Meet LSAT Tutor Noah Hunter

Noah-HunterThis week, I interviewed Noah Hunter over email about his LSAT tutoring services for law school applicants.

Q: What motivated you to become a LSAT tutor?

A: Though I had success with and talent for the law and legal studies–high LSAT score, T5 law school, BigLaw job in New York City–the law did not really suit me. I decided that I needed something different and moved back to my home town of Austin, Texas. I began tutoring just to stay busy while a I plotted my new course, but quickly realized that I was suited for it and it suited me. I stumbled into my calling, but it has been great. I have been a full-time tutor for the LSAT and other standardized tests for almost six years.

Q: Why do you think tutoring suits you?

A: One of the things I love about my job is the insights it provides into the human mind and how it interacts with challenges. There are so many fascinating tidbits that I have discovered. For instance, there is a “social pressure” that many students exert upon themselves to their detriment; as humans, we default to “wanting” people to be right and that carries over to the LSAT. Just like we might not question our teachers or bosses, the test-takers give too much benefit of the doubt to statements within the passage or to potential answers rather than reading with a hyper-critical eye.

Q: So, question everything?

A: Absolutely. In life and on the test. Question what I am saying right now. We talk about the importance of “critical reasoning” all the time, but sometimes I worry that people do not pay enough attention to the “critical” part almost as if they read “critical reasoning” as “important reasoning” rather than the intention: accept nothing as accurate until you have thoroughly probed it.

Q: Is this the basis of your tutoring?

A: Well, it is more complicated than that. I teach the material on the tests, but I like to work on what I term “cognitive tutoring” as well. I do not do this to the exclusion of other tutoring methods, but it’s something that I think I focus on more than most other tutors. I am interested in helping my students become better logical reasoners and processors of information. I feel that this is key.

Q: Can you break this down for us?

A: Sure. My experience has shown me that underlying skills that have been built up can be more easily accessed and utilized in the high pressure context of the LSAT. Memorized information, be it in the form of categories, key words, or strategies designed for hyper-specific situations can easily be forgotten, muddled, or misapplied.

Students are more comfortable thinking in a manner that feels natural to them rather than trying to think like the tutor or curriculum-preparer. If they do not have the proper skills, it is better to build up those skills rather than teach them methods to “act” like they have those skills.

Also, the process of working through the development of these skills allows an astute tutor to notice and correct subtle flaws that might not otherwise be found.

Building up these skills will translate into better performance in law school and as a lawyer, which, ultimately, should be what teaching logical reasoning is really about.

Q: Can you give me an example?

A: Going back to “question everything,” the shorthand I use for my students is “be the asshole at the cocktail party.”

By that, I mean be the person that hears someone say something and says, “But, that’s not true because…” or “You can’t say that unless” or “That only matters if,” rather than sticking to the mindset of being accommodating or likeable.

I have had many students tell me that their close friends or loved ones find them harder to take after they have prepared with me. I must say these statements delight me to no end as not only are they evidence of progress, but they are evidence of practicing in different contexts. But, please, do be social in social situations! Just not in your analytical reasoning. And, yes, if you were wondering, some of my friends find me hard to take.

Q: That’s hilarious! I like how you’re teaching your students how LSAT strategies can apply to their everyday lives. Do you have a personal philosophy about how you work with students?

A: I try to unlock my students’ natural, already-present abilities. Too often with the LSAT (and frankly, any test or school subject), a student approaches the situation with the mindset of “this is a new, strange thing that is hard” and basically tries to learn from scratch rather than importing their own abilities to the new task.

One of the exercises that I try with my students is to create an argument that they might participate in wherein their “adversary” makes the same logical mistake as the passage that I am trying to explain. You’d be surprised how often they cannot see the mistake in the LSAT, but can almost instantaneously see the flaw when they are trying to “win” an argument!

Q: I’m digging your approach. Why should a student hire you over other tutors?

A: I meet the criteria that most of the elite tutoring services require (177 LSAT, 5 years experience, top law school, actual teaching ability), but I think I exceed most of those standards because I am naturally empathetic and have a gift for seeing how students’ minds work. I have an ability to read their attitudes and anticipate things that will motivate them, not to mention a sincere desire to help them.

