This week, I interviewed the remarkable 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: That’s great. I’m digging your approach. To keep going on this line, 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 a lot of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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, definitely check out Noah’s services.