As I often travel on the subway to and from Manhattan to teach my students the ways of the LSAT in a crowded midtown espresso bar, I like to download articles to my phone to read on the way. Typically, the articles I download come from a small handful of “lifehack” blogs - things on business psychology, the quantified self, how to improve your productivity, and so on. It’s a nice way to reorient myself to the day’s work as much as I can before I get coffee at the shop.
A certain popular subset of these blogs focus on compiling and presenting the habits of successful people - articles like “The Work and Sleep Schedules of the Greatest Novelists”, or “This One Google Employee’s Life-Changing Email Philosophy”, or “The Six Habits of Every Productive Person”. The idea is that, if you read and implement the thoughts, tools and habits of these smarter, better, faster people, you too will become better (never mind your background or starting place), and that success often has common roots in certain definite practices.
Of course, if you’ve read any of these articles, only one commonality really stands out - that there is no common route to success, no silver bullet. All of “the greatest” in any given field have different habits and different practices because they lived different lives and had different personal and academic backgrounds. Yes, there are common values that we can all aspire to, but how we learn to live out those values in our day-to-day lives depends on a lot of factors that past a certain point we can no longer control.
The same issue presents itself in LSAT instruction, whether the teacher is a 400-page “study bible” or a 2L looking for beer money. At every level, the teacher must assure their students of the same thing: that their method works, that their method works in all cases, and that it works the best. Thus, the teacher’s reasonable need to reassure the student/client that their money and time are being spent on a worthwhile endeavor combined with the student’s stress over acing the exam mutates into a dogmatic and superstitious approach to learning.
A few examples of this kind of dogmatic thinking in action, from my own test prep journey:
“I don’t know, can you move onto the questions? You’ve only completed part of your Deduction Grid (TM)”, says the teacher from Company X;
“I’ve seen [Company X]’s method do a lot of damage”, gravely intones the teacher from Company Y;
“This is my third time taking a class with [Company Y] - I’m sure it will stick this time”, a fellow student cheerfully self-deludes.
Now, I don’t dispute that most LSAT instruction “works”. The main areas of knowledge that the test actually…um, tests are often so neglected in modern education that even a crash-course style education in them from a weekend course or a short chapter in a guide book can go a long way toward boosting the score of the novice test-taker. On the flip side, other areas of the test’s design are arbitrary enough that understanding the ways in which the testmakers reveal themselves (which many books and tutors emphasize well) can bring those final score gains to a more advanced test-taker.
However, I wholeheartedly dispute that any single LSAT “ideology” necessarily works for every test-taker, or is definitively the “best” for all test-takers. Whether by chance or by the magical prowess of the placement office at my tutoring company, I’ve had the chance to work with many students who have been failed in part or in whole by dogmatic mainstream LSAT instruction. Often, these are incredibly sharp students from nontraditional backgrounds who have trouble adhering to a strict system or schedule of study, or students who have naturally keen logical minds but have trouble approaching a question from the angle that a student who’s been immersed in formal logic would take. In a few cases, I have had students who become so wrapped up in the anxiety of following a rigorous study method (and, of course, the anxiety of #winning on the test) that they question their own highly-functioning logical minds and excellent work, because that work draws upon their external knowledge instead of the dictates of whatever system they’re working on - students who, to borrow an old phrase, “eat the menu instead of the dinner”.
As I have taught these students (and thus invited myself to reflect on how to best teach), I realized the need for a new kind of test-prep writing, one that can be both a complement and alternative to the prescriptive methods now commonly in use. I see this site as a guide for the test-taker through the abstract skills that the test invokes (often, contradictory pairs like detachment and empathy, or understanding of logic and understanding of narrative), moving upward the meta-testual realm (why these skills? why these questions?), and ultimately inward, so that the student can understand how their own knowledge already relates to the test and how the prescriptive knowledge in other books represents deeper insight into the kinds of thinking that law school purports to teach.
A common palliative thought for aspiring lawyers is that the absolute toughest parts of the journey are the LSAT, your 1L exams, and passing the Bar exam. Many books embrace the LSAT’s reputation as this colonoscopy of a legal education - long and unpleasant, but you’ll get through it. My goal is to make it clear that, even when you’re in the shit, something interesting is going on. I hope this site helps.