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This page describes mistakes that students often make when studying for the LSAT.

Most of these pitfalls are caused by treating the LSAT like a knowledge test. This is an understandable mistake because most other tests, including the SAT, ACT, college exams, law school exams, and the Bar, all test your knowledge. In contrast, the LSAT is a test of skill. Studying for the LSAT is more like learning an instrument or playing a sport.

Summary of Common Pitfalls

Pitfall What It Looks Like What To Do Instead
#1: Grinding You do as many questions as you can, hoping to magically absorb how the test works. Do every question intentionally. Use each question to practice a specific skill.
#2: Lazy Takeaways When you make mistakes, you make takeaways that are too specific or too general to be useful. Make takeaways with clear triggers and actions: "Next time I see X, I will do Y."
#3a: No System You rely only on your intuitions, you have to reinvent the wheel on every question. Memorize common patterns.
#3b: Complex System You spend all your time learning about the test, this knowledge weighs you down when you attempt real test questions When you learn something that seems useful, try to apply it on a real question.
#4: Fearing the Timer You always practice at full speed. Or you never time yourself. Treat the timer like a teacher instead of a judge.
#5: Deferring to Experts You think you need an expensive course or that the biggest books are the best. Trust yourself. Learn from your own struggle.
#6: Expecting Linear Growth You obsess over your score, which you can't control. Attend to your process, which you can control.
#7: Cramming You do marathon study sessions. You study until the last minute. Rest.

Pitfall #1: Grinding

On knowledge tests, grinding works. You study for a knowledge test by reading and doing practice questions. The more you do, the more you learn.

On skill tests, however, quality is far more important than quantity.

Now, at first, just doing practice questions will make your LSAT score go up. And maybe, if you're already pretty good at the underlying skills the LSAT is testing, then doing practice tests is all you'll need to do. But if you're struggling with the test, or you want to achieve a top 1% score, then you need to do more.

To master the skills required for LSAT excellence, you must do focused and intentional practice. This kind of practice will take far more energy per question, and so you'll likely need to do fewer questions.

Intentional practice is an iterative loop:

  1. Pick a skill you want to work on.
  2. Try that skill on one question.
  3. Reflect on how it went.
  4. Revise your intention.
  5. Try another question.

Pitfall #2: Lazy Takeaways

On knowledge tests, when you get a question wrong, the correct answer teaches you what you should have known.

Example of an easy knowledge-based takeaway

On a history test you can say to yourself:

"Oh, the U.S. Constitution was written in 1789 not 1776, duh!"

Getting a question wrong on a knowledge test is slightly painful, but that pain is offset by an immediate reward.

On the LSAT, the right and wrong answers also contain important lessons, but those lessons are much harder to discover.

As a result, mistakes on the LSAT do not offer an immediate reward. At first, mistakes are just painful. Lazy takeaways are a very natural attempt to avoid that immediate pain. But lazy takeaways don't help you get the next question right.

the laziest takeaway

"Read more carefully."

This is lazy because doesn't tell you how to change your behavior. Unless you were intending to read recklessly the first time?

And it's harmful, because the judgment contained with in will actually distract you when you read the next question.

There are two ways to make lazy takeaways:

  1. Too specific
  2. Too general

more example takeaways

On questions that deal with electromagnetism, make sure to not confuse alternating and direct current.

Too specific takeaways are unhelpful because, the content of the LSAT doesn't repeat. This distinction will not matter on the actual test you take.

This too specific takeaways is lazy because it allows you to avoid the work of figuring out why the distinction mattered.

Watch out for science questions.

This too general takeaway will only make you scared of future science questions, which is not only unhelpful but actually harmful.

Too general takeaways are often unkind. If you wouldn't tell it to a friend, then it's probably a lazy takeaway.

When a noun is given with different adjectives in front, decide whether they are two different ideas or just one idea.

For example, "alternating" and "direct" current are different ideas. In contrast, "high-speed" and "broadband" internet are roughly the same idea.

This helpful takeaway tells you exactly how to behave and when to behave that way.

A helpful takeaway changes your behavior on similar questions in the future.

Useful takeaways come from deep reflection about the underlying patterns of the test. As you gain more experience, it will be easier to spot those patterns. As you practice, revise and refine your takeaways to make them even more helpful.

Pitfall #3: Bad System

Knowledge tests cover a limited set of material, which you can entirely memorize. In contrast, the LSAT cannot be memorized in advance.


