The Best LSAT Prep Course
The Best LSAT Prep Course
For over 70 years, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) has been a right of passage for law school applicants. Recently, some schools, such as Harvard, have started accepting Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for admission. But the LSAT is still the most widely accepted standard for measuring whether a student is ready for law school, and a high score can substantially increase your chances of being accepted.
The LSAT is so foreign and unique compared to most tests students take — it’s an entirely skill-based test and doesn’t test knowledge. It tests critical reasoning and analytical ability.
For the LSAT, traditional study methods, such as learning subject material and memorizing information, will not do. Instead, students need to learn how to take the exam. LSAT prep courses are a convenient option for those who want additional guidance when learning the ins-and-outs of taking the exam. Whether the course is self-paced or led by an instructor, students can expect structured study materials that make it easier to address any weaknesses and maximize prep time.
Manhattan Prep impressed us by taking top spot for both live online ($1,200) and self-paced ($600) prep courses. Live online students can expect knowledgeable instructors and clear feedback for questions they have during lessons. The company doesn’t offer a video feed of its instructors during lessons (a personal touch we missed), but it does offers access to a strong library of online resources that provided some of the best explanations for course material and tips for taking the LSAT effectively. This same library makes up the core content of the self-paced course, and the interactive material helped us not only pay attention as we studied, but easily understand why we answered some questions incorrectly — a must-have for painless self-studying.
If you like the experience of studying in an actual classroom with a physically present teacher, Kaplan Test Prep is our pick. With classes in 46 states it is the only provider that offers courses in at least three quarters of the nation (its closest competitor only offers courses in 31 states). In addition to its wide availability, Kaplan also has one of the largest libraries of resources for LSAT prep on the market. Like our other top pick, students will have access to official practice exams, hours of online videos and lessons, as well as an expert instructor who will guide you through the vast material. The $1,400 price tag is fairly standard for the industry, and gets you a balance of engaging resources and personalized feedback.
Although its in-person prep course is only available in 31 states, TestMasters is worth a look if you have access. It lost out as a top pick because it isn’t as widely available as Kaplan, but the company boasts 24/7 academic assistance and is widely celebrated for its ability to simplify the strategies needed for taking the LSAT. You’ll pay slightly more for the course ($1,550), but it’s a worthy alternative to the Kaplan course. We’ll keep our eye on the company as it grows, but for now Kaplan is still the best choice for most people.
How We Found the Best LSAT Prep Courses
We required at least six official, full-length practice exams.
When it comes to study methods for the LSAT, practice reigns supreme. It makes sense — in a study comparing learning methods, researchers found that taking practice exams is one of the best ways to prepare for a test. In simple terms, practice exams help students retrieve or remember the skills they need to take the test effectively. When the brain recognizes a particular question type or format, it is faster at processing the best strategy for answering it. LSAT practice exams also help you build stamina for the 4.5 hour mental marathon on the day of the actual test.
The LSAT course you choose should give you regular tests to build that mental stamina and provide tons of practice.
The LSAT is broken into five 35-minute sections. The sections include one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section (also known by its popular name “logic games”), and two logical reasoning sections.
The reading comprehension section tests your ability to analyze complex passages and respond to related questions. Most students will be fairly similar with the question formats, as many standardized tests include reading comprehension sections.
The analytical reasoning or logic games section, tests your ability to use deductive reasoning. There are three main types of logic games including ordering, grouping, and assignment. Each type will have variations with different scenarios and constraints. This section is widely regarded as one of the most difficult, and many prep courses spend time teaching strategies for this section in particular.
The logical reasoning section tests your ability to analyze arguments. Common questions include identifying flaws in logic, making inferences, and identifying points of disagreement.
There will also be a fifth, or variable, section — either reading comprehension, analytical reasoning or logical reasoning. In addition, the variable section will not be scored. A word of caution though: you will not be able to tell which section is the variable one, meaning you have to give your all on every section of the exam.
Aside from the three core section types, there is also a writing section. The writing section of the LSAT is not scored, but it is sent to law schools who use it to measure whether you’re ready for the heavy writing requirements of the program. To learn more, we suggest visiting the LSAC website.
That said, not all practice exams are made equal. While some companies produce their own practice exams, the official exams from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the actual administrators of the LSAT, are widely regarded as the best study material. The reason? These official exams are actual LSATs from the past and will give the most accurate picture of what to expect on test day. According to Matt Shinners, instructor for Manhattan Prep with a perfect LSAT score of 180, “The LSAC takes a long time to write those questions. You want to practice with them.”
