Over the years, I’ve worked with several hundred people preparing for the LSAT. While every student approaches preparation with a different background, different strengths and weaknesses and different goals, there are patterns. For example, most people don’t feel confident about the Analytical Reasoning section of the LSAT. And, many are overconfident about the Reading Comprehension section.
I haven’t kept an official tally, but if I had to choose the most common concern voiced by LSAT students over the past 16 years, it would be timing.
That’s bad news for those preparing for the LSAT on their own, because it points in the wrong direction. If your primary problem is that you can’t finish a section in the 35 minutes allowed, the logical conclusion is that you need to speed up. Unfortunately, for most people, that just means doing the wrong thing faster.
It’s very rare that an LSAT timing problem is truly about timing. Chances are that if you’re not getting through the section in time, it’s becauseyou’re doing something else wrong. Perhaps your approach to the questions (or diagram, or reading the passage) is inefficient, or you don’t have a solid understanding of the argument structure, or you’re getting caught up analyzing answer choices when you should have known what you were looking for going in…or you’re taking a wrong turn somewhere else.
The bottom line is that by speeding up what you’re already doing, you hold on to your missteps, reduce the opportunity to develop greater understanding and limit your chance for improvement. If you need to improve your timing, you must first slow down and give yourself the opportunity to thoroughly understand how to approach the test and then get comfortable implementing those steps. In most cases, the key to that understanding is to slow down, work thoroughly through the process, recognize your sticking points and develop familiarity and comfort with the process.
In the beginning, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get through a question or a diagram–what matters is deconstructing and understanding. Invest that time, practice repeatedly with that understanding, and your timing will improve on its own. More importantly, so will your accuracy.