This allows me to adapt my approach with a slightly or entirely different approach for each student. This is what a client should really be paying for in one-on-one tutoring. It should not just be a class with a class size of one.

Q: Thanks for giving us details about your experiences and approaches to working with clients. Now, down to brass tacks. How much do you charge?

A: I enjoy working with a diverse set of ages and like the thought of helping anyone that I can. My rates are $85/hour for LSAT tutoring, and $60/hour for SAT/ACT tutoring.

Q: If someone is interested in working with you, what should they do?

A: They can email me at noah.hunter@gmail.com or find me on Twitter: @lsathelp.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions, Noah! It’s been great learning more about your tutoring approach and how you help students prep for the LSAT. Readers, if you want your own personal tutor to help you develop stronger analytical and  logical reasoning skills, and improve your LSAT score, check out Noah’s services.

Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make: #1

LSAT-SuckerThis post continues our 10-part series of posts on the Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make.

The #1 Top Ten Mistake That Law School Applicants Make every year is…
THEY DON’T STUDY ENOUGH FOR THE LSAT.

As most of you know, the LSAT is scored on a scale of 120 to 180. The average is about 150, but that will not help you get into most good law schools. A 160 is much better, but I think you should aim higher than that.

Much higher.

There is nothing stopping you from getting a 170 or higher on the LSAT.

Let me repeat that.

There is nothing stopping you from getting a 170 or higher on the LSAT.

It might take three months of prep.

Or six months.

Or 12 months.

It might even take you 24 months.

Why am I saying this crazy stuff?

Knowing how hard it can be to score a 170, why should you even shoot for this on the LSAT?

What if I told you that you’ll receive $150,000 if you get a 170 on the LSAT?

Would that change your mind?

Because that is what’s at stake here. We’re talking about major scholarship money.

So many law schools now charge $50,000 a year or more in tuition. With a 170 LSAT score, there are many quality schools that will offer you a full tuition scholarship for all three years. Believe me. I’ve seen it happen every year for the past 12 years.

You might say, “But, Peg, I don’t want to study for (fill-in-the-blank) months.”

And I’d say back to you, “Do you want to pay off your law school loans in 20 years? Or do you want to study for the LSAT for one year and have no debt when you graduate?”

YOU DECIDE.

Just like Blueprint’s lollipop says, the LSAT doesn’t have to suck.

It can be the tool you use to achieve excellent admittances and scholarships from quality law schools. It can also be the tool that will give you more freedom and happiness in your future legal career. JD graduates without debt are more able and apt to choose legal jobs that appeal to them the most rather than the ones that pay the most.

I have a lot of problems with the use of standardized tests for college and graduate school admissions, but as long as these tests are being used, I highly encourage you to USE THEM TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.

Getting a 170 on the LSAT is a high hoop to have to jump through but if doing so can make your future ten times less stressful by not having to think about thousands of dollars of debt upon graduation, you should train for the LSAT as if you’re training for the Olympics.

Here’s several LSAT prep companies that my students have used over the years. They offer various services and resources for different kinds of students and different ways of learning. Compare and contrast and see if one or more of them might be helpful to you.

PowerScore

Blueprint

7 Sage

LawSchooli

Take the LSAT seriously, get help, and put in as much prep time as you need.

Don’t rush it.

Do your best to get the highest score you possibly can. You won’t regret it.

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How Skipping Questions Helped Branden Score a 175 on the LSAT

clock-bigToday’s post comes from the astute Branden Frankel, Marketing Director at Blueprint LSAT Preparation, 2010 graduate of UCLA School of Law, and a guy who just happened to score a 175 on the June 2006 LSAT.

TICK-TOCK

I’ve taught Blueprint’s LSAT prep course over a dozen times, and I can’t count how many times a student has said, “I could answer every question correctly if I just had more time.” The LSAT offers lots of questions, arguments, and lengthy passages on inscrutable subjects, but what it offers very little of is time. For many students, time is a remorseless, implacable foe.

However, when a test measures one’s performance against that of other test takers*, like the LSAT, something that is a handicap for others becomes a strength for those who master it. You may be no smarter than the guy or gal sweating profusely in the desk next to you, but if he or she can’t manage time efficiently and you can, you win.