The best LSAT course should have multiple LSAC-licensed practice exams. Since the LSAT is a skills-based exam that requires a lot of practice we also increased our cutoff to ensure the practice exams would stay fresh (that is, you don’t accidentally memorize them). So we cut any LSAT prep courses that did not offer at least six official practice exams (the most recommended preparation period is three months, so two exams per month).
Magoosh – Self-Paced (0 full-length tests – only explanations to tests and LSAC questions)
We evaluated courses according to delivery method: in-person, live online, or self-paced.
There are three different delivery methods when it comes to LSAT prep courses: in-person, live online, and self-paced. Each method has different advantages, and choosing one is about finding the best match for your learning needs.
If you prefer the physical interaction of a traditional classroom, in-person will be the way to go. If you need a bit more flexibility, live online’s mix of self-paced studying and streamed lessons will be the better choice. Self-paced gives the most flexibility, but you won’t have an instructor and will need to prepare with the provided materials on your own. Whichever you choose, it’s important to recognize that all will require a sizable chunk of your time (at least 20 hours per week).
Most of our contenders offer more than one delivery method. But a great in-person option does not automatically mean a provider will be the best option for self-paced or live online students. To find the best, we developed a few specific criteria for each of the three delivery methods:
We looked for courses that employed instructors with high LSAT scores and teaching experience. In addition, we prioritized courses that allowed you to contact your instructor outside of class in case you need more help while studying at home. After all, preparing for the LSAT shouldn’t be limited to the classroom. But the greatest strength of an in-person prep course is the ability to physically meet with your instructor and other students. That said, the need to physically meet is also the greatest weakness of an in-person prep course — they aren’t always offered in every state.
Manhattan Review advertises its course as one of the most advanced LSAT classes available, but this availability only includes 29 states. The Blueprint in-person course is offered in an even less impressive nine states. Rather than leave out large sections of people, we gave preference to providers with widespread availability, like Kaplan, which has courses in 46 states. To ensure that most people would be able to access our recommendation, we cut any providers that did not offer courses in at least 40 states (i.e. 80% of the nation).
Blueprint (9 states), Manhattan Prep (8 states), Manhattan Review (29 states), PowerScore (26 states), Testmasters (31 states)
In addition to the providers on our list, there might be great local or state-based prep courses in your area. Like their national counterparts, these courses can offer quality resources and personalized attention from instructors. Our focus was finding the best in-person prep course for most people, so we didn’t include local options on our list. But it never hurts to see what courses are available in your area by using a simple Google search and your zip code.
The best live online course will have engaging instructors and lessons to keep you focused. At the same time, the lessons should offer access to real-time feedback, so you can go into your exam feeling confident that you’ve addressed any knowledge gaps. Evaluating an instructor will always be a little subjective, but our testers found certain teaching methods more engaging than others.
For example, Powerscore has real-time lessons online, but there is no live video stream of your instructor, just audio. Competitors, like Kaplan, let you see your instructor as they walk you through material and test taking strategies. Seeing an instructor making gestures rather than a volume bar made our experience feel more personal and helped us pay attention during testing. Audio only isn’t a dealbreaker, but we paid close attention to any differences in the learning experience, and gave points to those courses that were more than just a disconnected voice.
In a self-paced course you won’t have an instructor to help pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses — it will be just you and the material. However, the best self-paced prep course will offer customizable study tools and material that adapts to your learning.
Manhattan Prep offers a series of adaptive videos they call LSAT Interact — the videos pause and allow you to provide answers. After you answer, the videos continue with material that changes depending on whether you answered correctly or not. Others, like the Princeton Review, have thorough videos, but because they don’t offer interaction it’s more difficult to identify where you need to improve.
Customizable and adaptive prep courses automatically design, or allow you to build, a course suited to your particular learning needs. Rather than waste time watching a series of videos about a logic game or reasoning question you don’t need help with, an adaptive course will help you place more attention on your current weaknesses for a better score. For that reason, we cut providers that did not offer adaptive programs.
7Sage,AlphaScore, PowerScore, Princeton Review, TestMasters (live online), Velocity Test Prep
Many prep course providers also advertise one-one-one tutoring options. Most tutoring programs receive favorable reviews, but since we can’t vouch for the tutor or the material you’ll get (the lessons are very personalized), we left the programs off our list. They are worth a look, but with prices starting at around $2,500, are the most expensive option available.
The most important features are easy-to-follow explanations, quality resources, and feedback that leads to confidence in studying.
Most prep courses advertise a series of features to impress potential customers. For example, Magoosh promises over 150 hours of videos, over 1,800 pages of study material, and a score improvement guarantee. These features sound impressive, and our experts agree that having access to a wide range of material (especially practice tests) is essential. But our experts also told us excessive features aren’t really necessary or helpful.
