Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Need Advice II: The LSAT

Good morning readers. I am curious for feedback from anyone who would like to give it on the following:

Yesterday evening, after work, I attended a free introductory LSAT class given by one of the several LSAT prep course companies. For the bulk of the class, we were administered an actual LSAT test, to be used in this instance as a "pre-test" to gauge our starting scores. For the rest of the class, one of the partners of the LSAT prep course firm gave us pointers on how to study for the LSAT, a few "traps" to watch out for, strategies to know, etc.

The test which we were administered was from 1991, and I found it pretty difficult, though my only real barometer for measuring its difficulty was comparing it against practice argument questions I had worked on earlier and a few argument sections from other previous LSATs that I had taken in my own time. I had done no "Puzzle" questions, and I found those especially hard.

So my question is: am I supposed to leave the class feeling defeated and thus wanting to sprint as fast as I can to the nearest LSAT prep class, particularly one administered by the group whose free intro course I attended last night? Is their's a superb strategy for getting people who go to one of their free classes enrolled in their $1,000+ course? Or was it worthwhile to get an idea of how a prep class might help me perform better on the LSAT?

My final question, which is more a thought, is whether test companies and prep courses have wrought a Graduate School/Law School/Medical School-Standardized Test Complex (a similar idea to Dwight D. Eisenhower's description of coporations' use of contracts with the military to yield never-ending profit as a "militay-industrial complex")? Both the testing services that administer the tests and the centers that claim to help students "ace" the tests have what appears to be an increasingly lucrative and reliable source of income, not only from the mere requirement that students take the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, etc, to be eligible to apply for graduate school but because of the fact that these tests are often weighted heavily by graduate school admissions boards.

As undergraduate students, haven't we spent enough time and money on a college education for purposes such as obtaining our Bachelors degree, increasing our job marketability, using it as a stepping-stone to graduate school, and maybe even...for the enrichement gained from higher education (or is that no longer considered important?) ?

I will acknowledge that standardized tests are probably the most uniform measure a school has by which to compare all of its prospective students. However, it may not be much good of a measurement, or at least not one of the better measurements, as studies have shown, of whether a student will do well in their graduate studies, and I don't see why an admissions board can't get a good idea of a student from weighting more heavily a sample of some sort, in writing, for intance (or research sample for someone in science), or another sort of measurement of what a student has done while in college along with a CV, grades, etc, or what an adult has accomplished during their career.

Anyway, that's my diatribe. I'm curious to hear what you all think about this.


william t nelson said...

Back in high school, three or four of us were ridiculously good at standardized tests.

Earlier this summer, I went down to the library to relive the old glory days. I checked out a couple GMAT books and an LSAT book.

The puzzle questions in the LSAT have a similar counterpart in the GMAT. They are difficult, but the LSAT book I found explains how to do them quire clearly. From skimming that chapter I concluded that the puzzle question solving skill could be picked up in a couple of afternoons, and mastered with a bit of practice.

If you get the books and prepare on your own, you will save a lot of money and transportation time. You may also learn a lot faster because you can focus on your own weaknesses.

william t nelson said...

Are they a good idea, I don't know.

At least it benefits people motivated enough to learn the test. Someone serious about law school can get a couple of books at the library and prepare for free, so at least it's accessible to people who have to go through school without parental money.

It's easier for me to prepare for a multiple choice/writing test than to write a world class senior thesis. I should start working on that thesis, for my own betterment.

They do look at the writing sample essay on the LSAT and GMAT, and they probably take it seriously.

They probably don't weigh research heavily because most undergraduate research probably sucks. Great research like Noora's and Becky's [chem] are the exception, and grad schools probably take that more seriously.

Elaine said...

I guess I don't understand the need for this Puzzle section, which one will learn for the LSAT and forget about (if you're me) as soon as it's over. From my internship this summer which is law-related, I've found that good research skills are very helpful, and I suppose one can learn that in college, but if law schools are testing for aptitude or enhanced IQ as I call it, why not look at how hard someone worked in college?

Elaine said...

I meant to say, "I suppose one can learn [good research skills] in law school" rather than college

william t nelson said...

Reasoning with a set of abstract [legal] principles seems analagous to the logic puzzles. Such puzzles would seem like part of a well-rounded test. Of course, real world legal arguments have to deal with 'grey area' problems.

I'm basing this on the reasoning we had to do on the con law tests. However that class admittedly had very little to do with the legal profession.