How to Get a 180 on the LSAT | A Guaranteed Entry to the Best Law Schools
How to Get a 180 on the LSAT
If there’s one question rattling around the mines of the most ambitious law school candidates in the US, it’s this:
- How to get a 180 on the LSAT first time?
For obvious reasons, an LSAT 180 is the holy grail for anyone looking to get into a high-profile law school. For equally obvious reasons, a 180 LSAT score is also the most difficult score you can possibly set your sights on.
The problem being that for more LSAT first-timers, a lack of practical experience makes it difficult to know what to expect. You have every intention of getting a 180 on the LSAT, but exactly how realistic are your expectations?
At the risk of terrifying those chasing a 180 LSAT score as the only acceptable result, here’s a look at how easy (or otherwise) it is in context:
- The percentile for a 180 on LSAT is approximately 99.97%
- This means those who get a 180 perform as well as or better than 99.97% of their fellow test takers
- In which case, just three people on average in a room of 10,000 people all taking the LSAT at the same time would score 180
- As around 100,000 LSATs are taken each year, this equates to no more than 30 people getting a perfect score on an annual basis.
Scary stuff, but scoring a 180 is far from impossible. In addition, it’s worth remembering that you don’t actually have to answer every question correctly to get a 180. Slip up no more than a couple of times and you could still be on your way to a ‘perfect’ score.
As for the rest, I’ve put together this brief introductory guide to LSAT score-enhancement based on my own experience, along with the input of a handful of fellow test-takers who had similar experiences to mine.
My Experience with the LSAT
First and foremost, how do I know how to get 180 on LSAT? More importantly, did I personally get a perfect score? The answer is no, but not only did I come pretty close, but I’m pretty sure I could hit 180 if I took the test again.
Ultimately, I came out with 175 - more than enough to get my application through the door at Yale, Harvard and Stanford.
Truth is, I scored 175 the second time around on my LSAT, having been disappointed with the 164 I came out with after my first test. I wasn’t sure at first whether taking the test again was the way to go, but it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made in my academic or professional life. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I’d accepted my first score, despite having been reassured by plenty of people that it was perfectly sound.
The simple fact of the matter is that as with all tests, you need a certain amount of inside knowledge and practical experience to master the LSAT. Even with all the ambition, enthusiasm and advance preparation in the world, you’re still technically throwing yourself into the unknown.
Of course, the importance of quality prep books and study aids cannot be overstated, though represents just one aspect of the preparation you can and should be doing. All of which is why I figured I’d share my thoughts and musings on the whole ‘how to get an LSAT 180’ saga, which may prove helpful for new test takers and re-takers alike.
Phase 1: What to Improve to get a 180 on the LSAT
Kicking thing off with an important point: opinions differ on the effectiveness of mock tests and exercises. Personally, I think they’re about as valuable and important as it gets. You’ve no idea what your exact test will look like on the day, but mock tests and exercises are great for familiarizing yourself with the format of the test at least.
Not just this, but you also get the opportunity to identify your strengths and address your weaknesses. Why wait until the day to find out that you excel at logic games but struggle horribly with logical reasoning?
This kind of prep can also be great for learning how to manage your time better, keep cool in a high-pressure setting and (hopefully) not let your emotions get the better of you. And before going any further, I’m also a firm believer in creating a detailed study plan and sticking to it like glue. Approach the whole thing in a random manner and you can forget about it!
Let’s take a close look at how you can improve your game in some of the more specific areas of the LSAT:
Mastering the Basics: Logic Games (LG)
The LSAT analytical reasoning section, a.k.a. logic games, is by no means as fun as it sounds for a lot of candidates. Particularly if you’re new to the whole thing, it can be one of the trickiest sections to get your head around. A few helpful tips and guidelines for improving your performance with logic games being as follows:
- Practice like crazy. It takes enough time to get used to the rules of the various different types of games and how they work, so practicing in advance and as much as possible is an absolute must. Don’t waste time on the day of the test attempting to figure out how the games work.
- Minimize thinking time. In a similar vein, this means reducing the amount of time you waste pondering where to go and what to do next. Again, this is something you’ll accomplish by practicing as much as possible, ensuring you spend more time tackling the tasks and less time thinking about them.
- Master every game type. Each of the different types of logic games - sequencing, fixed grouping, floating grouping, hybrid, etc. - demands a different approach and skills set. Put in the necessary hours to excel at all of them, rather than just those that come easy to you.