As far as what students can do to get the most out of a course, they need to realize it’s not about sitting down and doing 8,000 LSAT questions. That leads to burn out and doesn’t maximize score improvement. Students who do a quarter of those questions and spend most of their time reviewing and figuring out how to get that type of question right next time will see the biggest score increases.
Every prep course on our list is guilty of making lofty marketing claims. The truth is, most of the courses don’t really have many concrete advantages over others. Rather than focus on overhyped marketing numbers, we explored free trials, customer responses on law forums, and watched countless sample videos in order to find any differences (no matter how subtle) that might give one course the edge. After hours of comparison, finding the best live online and self-paced course boiled down to three key features: adaptive and easy-to-follow explanations, quality resources, and the ability of a course to make us feel confident while studying.
Some courses such as Manhattan Prep and TestMasters, impressed us with clear explanations and personalized feedback that help you target weaknesses. Others, like Magoosh, had video lessons and explanations that weren’t bad per se, but also weren’t as easy to follow. They also didn’t offer personalized feedback aside from the standard progress dashboard that most sites offer and we missed having more guidance.
In addition to the three key features we looked for with live online and self-paced prep options, in-person courses also had to offer wide availability. While we weren’t able to sit in an actual course, we scoured customer responses to learn about the experience and whether people reported helpful and caring instructors.
When our comparisons concluded, we were left with two prep course providers (one managed to take top spot for both live online and self-paced) that offered unique features and explanations that actually improved the studying experience.
Our Top Picks for the Best LSAT Prep Course
It’s hard to believe that industry giant Kaplan started as a tutoring operation in a Brooklyn basement. Fast forward a little over 80 years, and the company now offers in-person prep courses in an impressive 46 states (more than any other contender on our list). Wide availability is the main reason why Kaplan took our top spot, but a closer look reveals the course has a lot more to offer than multiple locations.
As one of the leading providers of test prep courses, Kaplan has one of the largest resource collections on the market. Students will have access to 80+ official practice exams, every LSAT question ever released by LSAC, and access to the LSAT Channel — an online library with 100+ hours of additional lessons and videos. An instructor who scored above the 90th percentile will also be present to guide you through the vast material to help you find the combination that best suits your learning needs. Even better, the instructor is also available for contact outside of class if you hit a roadblock and need help during your at-home study sessions. Put simply, Kaplan not only has an impressive library of resources, but ensures that you receive feedback to use it effectively.
Kaplan’s in-person prep courses range anywhere from five to 11 weeks. We recommend taking the longer sessions to give yourself adequate time to improve, but if you want to speed things up, a shorter option is often available. That said, you’ll still pay full price. The cost for Kaplan, $1,400, is average for the industry, which ranges from $1,100 to $1,600 — its closest competitor TestMasters comes in at $1,550. Kaplan is also one of the few prep course providers that offers financial aid to those who qualify, and we like that Kaplan offers inclusive options for those on a tighter budget.
In simple terms, Kaplan is a strong option with access to the practice tests and supplemental resources you will need to improve your score whether you need help with analytical or logical reasoning. It does so while offering feedback and availability to the most students nationwide.
Manhattan Prep was acquired by Kaplan in 2009. But rather than adopt its parent company’s materials, Manhattan Prep still produces its own — good news if you’re looking for engaging online LSAT lessons. Out of all the options we compared for both live online and self-paced courses, Manhattan Prep offered some of the clearest explanations and the best mix of resources.
Manhattan Prep's live online course has all the makings of a well-designed learning experience. Class sizes are small and led by instructors with 99th percentile scores (the highest tier). Meaning you can be sure that your lessons are being led by someone who knows exactly what to expect on the LSAT and how to score well. Better still, you can contact your instructor outside of class in case you need individual guidance while studying on your own.
Aside from its professional instructors, Manhattan Prep’s live online lessons are fairly standard albeit with one noticeable flaw. Unlike its parent and fellow competitor, Kaplan, Manhattan Prep’s lessons lacked a video feed of instructors. Even so, the audio explanations in the Manhattan Prep course were still precise and clear, and during testing we were able to follow along without getting distracted or bored.
Although you may not have a video feed of an instructor, the company makes up for it with an impressive range of resources to help you prepare. Students can expect access to resources including three guidebooks, download access to every exam released by the LSAC, and the company’s famous LSAT Interact video series — an interactive set of lessons that offer customized explanations depending on whether you answer questions correctly. Rather than offer one-size-fits-all feedback, we appreciate that Manhattan Prep offers explanations that will help us review why and how we got a particular question right or wrong.
