Preparing for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a challenging endeavor even under the best of circumstances. The LSAT requires intense focus, rigorous study, and full mental engagement to truly master. For working professionals trying to balance 60+ hour work weeks while prepping for this crucial exam, the demands can feel downright impossible.
However, with careful planning, lifestyle adjustments, managed expectations, and laser-like commitment, success on the LSAT is absolutely achievable even for the busiest professionals. This comprehensive guide provides tips, strategies, insights, and best practices for conquering the LSAT while working full time.
Introduction: The LSAT Preparation Challenge
The LSAT is one of the most important determinants for admission into top law schools. It tests skills like analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension which are vital to success in law school and legal careers. A high LSAT score can open doors to elite programs and lucrative job opportunities. Simply put, for aspiring lawyers, the LSAT is a big deal.
According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the organization that administers the LSAT, the average test taker spends around 50-100 hours preparing for the big exam. For college students on summer break or recent grads taking a gap year, carving out 15-20 hours a week over a 3 month prep period is very doable.
However, for working professionals grinding out long hours, squeezing in sufficient quality LSAT study time can be tremendously difficult. Juggling 60+ hour work weeks while trying to absorb the intricacies of LSAT logic games and logical reasoning concepts is extremely taxing. Without a smart prep plan, burnout is inevitable.
This guide will provide actionable tips and expert insights to help you balance work demands and optimally prepare for LSAT success.
Here are some of the key topics covered:
- Giving yourself enough time to prep thoroughly
- Strategically scheduling study hours
- Optimizing your lifestyle for peak mental performance
- Adjusting expectations and avoiding burnout
- Taking time off work before test day
- Staying motivated and committed during prep
- Making smart compromises and tradeoffs
Follow this guide, and you’ll be fully equipped to take on the LSAT while crushing it at your day job. Now let’s dive in!
Step 1: Give Yourself More Time to Prepare
The first and perhaps most crucial step is simply giving yourself ample time to absorb and internalize all the material and skills needed to excel on exam day.
Most LSAT prep books and courses recommend setting aside at least 3 months for consistent, diligent, daily studying. The LSAT Trainer, one of the most popular prep guides, outlines a 12 week study plan. Three months is also the timeframe recommended by the leading LSAT prep company, PowerScore.
This 3 month recommendation makes sense under ideal conditions where an aspiring lawyer has no other major obligations or time commitments. However, for working professionals who sit at a desk 50+ hours a week, 3 months is likely not sufficient.
Consider a 5-6 Month Prep Timeline
For students working full-time jobs, extending the prep period to 5-6 months is strongly advised. This allows you to thoroughly learn and reinforce all the LSAT concepts and strategies without becoming overwhelmed.
With at least 150 hours of prep time spread out over 5-6 months, you can aim for 1-2 hours of intentional, focused LSAT studying per day. This fits naturally into a typical weekday morning or evening routine. You’ll also have more flexibility to adjust your study schedule around work demands and skip prep some days when you need a mental break.
Don’t let a 3 month timeline tempt you into a more stressful cram plan. While a handful of exceptional students can train intensively for 12 weeks and see great score improvements, most working professionals will burn out quickly at that pace. Think marathon, not sprint.
Absorb Concepts Over Time
Crucially, more time allows the LSAT patterns and thought processes to truly sink in. The LSAT cannot simply be memorized or pattern-matched. You must develop keen logical reasoning abilities, a razor sharp eye for detail, and an instinct for breaking down convoluted arguments. These skills take time and repetition to properly absorb.
Cramming is singularly ineffective for the LSAT. You cannot quickly digest the LSAT Trainer in a weekend and expect high scores on Monday morning. Learning to spot logical gaps, make inferences, unravel dense text, and efficiently diagram games requires learning an entirely new way of thinking. This mental shift happens gradually by wrestling with the concepts day after day over an extended timeframe.
Working professionals who stretch their prep out over 5-6 months will feel far more mentally comfortable digesting the LSAT principles compared to those cramming for 12 weeks. Use the extra time to your advantage.
Step 2: Strategically Schedule Study Hours
To balance a demanding job and consistent LSAT prep, you must be strategic about extracting the most value from every available minute. Carefully scheduling study hours is crucial.