So how does one master time?

Skipping questions.

Skeptical? I took a prep course that helped me improve my score significantly from my first practice exam, but I was topping out at 168 in subsequent practice exams. That’s a great score, but I knew I could do better.

When I developed a plan for skipping questions intelligently, my score shot up immediately, and I topped out at 177 on practice exams.

There are two facets of skipping questions intelligently, and you may find one or the other more useful.

  1. Plan to skip a specific set of Logical Reasoning Questions/Logic Games/Reading Comp passages.

For many test takers, there’s no viable path to answering every question on some or even all of the section types. If this is the case, you must make sure that you’re not putting time into questions you won’t get anyway.

With some exceptions, the questions on any particular section of the exam get harder as the section progresses, although the hardest questions are usually not the very last ones. You should therefore have a specific set of questions you plan to skip. For Logical Reasoning, the hardest questions are usually around #20-#24. So, just go ahead and skip those.

In Logic Games, the hard game is usually third or fourth, but which is which? Since it takes less than a minute to read the introduction and rules to a Logic Game, it’s fine to read both. If you can’t determine which is harder, try to create the setup of the one that seems easier. If you get stuck, move on to the other.

For Reading Comprehension, it’s the third or fourth passage, but making the determination is more time intensive. Read the first paragraph of each to see which is more understandable. If one covers subject matter that you find particularly difficult or presents more difficult language, bail on it.

Remember to bubble in answer choices for those that you skip. There’s no guessing penalty.

  1. Use this idiot-proof method for bailing on hard questions.

When I studied for the LSAT, I had this pointless habit of banging my head against questions – sometimes quite literally – that I just wasn’t getting. I just knew that I could get the right answer, and so, while time was blithely ticking away, I was reading and re-reading a question and its answers. When I scored the exam, I’d find that I’d missed the question(s) that I’d dumped so much time into as well as other, easier questions that I had to rush through as a result. “Self,” I’d say, “next time we’re going to just bail on hard questions.” Then I’d promptly make the same mistake on my very next practice exam.

To square this circle, I developed a simple, unambiguous rule. I applied it to questions on all three section types, but here’s how it worked for Logical Reasoning: I’d read the prompt (the question stem to some), then the stimulus, and then I’d do my best to answer the question, crossing off any clearly wrong answers – all par for the course. If I couldn’t determine the right answer, I allowed myself exactly one more pass at the stimulus and answers, and, if I couldn’t come to the right answer, I was required to move on. I’d circle the problem number so that I could come back to it, time permitting.

The first time I used this method, my score jumped seven points. Not only did I have time for the easier questions that I’d been missing, I was actually getting the harder questions that I’d skipped.

On the LSAT, careful reading is of the utmost importance.

It’s very easy to skip over one crucial word like “not” or “only,” and you’ve blown it. When you re-read the same paragraph obsessively, you make the same mistake. However, when you come back to it with a fresh set of eyes, you read it anew, and, just like that, it all makes sense.

Try these methods out, and think critically about how you take the test. If you aren’t wasting time on out-of-reach questions, you may find your score jumps like mine. Good luck!

* It’s not quite as simple as a curve, and the makers of the LSAT call it “normalization.” Take a look at this article for a detailed explanation of the process.

Thank you, Branden, for your excellent tips and advice. If you found this article helpful, I encourage you to check out Blueprint’s LSAT prep resources. You can also contact them at info@blueprintlsat.com or 1-888-4-BP-PREP. Best of luck with your studies!

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Something to Think About After Taking the LSAT

Faith-in-what-will-beAfter taking the LSAT, take some time to let this quote by Sonia Ricotti sink in. It’s a great one. Let’s break it down in post-LSAT terms.

Surrender to what is.

If you did your best on the LSAT and feel good about your performance, congratulate yourself and feel good about what you accomplished. Dedicate the next 48 hours to bask in your achievement and do some nice things for yourself!

If you don’t feel good about your performance on the LSAT, you should still congratulate yourself. Taking the LSAT is a hard thing to do and YOU DID IT. Use the next 48 hours to eat well, get good sleep, and practice self-care.

Let go of what was.