- Read the questions carefully. Take the time to read the entire question and establish what it is you are supposed to do, so as to avoid wasting time writing information that isn’t necessary.
Mastering the Basics: Logical Reasoning (LR)
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, taking as many mock/prep tests as you possibly can holds the key to mastering the logical reasoning section of the test. The following tips could also prove useful if you’re not 100% confident in your LR capabilities:
- Manage your time. Save time on some of the initial questions as they do tend to be simpler than the later questions, though this isn’t always the case. Breeze through the sections that come easiest to you and use the extra time elsewhere.
- Skip tricky questions strategically. There’s nothing wrong with skipping and revisiting areas of doubt, which is far better than wasting time on a question you can’t answer and subsequently losing the time needed to answer four much easier questions later on.
- Watch the language closely. Incorrect answers in this multiple-choice section often use sneaky language tricks to throw curveballs your way. Be very careful with the way you read and interpret the language used, which can be just as important as the context of the statement.
Mastering the Basics: Reading Comprehension (RC)
Mastering this section means thoroughly and efficiently progressing through every passage of text and the accompanying questions in their entirety in 35 minutes or less. A few tips I’ve picked up along the way that might prove useful include the following:
- Choose your order. Give the passages a quick skim and choose your own preferred order for answering them, rather than instinctively going with the order in which they are presented. This puts you in charge and can be surprisingly motivating.
- Write brief summaries. Try to get into the habit of jotting a (very) brief summary of each passage’s key points in the margin after reading it. This means that if you need to refer back to it, you won’t have to read the paragraph once again in its entirety.
- Consider the question. As before, identifying the question type and ensuring you fully understand its requirements is an absolute must, in order to avoid wasting time providing information that’s wholly unnecessary.
Phase 2: Increasing Speed
Building the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to score a 180 is all well and good, that could be for nothing if you lack the speed to get the job done within the allotted time. I personally struggled pretty badly with my timing at first, though gradually managed to up the pace to a point where I breezed through the whole thing.
Here’s how I did it and how you can do it:
- Highlight and revisit difficult questions, rather than wasting too much time panicking about them and losing time to answer easier questions later on.
- Speed up one step at a time, setting achievable goals you can actually accomplish and setting new challenges as each goal is reached.
- Race through easy questions rather than ruminating tirelessly on answers and concepts you’re pretty confident you have nailed in seconds first-time.
- Prep your brain before the test by reading something like the Wall Street Journal or The Times, which can help fire-up your wiring.
- Take practice tests to such an extent that you stop panicking about timing, which in itself will slow you down considerably.
Phase 3: Stamina
Speed and stamina go hand in hand, though in this instance there’s really only one thing you can do to adequately prepare yourself for the big day:
Practice, practice and practice some more.
Stamina means arming yourself with the skills, the knowledge, the insights and the confidence needed to get all the way through the test without losing your steam. Something that’s only possible if you know exactly what to expect - i.e. by taking a whole bunch of practice exams beforehand.
Combined with the tips above for improving speed, you’ll eventually train yourself to sail through the whole test without even breaking a sweat.
Test Day Preparations
Rounding things off, here’s a brief summary of my own personal tips and guidelines for making the most of your LSAT when the big day rolls around:
- Start planning the day before, ensuring you get a good night’s sleep and don’t touch so much as a drop of alcohol.
- Follow your usual morning routine to whatever extent is feasible, which will help you keep calm and focused.
- Eat a decent breakfast to provide you with the energy you need for the test, without making you feel heavy and sluggish.
- Dress in layers as you have no idea how hot or cold the test center will be.
- Ensure you arrive at the time specified on your admission ticket or slightly before, bringing only the items you’re permitted to bring.
- Think about your best practice test results and visualize yourself performing just as well today.
At the risk of removing the luster from all of the above, there’s technically nothing you can do to 100% guarantee a 180 on your LSAT. This is because you’ve no idea what’s going to be presented on your test paper on the day, which could be just about anything. As for the first-time takers, we dedicated a special article to answer the question: "What is the average LSAT score for first-time takers?"
Nevertheless, there’s a whole bunch you can do to prepare yourself for pretty much any eventuality and give yourself the best possible shot at a high score. It’s worth remembering that even if you don’t hit that magic 180 - which I didn’t - you’re by no means counted out of the running with your preferred law school.
To an extent, therefore, you’ll also want to go easy on yourself with the pressure - too much is never a good thing.