practice questions.

I usually miss 4-7 on LR, 4-8 on my LG, and 4-9 on RC. Is there any advice on how to improve on each?

Also, this is a digression, but if I were to score, let's say a 167, would I still be able to get into georgetown and cornell and ucla?

I acknowledge that it is later in the cycle, but I already submitted my Letters of Rec and official transcript to LSAC.

Thanks for your guys' anticipated response.

Re: Dec LSAT - is a 170 possible?

Posted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:58 am
by Dave Killoran
Hi Thomas,

Thanks for the question! Let's break this down into two parts: first let's talk about hitting 170, and then let's talk about your admissions chances.

Can you hit 170? I think it's possible. You are already scoring in the 160s, and so you aren't that far away. And, to go from, say 162 to 170 requires that you answer fewer additional questions correctly than going from 152 to 160. So, given that you started at 143 and you've already come a long way, you are now over the toughest part, and in the downhill stretch. And congrats also just on how far you've come—an 18-21 point increase is awesome, and I love the fact that you are aggressively looking for more :-D

They key to reaching the 170s will be for you to reduce the variance that you are seeing in each section, and to minimize the damage in each section (as opposed to suddenly just acing one of the sections, which is less likely to occur within a month). For example, 4-8 wrong in LG is strong, but it's not likely that you could suddenly go to 0 wrong. However, if you could get that down to 2-3 wrong consistently, that would be enough. So, your goal is to incrementally improve in each of the sections. Some of the scoring variance you are seeing is likely the result of the casino effect as well as section difficulty balancing, but that can still be overcome, and tends to even out in the long run.

As you move through the next few weeks, rigorously track the questions you are missing in each area. The only way to see what you need to improve is to isolate the questions and concepts that currently giving you trouble. Then, as you start to see areas of concern, go back into your PowerScore Online Student Center and review some of the modules that address those concepts, as well as the lesson and homework sections on those topics. And return here to ask us questions about the concepts that are still troubling you.

I'm also glad to hear that you still have some unused PrepTests available. First and foremost I'm a big fan of taking practice tests and getting used the the conditions you will experience during the actual LSAT. So, try to take as many tests as you can (within reason!) over the next few weeks. And as you near the December LSAT, take the most recently released exams (the 2012 LSATs, the June 2013 LSAT, and the October 2013 LSAT, for example). In our courses we reserve these tests for practice, and I avoid using the most recent LSATs in the Bibles just so that everyone has cold PrepTests where they haven't seen any of the questions in study material. How you score on those tests in the final days before the December LSAT will give you a really good idea of whether or not you will hit 170.

Let's now turn to the admissions question. With a 167 and 3.68, LSAC's UGPA/LSAT search tool indicates the following chances:

  • Cornell: between 34% and 44% admission chance

    UCLA: between 29% and 40% admission chance
Georgetown isn't included in that database, so let's look at one of the coolest sites out there, Law School Numbers, and check the 2012-2013 graphs to see what they might show us about the three schools above:

  • Cornell: Once you get to the 167 LSAT score and above 3.6 range, you start to see a lot of acceptances and wait lists at Cornell. But every point counts here, and the acceptances get even better at 168 and 169.

    Georgetown: Georgetown in 2012-2013 looked very similar to Cornell, with the difference being that Georgetown dipped a bit lower on the GPAs accepted (this is true although the GPA axis for Cornell goes to 4.4 whereas Gtown goes to 4.6; if you look at the range between 2.0 and 4.0 for each, Georgetown is definitely shifted downwards, which is good for you at Gtown). Again, it's 168 where the green acceptances really start to appear heavily.