Whether you feel you did well or didn’t do well on the LSAT, let go of it. It’s over. You survived.

After 48-hours of celebration and/or self-care time, it’s time to look forward and move on.

Have faith in what will be.

If you feel good about the test, you can now move ahead with your law school applications and have faith that your score will be representative of your potential.

If you don’t feel good about the test, have faith that in time you can improve your test-taking skills. You may think you don’t have time, but you do. As long as you’re alive, time is the one precious gift that you have.

For those of you debating whether you should cancel your score or take the LSAT again, read this post and this post. Both contain helpful tips from the smart folks at PowerScore.

How do you feel after taking the LSAT? Have some questions? Need to rant or rave? Post your thoughts below and I’ll respond.

Should You Take the October LSAT?

girl-laptop-mcgrathToday’s post comes from the wise Jon Denning, VP of Development at PowerScore. This is one of the most comprehensive articles I’ve read on whether you should take or retake the October LSAT. Spend some time with this one. It’s a longer read than most posts on the Prelaw Guru Blog but absolutely worth it.

The October LSAT is fast approaching, and test takers everywhere are in the final, sometimes frantic, stages of their preparation. For many, next weekend represents the end of the line, as they are finally able to put their hard work into practice, and put the LSAT behind them.

But what of those whose scores are still well below their targets? What’s to become of you if you haven’t yet reached the finish line?

The first thing to understand is that your practice tests don’t lie: assuming they’re real, five-section LSATs taken under timed conditions, your results in practice are almost certainly indicative of what you can expect on test day.

So if you are still consistently short of your goal—four or more points lower than you need—the sad fact is that your actual LSAT is likely to be short as well (and perhaps even more so, as the pressures of test day can compound and magnify difficulties).

If that’s the case, then you have three options: withdraw from the October LSAT and plan to take the next test in December; take the October LSAT and cancel a score you believe will be reflective of prior, disappointing performances; or take the October LSAT and keep your score in the event (or at least hope) that it goes exceptionally well.

We’ve covered withdrawals and cancellations previously and keeping your score is less a decision than an inaction (literally you just wait about three weeks and get your results), so I won’t spend much more time here addressing those paths. If you’re not ready, withdraw. If you’re close but uncertain, take it, and cancel if you feel you did poorly, or keep it if you’re optimistic about success. The choices are never easy, but determining which is most appropriate is straightforward enough that you should know what to do.

Instead, I’m writing this for the person who keeps a score with which they’re either dissatisfied, or possibly just underwhelmed, and is considering a retake. If you find yourself asking, “Should I take the LSAT again, and, if I do, how will law schools interpret my scores?” then what follows should prove helpful.

Let’s address some of the facts about the LSAT and admissions first, and then weigh the considerations that factor into a potential retake.

How many times are you allowed to take the LSAT?

Generally, the LSAC allows you to take the LSAT no more than three times in any two year period (even if your scores are cancelled or otherwise unreported). There are select exceptions to this rule: “You may retake the LSAT if a law school to which you are applying requires a more recent score than any you have on record, or approves your retaking the test, and the school provides LSAC with written proof of its requirement no later than the last day of registration for the test.” So before you can decide whether to attempt the test again, you must first ensure that you’re eligible for that particular administration.

How are multiple LSAT scores reported?

Some extremely good news for test takers here! Prior to 2006, LSAC policy was as follows: “LSAC will automatically report the results of all LSATs in your file, including cancellations and absences, since June 1, 2002 [five years’ worth of data]. The scores are averaged and also appear separately.” Note: LSAC rounds up when calculating the average score.

However in 2006 the ABA (American Bar Association) changed its policies, and began requiring schools to report only the highest LSAT scores of students, regardless of how many times they had taken the test: “…beginning with the October 2006 Annual Questionnaire, which collects LSAT data on the Fall 2006 entering class, the Questionnaire will seek 75th percentile, median, and 25th percentile LSAT data based on the high score rather than the average score for matriculants who took the test more than once.”

What this means is that since schools now report only their students’ highest LSAT scores to the ABA, the vast majority of law schools now consider only an applicant’s highest LSAT score, and no longer take the averaged score into consideration.

