Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog

Building the Best LSAT Teacher

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I wrote a while back about our selection process //www.atlaslsat.com/lsat/blog/index.php/2009/11/16/what-makes-for-a-good-lsat-teacher/ but an article in the Sunday NY Times Magazine made me think some more about what makes for great LSAT teaching: //www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/magazine/07Teachers-t.html?ref=magazine

Doug Lemov, the main subject of the article, went around and videotaped teachers to create a catalog of effective teaching moves.  He actually filmed me when I used to teach 5th and 6th grade math at North Star Academy in Newark (if I recall, it’s a clip of me telling a kid to sit down — over and over again).  I truly admire Doug’s work — it provides a way to look at and work on some of the tangible ingredients that make a teacher great, and thus, students learn.  At times, I find the focus on moves a bit too narrow, but as the article suggests, the moves are just part of the package — a teacher needs to know the content backwards and forwards, and have a great curriculum.

It turns out that a lot of the moves that are effective in a middle school math classroom are the same ones that make an LSAT classroom work.  Not that we need to tell students to sit down (or at least not over and over again), but keeping every student engaged is part of an Atlas LSAT teacher’s job.  Sure, people who sign up for an LSAT class are self-motivated, but if they’re bored they’re bored!  So, cold-calling (read the article) is needed for adults too!  Be ready, the next question may be yours….

The February LSAT Curse of 2010

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LSAT Weather Fail

LSAT Weather Fail

Perhaps you read about the challenging experiences of Luke, our young LSAT warrior.  But Luke has now been out-done by the hapless folks who had their rescheduled February exam re-scheduled.  LSAC just announced that one of the re-take sites has been closed down because of snow!  Looking out the window here in Chelsea, I can see what they were thinking, but we’re New Yorkers.  If we can make it through Times Square, we can make it through this not-so-faux-snowpocalypse.

But truly, that’s some seriously bad luck.  In fact, that’s such bad luck that it might just be a divine message to those folks to go to med school.  No doubt some people are simply pulling out their hair.  Don’t sweat it — you might actually want to delay that LSAT score one more application cycle.  For one, a February score generally puts you in a bad (i.e., late) position in the application cycle (sort of like being in early position in Texas-Hold-Em).  Secondly, as can be expected, there are a ton of people applying to law school this year.  Let them battle it out, and walk in, stepping gingerly around their corpses.

Good luck to those who will manage to take that re-test!  For the rest of us suffering through this heavenly explanation of why we’re supposed to say “climate change” and not “global warming”, stay inside and start working through your Netflix queue.

Negating Assumptions on the LSAT – Answers

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Alright, here are the answers to the last blog post: Negating Assumptions on the LSAT

Non Exhaustive List of Common Terms and Negations

If you see…          Negate with…
All                         Not all
Some                     None/no
Most                      Not most/less than half
Not all                   All
None                     At least one/Some
Probably              Probably not/Unlikely
Unlikely               Likely
Never                  At least once/Sometimes
Always                Not always
Sometimes          Never
Without               With
With                    Without

Can you think of others that should be on this list?

Negating Assumptions on the LSAT

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1
Learning to negate answer choices on the LSAT is a key skill if you are really looking to push up your score, for lots of reasons. I tend to think there are two especially important ones. First, assumption questions (and one of the most-related question type, flaw questions) are quite common, and many students find it’s difficult to get all of the most challenging assumption questions correct without using the negation test. Second, negation can be useful for thinking out counterfactuals on inference and strengthen/weaken questions – more on this another time. Today, I’ll be writing about how to negate in general terms. In another blog post, I’ll get into specifics. Read more

February LSAT 2010: Man vs. Machine

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The February LSAT gets a bad rep for no good reason.  I assure you, it’s just another LSAT (which may or may not make it worth a bad rep), but for one of my students the test was fine, but the test-center was awful.  After an unexpected re-assignment to a location in a galaxy far, far away, my student — let’s call him Luke — found himself in a large auditorium.  OK, that’s not so far out of the range of expectations.  But, these auditorium seats were not built for the LSAT.  The little flip-up desk seat was about half the size of the LSAT paper!  So, not only did the 80 or so victims in there have to deal with the LSAT, but they were subjected to a constant spatial-relations puzzle/dance-dance revolution game in which you scored points by being able to keep your test on the table so that you could actually  bubble in your answers.