However, the final decision came down to access and price. Kaplan also cuts off access to its course after one month. Manhattan Prep on the other hand gives you three months of access to its course, which our experts recommended as the ideal study time. While both price tags are in the same ball park, Manhattan Prep is $1,200 while Kaplan is $1,300, with Manhattan Prep you get three times more study time with course resources.
A large majority of LSAT courses offer a standard 12-week course for a reason — students generally perform most effectively by studying three months before their exam.
These resources also make up the core content of Manhattan Prep’s self-paced course — the difference between it and the live online option is the lack of an instructor. For that reason, the customized explanations of resources, like LSAT Interact, are even more important, because they will help you learn why your specific approach to a question is ineffective, making it easier to pinpoint your weaknesses. The explanations from Manhattan Prep were also some of the easiest to follow and understand out of the video-based lessons we compared, which is essential when an instructor isn’t there to help clarify. During testing, we were especially thankful for this when reviewing logic games (a section that’s notorious for its difficulty and complexity).
To fill the gap left by the absence of teachers, the company adds a few additional perks such as six months of access for a lower price of $600. But at the end of the day, it’s the clear explanations that sold us, and when we asked ourselves which self-paced course we’d feel most confident studying with, our honest answer was Manhattan Prep. The bottom line? With a combination of expert instructors, access to official LSAT exams, and useful resources, Manhattan Prep is our favorite for live online LSAT prep. Take away the instructors and you’ll still have excellent resources and our favorite self-paced course.
Another to Consider for In-Person
Founded by Robin Singh, a world record recipient of twelve perfect LSAT scores, TestMasters is widely respected for its ability to teach students the strategies they need to do well on the LSAT. But its thorough lessons and materials are only offered in 31 states — not quite enough to make it past our cutoff. That said, the in-person course is worth mentioning due to helpful resources such as 24/7 academic assistance and an LSAT search engine where you can immediately look up specific LSAT questions that give you trouble. If it’s available in your area, TestMasters is definitely worth a look, and with expansion it has potential to be a strong competitor to Kaplan — we’re keeping a close eye on the company. But as we said before, Kaplan is still currently the best option for most people.
How to Study for the LSAT
Study strategies to boost your scores.
A prep course, will cover a lot of strategies for taking the LSAT effectively. However, it is also learning a few study strategies can also help you achieve scores. Although our top picks offer personalized feedback or adaptive study tools to maximize your study time, they will only go so far. We found a few tips that can help you improve the productivity of your study sessions:
Leave time to study on your own - Although an instructor and study groups can certainly help, spending time trying to identify your specific weaknesses can help you identify areas where you need improvement. Relying on instructors and study groups without studying on your own removes your chance to practice this skill, which can be detrimental. We suggest marking out some time to review material on your own while paying close attention to the types of problems that give you trouble.
Speak out loud as you practice - Another reason to study on your own is that it gives you the ability to speak out loud as you work through questions. Known as the production effect, research shows that speaking and hearing yourself can boost your memory. In a prep course you may not have the opportunity to talk your way through strategies such as diagramming questions. Speaking out loud as you do so on your own, can help you recall skills come test day.
Switch up topics - Our experts recommended switching up topics (such as moving from logic games to reading comprehension) to prevent topics from becoming stale and to achieve higher scores. Shinners explained that “students who jump between sections as they study often get better scores. For example, after two or three logic games, they’ll hop to some Reading Comp. This forces their brain to "reload" the strategies with each switch, reinforcing those methods and improving fluency.”
Take breaks - While this study strategy isn’t new, it is one of the most important. According to numerous educational studies, taking breaks improves concentration, willpower, and logical thinking — a particularly important cognitive process for high LSAT scores. At the same time, you want to make sure your break is a “good one,” and Psychology Today has a list of ideas on how to get the most out of resting.
Change your scenery - While hunkering down in a library or at your kitchen table for hours may seem like a good way to improve your focus, staying in one spot while you study does more harm than good. It turns out that switching places can can help your brain learn to focus and prevent fatigue. The best part? You can always use your break to walk to a new study location for even more benefits.
Some schools are starting to accept GRE scores instead of LSAT scores.
As we mentioned before, law schools have recently started accepting GRE scores as well as LSAT scores in an attempt to increase enrollment. As of 2017, about five percent of law schools, including Harvard, currently accept GRE scores, and research shows that 25 percent of schools plan to accept GRE scores in the future. However, the LSAT is still the most widely accepted admissions exam for law school which makes it the more practical option. As more schools pick up the GRE, we will learn more about how law schools measure the LSAT scores against GRE scores, but for now a high LSAT score is the safest bet for getting into the school you want.