One of the traps that students can fall into in preparing for the LSAT is making assumptions about the test because it is a standardized exam. Although the LSAT is standardized, it tests different skills and concepts than other exams students may be familiar with, and so requires different skill sets and approaches. One of the most common methods of preparing for the LSAT is to use a tutor. However, while there is a surfeit of LSAT tutors available, not all of them are going to be effective; the LSAT is a difficult test, with many nuances and non-intuitive concepts, and an effective tutor must be well-versed in these aspects.
When students are shopping for LSAT tutors, there are certain key signs that should be kept in mind. It is virtually impossible to describe a set of conditions that will describe a perfect LSAT tutor for all students, but meeting the following conditions will greatly improve the odds of effectiveness:
Experience – No certifying body exists for LSAT tutors, but as with any subject, experience counts. In general, a LSAT tutor should have at least two years’ experience in teaching LSAT preparation, including conceptual material, study strategies and testing practices designed to maximize scores. Teaching to the test is vital when preparing for the LSAT, as it is specifically designed to measure relevant skills, not simply measure a pre-existing knowledge base.
Test scores – An effective LSAT tutor should not only be experienced in teaching LSAT preparation, but in taking the LSAT as well. While it is not necessary to have a superlative score in order to teach effectively, a high LSAT score (90th percentile and above, usually translated as 164 or higher) indicates that the tutor understands the conceptual patterns of the exam and the skill sets tested. Most private tutors will readily provide their own LSAT scores as further evidence of their ability and familiarity with the exam.
Focus – The LSAT is a demanding test, and requires a higher intellectual skill level than the average standardized exam. Tutors who focus exclusively on teaching LSAT prep tend to have a greater familiarity with the material and its complexities than tutors who teach LSAT prep as one option among several being offered. If possible, students should seek out tutors who only teach LSAT prep, which affords the instructors greater opportunity to delve into the material and gain greater understanding.