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Stacey Koprince, one of our amazing GMAT instructors, recently wrote an article about how to make the most of a study group for that exam. It sounded like a great idea, so I’m adapting it for LSAT study groups! Here’s a (lightly) edited version, tailored for all you future lawyers.
Stacey, all yours!
I’m already really busy. Is an LSAT study group worth the effort?
I really think so, yes. (And I’m saying this as an introvert who generally prefers to study home alone.) I also polled my fellow teachers and it turns out we all agree: If at all possible, get an LSAT study group going!
There are two primary benefits you can gain by studying regularly with at least one other person.
(1) You’ll keep yourself motivated. It’s harder to procrastinate when you know you need to be ready to meet with the group by a certain day.
(2) You will learn more than you can on your own. Other members of the group will be better at something than you are and can teach you. In addition, you will sometimes teach something to others—and teaching helps you to understand a concept much better than just learning it in the first place.
How do I set up the LSAT study group?
If friends of yours are also studying for the LSAT, then that part is relatively easy—though, ideally, you want at least one person in the group who is stronger at Logic Games and one who is stronger at Reading Comp (LR skills tend to be more standardized between people).
If you are taking a class, go out on a limb and announce to the class that you want to set up an LSAT study group and ask who is interested. If you want to maintain a level of control over the group, then decide certain details in advance. “I’m looking for people who can meet on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at XYZ library (or on Google Hangouts).” Also, feel free to ask your instructor to help out here. We have access to email lists and can send out a call to action to sign up (though we can’t share email addresses without permission).
I do think it’s a good idea to have 3 or more people in the group, if possible. Circumstances change—your study buddy could get sick or decide to postpone her studies for some reason. People go on vacation for a week. Ideally, the group is large enough that it can weather the temporary or permanent absence of 1 or 2 people.
My colleague Brian Maxsween reminded me that we have a forum where you can find others to form an LSAT study group. The folder hasn’t gotten a lot of action lately and I think part of the reason might be that it’s harder to find a stranger in your specific geographic location. Studying in person is more likely to come together when you can find friends or friends of friends who also want to study.
So Brian and I recommend aiming for an online LSAT study group if you can’t network locally. You can do a lot with Google Hangouts—you can take a photo of your scratch work on Logic Games, for example, and then share screen to show the photo to the others. Try posting in our forum folder but mention that you’re looking to get together online (vs. specifying a certain geographical location)—and maybe those people who’ve posted recently from different cities will get on board with the idea!
What do we actually do when we get together? (Reason #1)
All right, now we’re getting to the real heart of the matter! Let’s start with the first reason that study groups are so beneficial: You’re going to keep each other honest.
Set up a schedule with one or two steady appointments every week. (If your schedule needs to change from week to week, then at any given time, the schedule should be set at least one month out.) For instance, you might meet Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. (Or you might just meet once a week.)
You’re allowed to miss a study session—for good reason. You have a deadline at work… you’re sick… you have a prior commitment to a family member or other important person in your life. When you absolutely do have to miss, you will give your LSAT study group as early notice as possible.
Here are some reasons you’re not allowed to miss the study session: I had a really long/hard week. I didn’t get my homework done. I’d rather (have brunch with a friend/stay home and binge watch my favorite show/clean my bathroom). Your team members are counting on you. Go.
Next, you’re going to plan out your own private studies from now until that next meeting. Set certain goals. (“I’m going to do the Grouping with Twists chapters of my Strategy Guide. Then I’m going to do and review a Logic Games section from PrepTest 51. And I’m going to do the Inference chapter in Logical Reasoning, along with a Search & Destroy of those questions from PrepTest 51.”)
Now, tell your LSAT study group what your goals are.
Why did I center that text? To catch your attention. (Did it work? ☺) This is a really important step, one that I learned from my fellow instructor Noah Teitelbaum. If you make an advance commitment to your group, you are much more likely to stay motivated and do your work.
One more note: You all have to check in to make sure you’re actually sticking with your commitments—that’s where accountability comes in. When you start your study session, go around the group. Everyone reports what they did and whether they fulfilled their commitment. If you didn’t get to it all, then be prepared to make another commitment: When will you get to this stuff in the coming week?
Noah has also shared with me a website/app called StickK, a free resource that allows you to set commitments and share them with your selected LSAT study group. Consider using this together to keep track of your commitments.
What about Reason #2 (learning from each other)?
This is exactly what we’re going to discuss in the second part of this post. Go start finding people who you think would make good study buddies and send them this first part. When you’re ready, dive into part 2 to learn how to learn from each other. 📝
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Matt 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!