OCTOBER 30, 2009 \\ Dave Killoran is the CEO of PowerScore Test Preparation, and the author of PowerScore’s renowned LSAT Logic Games Bible, LSAT Logical Reasoning Bible and LSAT Reading Comprehension Bible. A graduate of Duke University, he scored in the 99th percentile on the LSAT and is a national expert on standardized tests and test preparation. In his career, he has taught thousands of LSAT students and he has counseled many others in law school admissions.
Read the Full Q&A Below
What’s the average length of time a person spends preparing to take the LSAT?
It depends on the person. If you look at the general population, which includes people who unfortunately do very little preparation, the overall average is probably a few weeks. This is actually great news for students who choose to prepare more comprehensively because it gives them a significant advantage. If you look at students who read our books and take our courses, then the average length of time rises to a month or two. Obviously, the extra time preparing directly benefits the bottom line—their scores.
Our belief is that each student is different, and that the amount of prep time required will vary from person to person, as is the best method for preparing. So, for one person the best approach might be taking our full length courses, which typically runs over a period of 8-12 weeks, and for another person the best approach might be reading just one or two of our LSAT Bibles, which can usually be done in less than a month.
If a person wants to apply to law school in the Fall, when is the best time to prepare for and take the LSAT?
Although every law school accepts the results of the December LSAT, because most law schools use a rolling admissions process for reviewing applications, the earlier a candidate can complete their application, the better. Thus, the June LSAT is best, followed by the September/October LSAT. For applicants still in college, the September/October LSAT often makes the most sense because they can use their summer break to do the lion’s share of their LSAT preparation.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about preparing for the LSAT?
The biggest misconception is that you can’t study for the LSAT. After helping students for almost 20 years, there is no doubt in my mind that you can teach the logic used on this exam, and that students can learn to recognize and attack the elements present in the questions. As with many things in life, practice is essential to performing optimally.
The second misconception is, paradoxically, that you can cram for the LSAT. The LSAT is a test of pattern recognition, and that is not something you can learn overnight or in a few days. There are also a number of very challenging concepts that appear in LSAT questions, and learning to recognize the logic behind those questions takes some time. If the LSAT were a test of facts, like a History test, then you could probably cram for it. But it’s not, and so you have to give yourself adequate time to prepare.
If a person needs to take the LSAT but only has a couple weeks to prepare, what do you recommend they do?
The first thing would be to clear your schedule to whatever extent possible, and then try to immerse yourself in LSAT techniques and questions. Use as much of the available time as you can to study the test and become acquainted with the best approaches.
Even though having more time to prepare would be optimal, you can improve your score with even a relatively small amount of studying. We run Weekend LSAT Courses that often occur in the weeks before each LSAT, and they have pre- and post-class elements that help you learn about the LSAT quickly.
We also offer an LSAT Bible for each section of the test, and those can be used to attack the sections giving you trouble. So, if Logical Reasoning is holding your score down, you can grab our LR Bible and start working on that immediately.
What factors do you counsel people to consider when deciding whether to re-take the LSAT when their first score isn‘t as good as they’d like?
Each person is different, but the following are questions are worth considering:
How much time did I study prior to the test? Could I have studied more?
How many questions did I work through?
How were my prior testing results?
How was the testing environment?
Did anything unusual occur and how did that affect me?
Do I have a vague sense of unease over my performance (which is typical for most people), or is there a specific event or problem that I can point to that threw me off?
If a person wants to apply to a law school near to where they live that they are likely to get into based on the strength of their GPA, or a person is simply applying to less competitive law schools, what’s your advice on whether to buy the services of a LSAT test prep company?
Well, the truth is that they may not need our services. If they already have the numbers to get in, then they might be just fine going it alone. On the other hand, there are no guarantees in law school admissions, and one thing everyone agrees on is that the LSAT is a critical factor law school admissions decisions. Plus, when students goes out and just kill the LSAT, they may discover that their options open up to provide them with new choices. I once worked with a student who was set on attending George Mason Law because it was near his home, but after nailing a very high LSAT score he ended up applying to Harvard, and ultimately attended school there.
In your experience, what’s the rough breakdown percentage-wise of how people prep for the LSAT -- self-study versus private tutors versus full-length instructor-led classes, etc.?
This is a tough question. I’d say at least 50% of students self-study, about 40% take a class, and about 10% engage a private tutor. Of course, of those who list “self-study,” many don’t study at all, providing a huge advantage for those who do take the right approach.
