The Big Firms
We spoke in detail about our preparation suggestions here. I noted that the large companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review offer a slew of books, courses, and tutorials. Here's our slightly biased, but nonetheless candid assessment of the prep books, courses, Musoka LSAT retreats, etc. Remember, we've have many students go through these courses, and the consensus seems to be:
Save your money.
I never took a course, but I'd say about half of my students have. I always ask if they found it helpful, and I got some truly memorable facial expressions.
Be weary of forking out money to the big-name companies. The consensus over 4 years is that they're hardly EVER worth it
Here's how it goes... a lecturer sits at the front of the room and lectures, feeding you the standard circulum set forth by the company. While these companies hire bright people, who obviously did well on the exam, there's a few glaring problems with this method.
Monotonous Mary works at one of the big prep companies, and scored amazingly well on her LSAT. Does this mean she can the material to others? Of course not! Nevertheless, her high score alone got her a position at one of the major firms as a class instructor. Following her company's lesson plan, she quickly mumbles through the mandated ciriculum..after all, it was pretty easy for her.
She received almost no pedagogical training to assist her in inspiring her students, nor any guidance on how to make her lessons more engaging and effective. And why should her firm invest resources in Mary; they know she'll remain on staff only until her articling on Bay St commences this summer. Frankly speaking, Mary has no real vested interest in her students' learning outcomes; the entire class senses this, and frustration amongst students becomes palpable.
1) It's boring. Frightfully. One student told me he once fell asleep in the Kaplan lecture room. He never went back.
2) It's expensive. Most lawyers make a good living. Getting into law school is tough. Enter capitalism--there's a killing to be made in this market. Not to mention that high-LSAT scorers command high wages. Plus, you paid upfront: they collect whether you learned or not.
3) It's standardized. Everyone learns differently; yet there's no tailoring of concepts to suit individual learning styles. Moreover, the instructor sets the pace. Who wants to be the awkward student who constantly asks for clarification? How demoralizing.
4) It's overcomplicated. Imagine for a second: your car breaks down, and you're late for work. The mechanic doesn't launch into an esoteric discourse about gaskets, exhaust, sparkplugs, and internal combustion. This is my problem with the Powerscore bibles--they often fill up four pages, giving you a rundown of every minute detail on how the question is solved, beyond a reasonable doubt. Forgive the legal jargon. Trust me, you just don't have time. If you hold yourself to the same standard as it takes to convict a criminal (BYD), there's no way you're going to finish the section in time.
5) The cirriculum and methodologies are set by adults, not students. If these people did once take the LSAT, it was eons ago. Though the test itself hasn't much changed, it's challenging to package together a good course without a recent memory of what the test was really like. Don't count on these people to teach you timing tricks and shortcuts.
6) Can you rely on your 99th percentile instructor? He did so well, right? Yes, but you're not him. Some of these high scorers (you'll find them on lawstudents.ca) have incredible, mensa-like analytical abilities, and can arrive at correct answers before you even sharpen your pencil. The problem is, a lot of these super brilliant individuals can't teach. Why? Because they never really had to start at the bottom and learn.
Example: I had a prof at Osgoode who was both a Rhodes and a Fulbright scholar. A true genius. But I didn't understand a word he said. He would jump from case to case so fast that people gave up flipping the casebook pages. I stopped going. The prof simply could not communicate in terms that a novice, first year student could understand.
So that 99th percentile might not help you one bit.
Our tutors are not mensa geniuses. Far from it. We started at the bottom, just like most of you. We wrote the exam multiple times. With practice, we got better and better. Along the way, we made all the same mistakes, and experienced all the same frustrations that you'll face. We needed to reply on tips, tricks, and shortcuts to get good scores...and we'll pass these on to you.