Why is this good news? It means that if you retake the LSAT and improve your score, schools will disregard your lower score(s) in favor of your best performance. The “penalty,” so to speak, of multiple attempts has been largely erased.

Now that we’ve addressed test-taking and score-reporting policy, let’s consider some of the questions you should ask before committing to another LSAT.


How Can You Tell if a Retake is Worth It?

First, you need to examine where you stand right now. Ask yourself the following:

  • How accurately does your score reflect your ability?

You probably have a good sense of how well you expected to do on the LSAT based on your practice test scores and your experience as you prepared. If your score is far below your results on practice tests, or if you performed significantly worse in a particular area than is typical, you have a good reason for thinking you could improve your LSAT score on a retest.

On the other hand, if your real score was within a few points of your last several practice tests, and is still reflective of your performance close to the date of the next administration, the chances of it miraculously improving on test day are minimal at best. Simply put: how you perform as you practice is likely to reflect how you’ll perform on the real thing, so if your practice results are unsatisfactory, a retake is almost certainly going to be as well.

  • How did you feel the day of the test?

This is similar to the question above, in that you need to ascertain whether the score you received was representative, or certain factors could have negatively affected your performance that might not be present with a retake.

Were you sick or upset about something? Was there an issue at the test center that caused problems or affected you? How much did test anxiety play a role in your performance?

If a distraction made you feel that you were performing worse than you usually do on a test, it would probably be worth taking the LSAT again when you’re feeling well enough to do your best, and when disruptions are less likely to hurt your final score.

  • How does your score measure up?

Consider the LSAT averages or ranges of students admitted to the schools you’re interested in applying to, and see how your score compares. If you’re already above (or towards the 75th percentile of) the qualifications your schools look for, there’s probably no need to bother with a retest. Similarly, if you’re near or just below the average acceptance score, spending your time and effort improving other parts of your application—personal statement, supplementary essays, letters of recommendation—may prove more valuable than another point or two on the test.

Obviously if you’re well below your schools’ averages, the need to retake the LSAT becomes extremely clear.

If you do decide that a retake would potentially be beneficial, there are still two questions I think need to be asked:

  • How will the next time be different?

Let’s face it: you’re considering a retake because, so far, you haven’t gotten to where you want to be. For that to change on your next attempt, you need to change the way that you approach the exam. Whether that means you invest in a course or private tutor, or simply dedicate more time to your studies and diligently work to analyze and correct your shortcomings, without a different understanding of the LSAT, there’s no reason to expect a different score.

So be honest with yourself about how you intend to prepare for the next attempt, and only commit to it if you know there’s a significant chance that you’ll be a different, better test taker on the coming exam.

  • Are significant score improvements possible, given the right preparation?

I routinely (daily, in fact) hear this sort of question regarding potential score increases. And my response is generally this: the LSAT is not an I.Q. test! That is, it tests only how well you understand the LSAT, not how innately intelligent you are, or your vocabulary, or your knowledge of particular subjects like Science or the Law. Conquering the LSAT is solely dependent on you recognizing the common elements used by the test makers—from reasoning types, to Logic Games setups and scenarios, to answer choice traps—and then having powerful strategies with which to respond to those elements. That’s it.

What that means then is that dramatic score increases are possible, often in a fairly short period of time, provided you receive proper training and you practice with the right approach. We routinely see students achieve 15-20+ point score increases after studying the proven techniques taught in our courses, where the use of real LSAT questions, examined and deconstructed by world-class instructors with 99th percentile scores, allows people of all abilities to break down the LSAT and unlock their true potential.


So should you retake the LSAT?

Retaking the LSAT isn’t a decision to make lightly, as it will require time for continued preparation and further testing, and will undoubtedly cause some extra stress as you work to get the rest of your application in order. But if you know that your current best score isn’t sufficient to get you into the school(s) of your choice, and certainly if you think you can do significantly better, it’s generally worth the time and effort to give the LSAT another shot.

Thank you, John, for your awesome tips and advice. If you found this article helpful, I encourage you to check out PowerScore’s world-renowned LSAT and law school admissions resources. You can also contact them at LSAT@Powerscore.com or 800-545-1750 if you have any questions. Best of luck with your studies!

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