How to Prepare for the LSAT on a Budget

Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a feature that provides law school admissions advice to readers who send in inquiries. If you have a question about law school admissions, email us for a chance to be featured in a future post.

“I plan to train myself for taking the LSAT. Can you make recommendations about which resources would be most advantageous?” — PVP

The arms race among various LSAT test preparation options can make it seem like every LSAT-taker must pay through the nose for courses and study materials. Certainly, there are programs that applicants have found to be worthwhile investments, particularly for those who need help keeping their study plans on track.

[READ: Set a 4-Month LSAT Study Plan for 3 Types of Test-Takers.]

However, self-motivated test-takers can get along fine with free and low-cost resources, including real practice tests provided by the Law School Admissions Council, or LSAC, which administers the LSAT. Test prep books with good reviews are often affordable alternatives to online courses. Look out for second-hand books that are recent and unmarked.

In 2018, LSAC partnered with the Khan Academy to create a free full LSAT course available online. Other test prep companies provide free resources that many applicants find helpful, like strategy guides, podcasts and online videos. Some online tests are free, but make sure you are studying with real LSAT questions.

Many LSAT apps are free or have free versions. That includes apps that help you practice as well as apps that help keep your practice time focused and productive.

How to Practice Solo

In comparative studies of LSAT prep methods, self-study does not perform as well as other methods such as tutoring and coursework. However, this is because most applicants who study solo use ineffective techniques. If you go it alone, you must go the right way.

[Read: Study Habits That Won’t Help on the LSAT]

Develop a game plan to structure your LSAT practice toward long-run improvement. First, take a practice test to know what you are up against, then study how to approach each question type, using books or online resources. Next, take untimed sections with answers explained to learn techniques, then take timed sections to build speed. Frequent and consistent section practice is the bread and butter of LSAT prep.

Regularly take full practice tests to build stamina and check your current performance level. However, pushing yourself through a parade of practice tests won’t necessarily raise your LSAT score.

Rather, the most effective way to raise your score is through focused, methodical practice. By analyzing results and shoring up weak points, anyone can master the LSAT one step at a time.

[Read: 11 Law Schools Where Students Had the Highest LSAT Scores.]

To make the steady, incremental improvements that raise your level of performance, practice must be challenging. Don’t just practice hard — practice questions that are hard for you! Over time, challenge yourself with harder and harder questions and track what gives you trouble.

Finally, note that many of the challenges that face LSAT-takers are mental, like distraction, motivation and test anxiety. Like an elite athlete, practice mindfulness techniques, visualization exercises and controlled breathing to perform under pressure. Such techniques are not only free, they feel freeing.

More from U.S. News

How Law Schools Look at Applicants With Multiple LSAT Scores

How to Overcome an LSAT Score Plateau

3 Steps to Take if LSAT Accommodations Are Denied

How to Prepare for the LSAT on a Budget originally appeared on usnews.com

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