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Repetition is a critical part of building expertise. Want to be a talented pianist? At some point, you’ll probably have to play the scales over and over again. Maybe you’d rather be an all-star basketball player? Then you’ll most likely find yourself spending quite a bit of time standing at a free-throw line, practicing your shot repetitively.
The LSAT is no different. Like many sports and hobbies, the test requires a wide range of skills that you need to master in order to meet your LSAT goals. And for many of these skills, repetition should be a critical component of your practice sessions.
Why? For one thing, repetition builds the speed and automaticity that 170+ performers need. Think of it like doing your times tables. You repeated them often in third grade so that you’d be able to do more complicated math without even thinking about what 3 x 7 is. Similarly, the more skills that become automatic for you on the LSAT, the more space in your brain will be free to deal with the really complicated stuff. Repetition embeds skills and procedures in your long-term memory, and it also gives you a deeper understanding of the more complex language issues at play on the LSAT.
So how do you do it effectively? Here are a few tips to help you incorporate repetition into your study repertoire in order to meet your LSAT goals:
1. Keep a list of challenge questions to replay.
For some folks, that might be every question that you miss. But if that’s a bit overwhelming, pick the questions that you learned the most from when you reviewed. They should be the ones that felt daunting when you tried them on your own, but gave you an “aha!” moment during review. Those types of questions are in what educators would call your “zone of proximal development”—you can do them, but right now you need some support and practice with them. Replaying those questions will make you more independent with the skills they test. Regardless of what questions you pick, keep the list all in one place. You may wish to sort them by section (RC, LG, or LR) and even skill (relative ordering, necessary assumption, etc).
2. When you are learning a new skill, you can do your replays right away.
If you are working on a question type that’s tough for you, you’ll get a lot out of re-doing the same question multiple times within a relatively short time frame. It will deepen your understanding of the issues at play and make the skills involved more automatic. So if you do a set of Logic Games questions, feel free to look up the explanation and then replay the tough questions right away, even two or three times, until it really makes sense to you. That’s much more effective than just looking up the question, saying “Oh, I get it now,” and walking away from it.
3. Build in time to replay questions that you missed a long time ago.
At least once or twice a week, spend an hour or so replaying old questions from your list. This will help you keep your skills sharp, and also allow you to see if you truly mastered those skills.
4. Be on the lookout for sub-skills to practice.
Perhaps you need to get better at diagramming “only if” conditional logic, using the negation test on Necessary Assumption questions, or searching for text on Reading Comp. Those kind of skills get better with repetition, and they can be practiced even without proper LSAT questions. Use your Manhattan Prep Strategy Guides to get some great drills, or create your own!
Now, I know what you’re thinking: won’t I just remember the answers to all of these questions? Most likely not! If you’re doing the right amount of practice, you’ll be seeing so many LSAT questions that you’re pretty unlikely to remember the answers to all of them. If you do happen to remember the answer, you can still use repetition as a way to prove it to yourself. You may also be wondering: shouldn’t I be trying to do as many new questions as I can? And yes, that’s important, too! Repetition shouldn’t take the place of wide exposure to LSAT questions; it’s just one tool in your studying toolkit. Many students avoid repetition, mostly because they haven’t seen its true power yet. And you will have an advantage over them! 📝
Ally Bell is a Manhattan Prep Instructor who lives in the Washington, DC metro area. Ally first encountered the LSAT while getting her Bachelor of Arts in English and history at Duke University. In college, she scored a 178 and very nearly applied to law school. In the end, she followed her true passion, teaching. Ally currently has the pleasure of being an eighth grade English teacher in Northern Virginia. As an LSAT teacher, she has the opportunity to blend her love for teaching with her passion for logical argument. Check out Ally’s upcoming LSAT Complete Courses here.