    UCLA: UCLA may be the toughest for you, although you have an advantage in that they will know your undergrad better than Cornell or Gtown do. On your numbers alone, your are very borderline--you see a lot of waitlists right in that zone. Once you get to 168 (which is looking very much like a magic number for these three very similar schools), the number of acceptances jumps up.
One bonus fact that could help: with LSAT test taking numbers down again this year, fewer people will be applying to law school, meaning you have less competitors for spots in each class. Although many law schools are cutting class size in order to keep their numbers the same as in previous years, there is going to be pressure to open the doors a little bit wider to candidates who are right on the line. The bottom line is that while there are no guarantees in the admissions game (and your softs need to be top level across the board), if you can get into that 168 and above range, you will have a legit shot at each school, and likely land at least one acceptance from that group.

Please let me know if the above helps, or if you have any additional questions. Thanks!

Re: Dec LSAT - is a 170 possible?

Posted: Thu Nov 07, 2013 4:40 pm
by Tnkim
Thanks Dave for your response!
It made me feel more confident in my attempt to achieve a 170. However, I posted around on TLS and the general response I received was that my goal wasn't probable. How probable is it?
Because I hear horror stories of people PTing at around 175+ but only receiving 5 points lower than usual. I don't think I'm a bad test taker, honestly a completely average one, but would nerves really affect test takers that much?

I will definitely use the online sources, I almost forgot that Powerscore has those online resources. After I take a PT, and realize that I'm weak in a certain subject matter, is there a designated page or link on Powerscore where I can drill my weakness?

I took a PT yesterday and got a 163 - I feel like for the last two weeks, I was stuck on the lower 160s. Is there a moment where you were able to see a breakthrough coming, or is it usually taken by surprise?

Anyways, thanks a lot Dave for your response.

Re: Dec LSAT - is a 170 possible?

Posted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 10:08 am
by Dave Killoran
Hi Thomas,

Thanks for the reply. Let me start by first answering the question of probability, and then I'll add another post touching on your other questions. How probable is it that you hit 170? That's very difficult to say. I'd have to watch you do questions, hear how you broke down arguments and setups, see how you studied, etc, to get a sense of where you really are and what you are capable of. Your question to me was whether it was possible, and it's definitely possible. It's sounds like you are now wondering whether it is likely. The answer to that is probably not. But, let me talk about that a little more first before you assume you won't be able to do it.

First, I'm a big fan of TLS. Many of the students there work extremely hard, and I'm always a fan of sites that are dedicated to hardcore LSAT study and discussion. Many of the posters there know an amazing amount about the LSAT, and they've seen a lot of students come and go. And that's where you come in. The typical student can't increase their score 20 points, let alone 30. So, when TLS posters see that you started with a 143, are now stuck in the low 160s, and are looking for a 170, history rightly tells them that it's unlikely to occur. That's why you would get that feedback from them, and they are being honest and not unreasonable in making that assessment.

I look at it a bit differently. You asked me, "I was wondering if you guys think it is possible for me to break 170 by the upcoming dec 7 lsat?" I've worked with students who jumped from the 140s into the 170s (and even one who jumped into the 170s from 135) so I know it is possible. It doesn't happen often though. Your case tells me that it could occur, and here's why: you've already increased roughly 20 points (which many people are never able to do), and are well over halfway there (the phrase I used to you was "in the downhill stretch." Testing at 163 after starting at 143 tells me you've made great strides, and yet you surely haven't learned every nuance of the LSAT or feel 100% comfortable with each concept and method. Yet, moving out of the 160s into the 170s is often not about great leaps but about incremental efficiencies, which are exactly where you likely have room to improve at this point.

The other point I want to touch on is test mentality. What's happening now is that you are allowing other viewpoints to influence your thinking about how you will score. I'll state up front that allowing that to occur is big trouble. If you go in with some doubt about whether you can reach the 170s, then you won't reach the 170s. I'm a firm believer that you have to think and believe you can score in that range in order to do so. If you look through our course/online material (L1 and L12 HWs, in particular) you'll see articles and modules on test mentality, and we discuss this mindset there (there's even an article called Mindset of a 170s Scorer, if I recall the title correctly). You can also listen to me and my colleague Jon discussing test mentality in the free seminar we did prior to the October 2013 LSAT here: See the second-to-last link, titled Test Mentality.

