You’ve probably been joining study groups of one sort or another for years. But let’s cut to the chase — should you join a study group for the LSAT? It’s not a small decision — the LSAT is important, and if you waste your time in an group that’s not effective you’ll miss the opportunity for effective self-study.
The truth — there are some people that will greatly benefit from studying the LSAT in a group, and there are some that will waste their time. If you can be in the first group, you should absolutely join a study group — but plenty of folks fall into the second group and would be better on their own. Here are some things to consider.
A LSAT study group moves at the pace of the slowest participant.
No, I don’t mean “slow” like not smart. But when you’ve worked in groups before you know that some folks want to spend a ton of time on topics before moving on. You’ll also run into the challenge that nearly everyone will have a couple topics they get stuck on — so you’ll be faced with spending an hour going over a topic like basic conditionality even if you’ve mastered it.
This is one of those places where being the smartest kid in class is a big disadvantage.
You need to find a group of your LSAT score peers.
The initial scores of LSAT students varies tremendously. Even within a single college, there’s huge variance. This is why I’d suggest each potential member of a group take a practice test before committing. You want to see that the scores of each member roughly fall in a 10-point spread. It’s tough to tell Paul he can’t come because his diagnostic was a 125, but the alternative is that the entire group slows down and never spends time on the more challenging topics.
This is ultimately the biggest disadvantage of a study group. You either have to make hard choices about who can participate or half the group will get nothing out of it. This is important — your time studying for the LSAT is too valuable to waste if you’re helping other members of the group more than you’re being helped. If it’s clear that you’re the highest-scoring student in the group, you’re often better on your own (or finding a different group).
A group can keep you on schedule — if you have a schedule.
The best kind of study group is one that sets a specific course of action at the first meeting and follows that course through to test day. That means that you’ll agree to do specific homework between sessions and review that homework along with specific topics at each class. (Yyou’re working just like a prep course).
The absolute worst kind of group is the one where folks just arrive and discuss whatever is on their mind. Don’t fall into this trap. Make sure your group has as schedule and sticks to it. That means that if Dan misses week 2 of the group, week 3 is moving on to the next topic anyway. If you’re in a group that can’t or won’t stick to a schedule, don’t participate.
Don’t fall into scheduling hell.
The LSAT is important enough that serious students set aside specific time to study. Set a weekly time and place for your group, and set the expectation upfront that you’re meeting then and there no matter what. If a couple folks have to miss that time, that’s ok. If someone has to be 30 minutes late, no problem — they just come late. You want to avoid situations where the last 20 minutes of every session is people fiddling with their phones looking for times (and then inevitably trying to move those times when something comes up).
Expect huge attrition.
Particularly if you’re studying with folks you met online as opposed to acquaintances from school, lots of people will leave. Understand that upfront so others don’t get discouraged. Frankly, a smaller group tends to be better than a big one, so begin with the expectation that you’ll probably end up with 2-3 people even if you start with 10.
Pick one set of books.
At or before the first meeting, agree on a common set of groups that everyone will go buy. Don’t compromise here — it doens’t matter that Ashley got a set of used books from her cousin. You also shouldn’t plan to share books — everyone needs to make their own notes and diagrams. I’ve seen too many students spend hours trying to share a $20 book instead of focusing on a $100,000 scholarship.
A study group is not an excuse for delay.
In an online forum I read, I’ve seen the same person looking for a LSAT study group for literally years. Creating a group can be an excuse for delay. “Well, first I’ll put together my study group, then I’ll start studying.” That’s backwards. Get your plan together and get started. If you can put together a good study group, great. But DON’T WAIT. And, if you’re in a group and the group takes a hiatus, you keep studying. Ultimately any reason for not studying that starts with “My study group…” is just an excuse.
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