Morning Study Time
Ideally, try to fit in LSAT prep before heading to the office each morning. Research suggests most people’s minds are freshest in the morning. After a long day of meetings and mentally draining work, studying logical reasoning concepts will be far more difficult.
Obviously, not everyone is a morning person. But if you can swing it, use those morning hours for absorbing new material or doing practice questions when your mind is most alert.
If mornings won’t work, pick another consistent time of day when you tend to be most focused like over a lunch break or in the evening. The key is establishing a routine that you can stick to day after day. Don’t just randomly squeeze in LSAT prep whenever you find a free hour.
Treat the LSAT Like a Job
Approach LSAT prep with the same focus and consistency as your day job. Actually block off dedicated hours in your work calendar for “LSAT Study Time.” Guard these blocks fiercely. Don’t let other obligations encroach on this precious prep time.
Think of the LSAT as a demanding short-term second job that requires real time investment to master. You wouldn’t blow off hours at your law firm to go meet friends for a long lunch. Give your LSAT prep the same level of focus.
Rest Your Mind Strategically
Although consistency is crucial, you must also strategically rest your mind to avoid burnout.
Plan to take 1-2 days completely off from studying each week. Give your brain a chance to recharge. However, avoid taking both weekend days off. The mornings of weekends may be the only extended prep time available to you.
Find a rhythm that works week after week. For example, perhaps you study Tuesday through Saturday mornings, then take Sunday and Monday completely off. Tailor it to your own needs and preferences.
The key is sticking to a steady routine while also carving out structured mental breaks. Don’t just randomly prep whenever the mood strikes. That leads to frustration.
Step 3: Optimize Your Lifestyle
In addition to strategic scheduling, some simple lifestyle changes can significantly impact your cognitive performance. Small daily tweaks to your habits, diet, and general wellbeing will compound into more productive study sessions.
Exercise and Sleep
Make sure you are exercising several times per week, even just going for walks. Regular exercise provides a cognitive boost. Try to exercise in the mornings on days when you plan to study later that same day.
Prioritize getting sufficient high quality sleep every night. Most adults need 7-8 hours per night. Sleep deprivation tanks mental performance. To absorb the intricacies of the LSAT, your brain needs proper rest.
Avoid Burning the Candle at Both Ends
Be honest with yourself. Do you tend to burn the candle at both ends partying on weekends? That lifestyle won’t cut it while prepping for the LSAT. Avoid drinking heavily in the evenings if you plan to study the next morning.
For a few months, it’s fine to lead a more boring lifestyle focused solely on work, the LSAT, eating well, and getting enough rest. There will be plenty of time for fun later.
How much time do you spend mindlessly scrolling social media, watching TV, gaming, or doomscrolling the news? Be honest. We all waste more time than we realize.
For a few months, try to minimize distractions and optional time drains. Guard your study time fiercely
Step 4: Adjust Expectations and Avoid Burnout
Preparing for the LSAT while working 50-60+ hours each week is a tremendous challenge. Expectations must be carefully managed to avoid frustration and burnout.
Accept Slower Progress
Understand that your progress mastering LSAT concepts may be slower than someone prepping full-time. That’s ok.
With limited hours, you may only cover 1-2 chapters of an LSAT prep book per week rather than 5. Or maybe you can only take 1-2 practice tests per month rather than 5. Focus on quality over quantity. The limited hours you spend prepping should be laser focused.
Consider Postponing Your Test Date
If you are struggling to finish your study plan on schedule, seriously consider pushing back your LSAT test date by 1-2 months. Give yourself more runway.
Too many working professionals burn themselves out trying to cram everything at once into a short timeframe. They end up overwhelmed, exhausted, and scoring way below their potential on test day.
Don’t be afraid to hit pause, catch your breath, and regroup. Starting over again in a few months is better than botching your one shot due to burnout.
Treat LSAT Prep as Mandatory
Once you commit to an LSAT prep plan, treat it as mandatorily as your paying job. Never blow off studying to relax or have fun.
You wouldn’t skip work obligations to binge watch TV. Give your LSAT prep the same ironclad commitment. Blowing off studying here and there is an easy way to sabotage your scores while wasting months of prep time.
Progress will be slow. Some days you’ll be tired. But sustained effort over months is the only way to see major LSAT score improvements. Keep showing up.