You can learn how to draw common games, but you can't know which game types will show up on your actual test.

You can learn the flaws, but you also need to be able to spot those flaws in unfamiliar contexts.

Some studiers react to this difficulty by abandoning any hope of developing a system. Let's call them Cowboys because they rely on guts and intuition. Cowboys inefficiently reinvent the wheel every time. Cowboys have no system.

Other studiers react by doubling-down. Let's call them knights. Knights have an overly complex system.

Knights hope to protect themselves from the whims of the LSAT by accumulating more and more knowledge about the test. They study endlessly, reading all the books, but never testing whether that knowledge actually helps them on a real question. As this knowledge accumulates, it weighs the Knight down like a heavy suit of armor.

Strong test takers find a balance between these two extremes to make a useful system.

A useful system channels your good intuitions and corrects your bad intuitions.

Here are five suggestions to find the balance:

  • Memorize knowledge, but practice skills. For example, memorize the common fact words. And then practice spotting them in the wild.
  • Make a flashcard for everything that feels obvious so that it stays obvious.
  • Follow a checklist to practice skills consistently and build strong habits for test day.
  • Keep it simple. If you can't simplify what you learned, then perhaps you haven't fully understood it. It's also easier to memorize simpler ideas.
  • Test your knowledge and skills against the test. Revise or discard anything that does not help you.

Pitfall #4: Fearing the Timer

Timing is one of the most challenging aspects of the LSAT. Students who become fixated on the timer tend to make one of two extreme mistakes:

  1. You always practice at full speed.
  2. You never time yourself.

When you only practice at full speed, you let the test control you. Sometimes you need to slow down in order to learn new things. Sometimes, you need to slow down for hard questions.

When you never practice at speed, you can avoid failure, but you also avoid testing your approach.

Instead of treating the timer as a judge, try to treat it as a teacher. Use the timer to gather information about yourself:

  • Use the objectivity of a count-up timer to see where you spend time.
  • Use the pressure of a count-down timer to reveal what part of your process isn't yet smooth and automatic.

Pitfall #5: Deferring to Experts

The LSAT can be intimidating. This fear leads students to seek out the most comprehensive guides and highest-scoring tutors.

But those guides don't have access to secret knowledge. They learned how the LSAT works mostly by taking the test. Their techniques and suggestions are based on their own struggles.

When you defer to experts, you substitute their knowledge for your learning. The best way to learn is to struggle and fail. This struggle engages you actively, leading to deeper learning.

And you deny yourself the opportunity to learn what you need to learn. Only the failures of your practice can reveal what you need to look out for.

When you immediately look up the explanation, mostly what you learn is how to look up explanations. When you force yourself to struggle with difficult problems, you learn how to overcome difficulty.

Worst of all, when you practice deferring to experts, you're learning to not trust yourself.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't seek out help. But asking for help should come after you've made some attempt to figure it out for yourself.

Pitfall #6: Expecting Linear Growth

A knowledge test provides linear rewards: the more you study, the more you know. The more you know, the better you do.

This means that on knowledge tests your results accurately measure your competence.

In contrast, learning a skill tends to be non-linear. More effort will not always lead to better performance. ou may leap forward, slip backwards, or stagnate on a plateau. You will not hit your personal record on every attempt.

This means that on the LSAT your results are not an accurate measure of your competence or growth.

Since results are an unreliable measure of growth, attending too much to your results is a recipe for frustration. When you pay too much attention to your score, your failures and successes will feel out of your control.

The remedy, paradoxically, is to attend less to your score and more to your process. This helps because you can't control the results, but you can control how you behave.

Pitfall #7: Cramming.

You drive yourself crazy studying every night and all weekend. You learn to hate the test. Then you begin to avoid the test because studying is miserable. As test day approaches, you panic and try to cram last minute.

Since knowledge tests reward regurgitation, there's a lot of benefit to cramming the night before. Moving more facts to the top of your mind can easily outweigh the lost sleep.

The opposite is true of skill tests. You cannot cram a skill. It would be better, on the LSAT, to be completely unprepared and well rested.

Rest is crucial to success on the LSAT, and not just the night before.


Weightlifters and poets don't work more than 4.5 hours a day and neither should you.

Growth and insight largely happen while you aren't actively doing the thing.


Consider taking 2 non-consecutive days off from studying each week, one on a workday, one on a weekend.


Not all rest is restful.

I find that screen time, like scrolling and binging, is not restful.

For me, true rest means moving my body, taking naps, or eating good food.