You’ve probably been joining study groups of one sort or another for years. But 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 ineffective, you’ll miss the opportunity for productive self-study.
The truth: There are some people who will greatly benefit from prepping for the LSAT in a group, and there are some who 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 challenges that you may face — and fixes you can implement — to help you determine whether a study group is right for you.
Challenge: An LSAT study group moves at the pace of its slowest participant.
If you’ve worked in groups before, you know that some folks want to spend unreasonable amounts of time on certain topics. You’ll also run into the challenge that nearly everyone will have a couple of topics they get stuck on — so you might spend an hour going over a topic like basic conditionality, even if you’ve mastered it. In a study group, being the smartest kid in class can be a big disadvantage.
Fix: Find a group of your LSAT score peers.
The initial scores of LSAT students vary tremendously. Even within a single college, there’s huge variation. This is why I suggest that each potential member of a group take a practice test prior to committing. The scores of each member should roughly fall within 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 more challenging topics.
This is probably the biggest disadvantage of a study group. You either have to make difficult choices about who can participate, or half the group will get nothing out of it. This point 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’d often fare better on your own (or after finding a different group).
Challenge: 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 complete specific homework assignments between sessions, and that you will review that homework along with specific topics at each meeting. (You’ll work just as you would in a prep course.)
The absolute worst kind of group is one where folks just arrive and discuss whatever is on their minds. Don’t fall into this trap.
Fix: Don’t fall into scheduling hell.
The LSAT is important enough that serious students set aside specific time to study. Make sure your group has as schedule and sticks to it. 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 you’re in a group that can’t or won’t stick to a schedule, don’t participate. If Dan misses week two of the group, week three is moving on to the next topic anyway. If someone has to be 30 minutes late, no problem — that person just comes late. You want to avoid situations where the last 20 minutes of every session involve people fiddling with their phones looking for times (and then inevitably trying to move those times when something comes up).
Challenge: Members have different study materials.
If your peers have already started studying, they may have purchased or borrowed books, and you may find that your group has an eclectic array of LSAT prep guides. The variety will make it difficult for the members of your group to be on the same page — literally and figuratively.
Fix: Pick one set of books.
At or before the first meeting, agree on a common set of books that everyone will buy. Don’t compromise here — it doesn't matter that Ashley got a set of used books from her cousin. You also shouldn’t share books — all members need 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.
Challenge: Study groups have high attrition rates.
Lots of people will leave the group, especially if you’re studying with folks you met online as opposed to acquaintances from school.
Fix: Smaller can be better.
Understand that attrition happens so that those of you who stick around 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 two or three people, even if you started with 10.
If you do decide to join a study group, let it work for you, and always remember:
A study group is not an excuse for delay.
In an online forum I read, I’ve seen the same person looking for an LSAT study group for 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. Any reason for not studying that starts with “My study group…” is just an excuse.