Step 5: Take Time Off Before Test Day
In the final weeks before your official LSAT, try to take vacation days from work and minimize other commitments. This “home stretch” of test prep is critically important.
Prioritize Study Time
During those last 2-3 weeks before the big day, you want your mind and body fully rested and focused solely on prep. Don’t drain your mental reserves at work immediately before taking the LSAT.
Try to take a few vacation days or schedule lighter days at the office leading up to test day. Protect that precious study time while your mind is fresh.
In the 1-2 weeks before the LSAT, avoid scheduling social engagements, appointments, or other obligations. You want to “clear the decks” mentally and logistically.
The week before test day, your focus should narrow almost exclusively to practicing LSAT sections under test-like conditions. Don’t jeopardize your prep by scheduling activities certain to drain you mentally and physically right before the exam.
Get Proper Rest
Make sure you are logging 7-8 hours of sleep each night in the last week leading up to the LSAT. Cramming late into the evenings is actually counterproductive.
Without proper rest, your brain will not be firing on all cylinders on test day. Prioritize sleep during those last critical prep weeks.
Step 6: Stay Motivated and Committed
Preparing for months while working long hours requires sustained effort. Motivation and commitment can lag from time to time over such a prolonged timeline. Here are some tips for pushing through.
Set a Study Routine and Stick to It
Establish a consistent study routine that recurs week after week like clockwork. Routines breed commitment. Opening your LSAT prep book becomes a normal habit rather than a looming chore.
When motivation flags, fall back on your routine. Don’t wait until you “feel” like studying. Follow the schedule almost robotically. Progress depends on it.
Join an Accountability Group
Find others prepping for the LSAT who can relate to the challenge of balancing work and study. Share your prep schedules and study goals. Check in regularly on progress and problems.
Having a group supporting you and expecting regular reports will provide extra accountability to stay consistent when motivation dips occasionally. You’ve got this!
Celebrate Small Wins
Don’t only focus on your target LSAT score. Notice and celebrate smaller wins like completing a chapter, acing a practice section, or sticking to your routine for a full week.
Highlighting incremental progress makes the overall journey less intimidating. Look back at how far you’ve already come! The milestones will accumulate.
Visualize Future Success
When current LSAT prep feels tedious, visualize yourself conquering the exam and getting accepted to your dream law school. Play out the entire journey in your mind. Make it vivid!
This mental exercise activates your prefrontal cortex, sharpening focus and determination. The more tangible the vision, the greater the motivation.
Step 7: Make Smart Tradeoffs
Balancing LSAT prep and a full-time job requires compromises. Carefully choose which tradeoffs make the most sense for your goals and priorities.
Schedule Fewer Extracurriculars
For a few months, consider dropping extra clubs, sports teams, or volunteering obligations from your schedule. You can always add activities back in later.
Protect that LSAT study time. Each commitment you eliminate means more hours to prep. Fun diversions can wait.
Take a Lighter Course Load
If you are in school, consider taking fewer classes during your LSAT prep semester. Or avoid scheduling classes on days you plan to study for the LSAT.
Managing both a full class load and intense studying will be tremendously draining. Ease up on the classes and focus on acing the LSAT.
Let Go of a Side Gig
If you work a side job or freelance on top of your full-time job, assess whether dropping the extra work temporarily makes sense.
Those extra hours each week could be invested in LSAT prep, which will pay exponentially higher dividends when you get accepted to a top law school.
Limit Social Outings
For a few months, reduce recreational activities that drain your mental energy like big social outings with friends, parties, concerts, clubs etc. They’ll still be there later.
Limit socializing to occasional relaxed dinners or movie nights that won’t sap your focus. You can party again later after acing the LSAT!
Preparing for the LSAT while working full time requires immense commitment, strategic time management, discipline, some sacrifice, and realistic expectations. It is certainly a marathon challenge.
However, with the tips and insights in this guide, you can successfully balance your job andLSAT prep. Thoroughly absorb the concepts over an extended timeline, stick to a routine, optimize your lifestyle, adjust expectations along the way, and keep your eyes on the prize in the home stretch.
You’ve got this! With focus and sustained effort, you will master the LSAT and take a huge step toward your career as a successful lawyer. Now get out there and start prepping!