Alright, perhaps he’s a whiner.  When I was a kid we had to take the LSAT in a pool, walking uphill.  But then partway through the first section – RC for him — the radiator started a John Cage piece.  Many a New Yorker is well-accustomed to falling asleep to the erratic — erotic? — banging of the building’s heating system, but apparently this one was so loud that the test-takers revolted and the proctors paused the test at the end of the section to bring in an engineer.  While the engineers calmed the angry beast, the hapless prisoner — at least those following the rules –were not allowed to go to the bathroom since this was not an “official” break.

At least 10% of the test-takers simply walked out of the room and canceled on the spot.  Luke tells me he couldn’t finish that first section, which is unheard of for him, though he totally rocked the rest of the exam.  Alas Luke, go and seek your LSAT destiny in June!  And for everyone else, read up on your testing site (and rate yours) on this test-center-ranking site.

LSAT Vocabulary

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//lsatblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/logical-reasoning-vocabulary-words.html

I just saw a good blog post listing vocabulary words that you should have under your belt for the LSAT.   Take a look and see if you really know all of them.  Thanks for the list, Steve!

LSAT Classes in Houston

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Houston, Here We Come!

Houston, Here We Come!

Hey, we’re ready to mess with Texas!  We’ve added a great teacher to our ranks, Joey Ndu!  He’s a true test whiz with years of teaching experience and a really great demeanor in the classroom.  He’s a natural fit with our team, as he works hard to get students to figure out things for themselves.

We’re looking for a class location around University of Houston, and we’ll announce when we’ve found our home.  Stay tuned, Texas!

P.S. Austin is next . . .

Doing well on the LSAT means no excuses

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As the February LSAT quickly approaches, I have been fielding many calls from worried and anxious students each day here. To be fair, test anxiety is real and we all want to excel in areas where we have invested considerable time, mental energy, and money. The LSAT and all of its test-takers are no different. However, what I have been recommending to students is to keep in mind the concept of attribution theory, especially for all you Type-A students out there.

What this means in lay-man terms is (pardon the language):  Suck it up. Know what you can and can’t control. Be honest about your skills and your ability to excel. Be prepared for the worst because Murphy’s Law is alive and kicking.

I realize that this is much easier said than done, but cultivate your own fearlessness. Successful people do not believe in external attributions. Successful people believe that their successes are a result of 3 things: Read more

Getting A Great Job After Law School?

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This past weekend the New York Times had a sobering article explaining that law school is “No Longer the Golden Ticket.”  Many people somehow assumed the the legal field was immune to the economic downturn.  “Well, Wall Street is dead for now,” people thought, “so I’ll go for law school.  Not as glamorous, but at least the money’s there.”

Turns out that big law firms are laying off big time and are not hiring many if any new lawyers.  In fact, we’re seeing a lot of resumes of law school grads that are looking for something to do during their “gap year.”  Overall, these folks are not making the Atlas cut, but many are quite bright.  Interestingly, often they’ve been hired by some law firm and then told to not show up for a year and instead do something community-oriented (and these folks receive half their salaries, which is still a nice chunk of change).  This sounds like a pretty good deal considering what many large law firms have young associates doing for the first couple of years (cue shot of Igor, the hunchback in old Frankenstein film creeping in the basement).  As we see it, the problem is that when the economy picks up and folks start suing and merging with each other with gusto again, law firms will probably pick up their half-way house hires and hold off on taking new ones for a year or so.  Basically, there’s a lawyer log jam.  [Yes, that sounds like the end of a good lawyer joke.]  Particularly since there’s been a 20% increase in LSAT test-takers this year! Read more

Should I Re-Take the LSAT in February?

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Good question! First off, we’ll be discussing this in our upcoming workshop in which we’ll review the December LSAT.

If you’re just looking to take an LSAT, it doesn’t matter which one you take — just take it after you’ve prepared!  But if you already have taken the LSAT and are wondering whether to re-take, there’s a lot more to say.  The question of whether you should re-take in June, Sep/Oct, or Dec  has one set of answers.  If you are wondering whether to re-take in one of those non-February months, take a look at some previous posts – should I re-take the LSAT & how to improve your LSAT score.   But for February you get a special set of answers just for you!

In general, the answer is NO.  Here’s why (and thanks to Ann Levine for some help on this one):

1. It’s hard to improve an LSAT score significantly in one month. Caveats: if you truly had a bad day on test day, and having such a day is completely out of the ordinary for you, sure, a re-test could conceivably show serious improvement.  But, so you know, most people don’t improve that much.  For example, the average person who re-takes the LSAT with a score between 150 and 160 improves only 2.4 points on the re-take (and the re-take improvement gets worse as you go up the score ladder).  For most people, those 2.4 points are not enough to significantly alter your application — and for most folks, those 2 and almost a half points definitely do not warrant a re-take because . . . Read more