What you are attempting to do doesn't happen every day, and the TLS posters made that clear. But that's a lot different from whether it is possible, and in order for it to ever be possible, you have to firmly think you can do it.

Last but not least as far as hitting 170: nerves. The good news here is that everyone gets test day jitters. I like to try to use that energy to focus even more and drive myself harder. In that way I can take a possible negative and turn it into a positive. But nerves can overwhelm some people, and the TLS posters were just making that point (because it happens, and everyone knows it happens). And, there is evidence that stress can actually help some people score higher (something I talked about recently on our LSAT blog, at ... Your-Score). Also, check out the Test Mentality link I posted in the paragraph above this one—I talk about how to handle those occurrences in that seminar. One question you have to ask yourself: do you have a history of test anxiety that is so debilitating that it causes you to chronically underperform? If the answer is no, then it is unlikely that LSAT anxiety is going to rise up and suddenly debilitate you.

Ok, let me know your thoughts on the above, and in the meantime I'll post a second reply to the other questions in just a bit.


Re: Dec LSAT - is a 170 possible?

Posted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 11:29 am
by Dave Killoran
Ok, let's address the other two questions.

As far as weaknesses, there's obviously a huge amount of material in the Online Student Centers, so it depends a bit on what the weakness is as to where you'd go to drill on it. Maybe take a bit of time to go through the various lesson areas, because the lessons would be the first area to look at in relation to a specific problem (for example, for problems with Assumption questions, start at L5 both online and in the course books), and then use the Supplemental Tests, Test Sections, and Questions area for the more questions to drill on (start with the various LG/LR.RC problem sets there).

With the 163 and the idea of being stuck, let's consider a few things. First and foremost, two weeks isn't really a very long period to be "stuck" :-D You'd be stuck if you didn't move after a period of a 4-6 weeks or so. Second, score increases actually do not tend to be a straight-line affair anyway. Typically what you see is a score jump followed by a period of stability (which is really preparation for the next leap), followed by another jump, followed by another flat line period. In other words, a day of LSAT studying does not typically yield an extra point on the test, and at the same time these flat line periods are entirely normal and expected. I touch on that point a bit in this article, but the takeaway is that you shouldn't worry about this situation right now. Focus instead on isolating your weaknesses and keeping a positive mindset while you study.

That's it for now, but please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

Re: Dec LSAT - is a 170 possible?

Posted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 5:16 pm
by Tnkim
Hey Dave,

Thanks for the response again. I just wanted to let you know that I hit a 171 (first time breaking 170) yesterday on preptest 27 while utilizing 2 sections from preptest 23 as experimental sections, a total of six sections.
To make my score "fair", I noticed that on 27, the LG section had 2 games (the zoo and movie games) that I've drilled upon consistenly a month ago from hearing from friends that these were one of the hardest games. I only missed one on this section, and I when I counted my total score from the four sections from preptest 27, it gave me an outstanding 175. Acknowledging that the LG section was probably the hardest section on this lsat, I substituted that Lg section with preptest 23's Lg section which I used as an experimental (I missed 6 because I couldn't finish the last game) and received a 171.
I'm pretty happy of this accomplishment,but I'm wondering how legitimate it is? I missed 15 (counting the Lg from 23 and discounting the lg from 27) and usually that amounts to a 168-169, but on this test it was a 171.

You were definitely right that I wasn't plateauing, and I checked out the article about giving lsat a rest for a day or so. Should I take this advice now although I'm a month away from the actual lsat?

Anyways, thanks for the advice. Really appreciate your help.

Re: Dec LSAT - is a 170 possible?

Posted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:22 am
by Dave Killoran
Hi Thomas,

Thanks for the reply, and congrats on an excellent result! :-D How legitimate is that score? It's not a perfectly true 171, but does that really matter? Not to me at this stage (and it shouldn't matter to you, either). The point is that you went out and performed at an obviously high level, and you answered the questions that you needed to to post a score in the 170s. That's the case no matter how you analyze this (and don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise).

The more important point here is that you achieved something you really wanted to achieve, and that has to give you more confidence than you had before. The bottom line is that this score result legitimizes that you are in that range. If you listen to some of those Test Mentality seminars we do, one thing you know is that the theory of rational expectations plays a role in performance: how you think you will do is often exactly how you do. So, I love this result for you because I think you are, as they say in the Matrix, beginning to believe :-D

As far taking breaks, if you have been studying every day for a while, you do need to take a day off now and then. Do I think it should be a week? No, but one or two days will help you clear your mind and prepare you to continue raising your score.

Glad I can help, and keep thinking positively. Thanks!

Re: Dec LSAT - is a 170 possible?

Posted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:34 pm
by Tnkim
Thanks Dave!

I really appreciate your positive, yet honest answers.
I attended the online seminar on test mentality early afternoon today. I was frankly expecting cliché, trite, typical platitudes that people get when trying to boost confidence, but wow, I did not know how much psychology plays as a factor into performing optimally on test day, especially the subtle variables I overlooked like proper diet and sleep schedule, the environment on test day, and mental tools during the LSAT.
Those studies you talked about with your colleague were impressive and I was surprised these results are not spreading like wildfire, especially that GRE experiment.

Anyways, thanks a lot Dave - you really helped me boost my confidence and I'll probably come back here on the forum to ask more questions as the dec LSAT comes. Appreciate it.

Re: Dec LSAT - is a 170 possible?

Posted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:23 am
by Dave Killoran
Hi Thomas,

Great, I'm really glad I was able to help you out! Test psychology is a major component of standardized testing, and it may also be one of the least covered elements in the test preparation plans of most people. The whole idea is so fundamental that is is even built into the job description of the people who make standardized tests: psychometricians.

As you point out, the typical expectation is that any conversation about testing mentality will be a rah-rah and rather clichéd affair (and even if it had been that way, it wouldn't hurt; it just wouldn't help as much as it could). In that seminar we really tried to discuss factual concepts and provide some tools with real impact and value. I'm glad you liked it 8-)

I also agree with your point about that Harvard experiment--you'd think it would be a major story. But, the study results were published in a science journal, and was filled with typical science-talk, so you can see why it might not have been on top of the reading list for a lot of people :-D

You're always welcome to questions here, and if you want to attend a live version of that free seminar prior to the December LSAT, we already have one scheduled for Wednesday, December 4th at 8 PM Eastern. See to sign up if you are interested (it is the LSAT Test Mentality session).

Thanks and keep working hard!

Re: Dec LSAT - is a 170 possible?

Posted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 6:49 pm
by Tnkim
Hey Dave,

I just wanted to update you - Since the 171 on prep test 27, I've heard from many TLS posters that the nature of the test has changed significantly since and that I should be taking the preptests closer to date. Since I don't have the tests 60-70s, I've been taking preptests from 45 to 54 this past week (of course I've only taken 4 preptests within that bunch and used sections within that group to attach a 5th LR or LG or RC section).
I have not been able to hit the 170s, which worries me, but I've been hitting 166-167. Looking at where I am now compared to two weeks ago, I definitely have improved since, but because the december LSAT is ominously coming closer, I've been recently losing my self-confidence on this test. I want to say I don't know why, but I think I might know the cause.

My friends who took the LSAT tell me that they have been hitting 170+ consistently a month prior to the LSAT, and when come test day, they hit the lower 170s although doing 2-3 points worse than their normal PT average.
The december LSAT is 3 weeks away, and I'm hitting a score that honestly very much impresses me in terms of how much I've progressed, but paradoxically disappoints me because I really want that 170.

In the coming weeks, how can I raise my confidence against the odds and against the people who don't intend to hurt my LSAT self-esteem but inadvertently do?

I want to say I can do this, and I always tell myself every night before falling asleep that I can do this (usually I can't stop thinking about the LSATs especially at night and especially because I get this apprehension about doing poorly), but I wake up the next morning not feeling more confident, but still filled with doubt.

Thanks. Sorry for the long burst.