Can you give an overview of the PowerScore’s approach to LSAT instruction?
The core principle of our LSAT instruction is that the test is learnable and that learning can be fun. We think that everyone can be taught the ideas that are the backbone of the LSAT, and we try to teach those ideas in an entertaining, enjoyable, and energetic environment. We hire instructors who like the LSAT, and who get a kick out of helping people learn. We also think the LSAT can be a fun test if taught correctly, so we try to create a classroom environment where people are comfortable and can have a laugh over some of the odd things the test makers do. Behind all of that, however, is a belief that you have to be comprehensive in how you approach the LSAT, so we try to look at the test from all angles and teach not just the main themes, but the variations on those themes as well.
How do PowerScore’s services differ from competitors like TestMasters, Kaplan, and Blueprint?
There are several things that differentiate us from the other companies, but the most important is our focus on quality. In every aspect of our courses, we strive to do things the best way possible.
In a more specific sense, we think we offer the most advanced LSAT methodology, part of which is displayed in our LSAT Bibles. We also think we have the best instructors, in part because we are the only national company with a 99th percentile standard. Our out-of class support is also top-notch, whether it is our LSAT Hotline or the 45 hours of additional teaching sessions in our Online Student Center. Plus, if you give us a call you will see immediately that we aren’t some faceless corporate giant—usually a real person picks up the phone within a ring or two.
In short, we try to offer the best techniques and best materials, presented by the best instructors, with the best support outside of class.
How does PowerScore go about selecting its instructors?
We go through a rigorous process. Achieving a score in the top 1% nationally is only the first step toward becoming a PowerScore instructor. A typical candidate from say, New York City, will be pre-screened via an interview to establish that they meet the basic requirements we have for personality, interest, enthusiasm, experience, etc. Then, at a second in-person interview, the applicant teaches actual LSAT questions to us and goes through a much more in-depth interview with one of our senior HR directors. Next, they run through our final pre-training process in order to make sure they understand the requirements we have and can meet them. Finally, before an instructor sets foot in one of our classrooms, each teacher goes through a rigorous training process designed to teach our specific methods and approaches. The goal is to find teachers who not only have impressive scores and personalities, but who love the LSAT and can communicate our techniques in a fun and friendly environment.
Generally speaking, we expend a tremendous amount of time and energy training our instructors because they are the conduit for all the institutional knowledge we possess about the LSAT. We recognize that the instructor will have a tremendous effect on the class and we take instructor preparation very seriously. Every day students come to our instructors and say, “I want to score in the 170s.” With our hiring standards and extensive training, our instructors can confidently say, “All right, here’s what it takes and here’s how you can do it.”
With a 99th percentile requirement for your instructors, how many applicants do you reject who apply for jobs with PowerScore?
We typically reject about 9 candidates for each candidate we hire. In our eyes, the 99th percentile score gets you in the door for consideration, but thereafter you have to dazzle us with your teaching ability and personality. We pay extremely high wages that are considerably higher than the industry average, so obviously there is a lot of demand to teach here and we can afford to be choosy.
Does PowerScore offer live online LSAT instruction?
Definitely. Our groundbreaking Virtual Course offers 36 hours of live, real-time instruction and an additional 45 hours of online teaching sessions, for over 80 hours of teaching time. All classes are taught by instructors with 99th percentile scores, and each instructor has typically has spent at least 750 hours in a PowerScore classroom and received top-level reviews. So, you are learning from deeply experienced, talented, and entertaining instructors. Plus, students in that course receive a copy of every licensable LSAT question as well as our exclusive course materials. To me, the coolest thing about the Virtual Course is the ability of students to go back and re-watch the classes. So, if you are studying later and can’t understand an idea, you can go back online and watch that portion of your live class to see if you missed anything, or just to review the ideas. And, during your enrollment, there is no limit to the number of times you can do this, so you have the ability to “take” the course again and again. This is an incredibly beneficial aspect to online courses, and one we like so much we have started including online teaching elements in all of our in-person classes as well, as a supplement. For anyone interested in seeing how the class works, click here for a free archive of the entire first lesson of the course.
Where is PowerScore currently offered and what are your plans for geographic expansion and course offerings?
PowerScore offers live, in-person classes in 150 locations in 37 US states, plus classes in Canada and England. And, of course, our live Virtual LSAT Course is available worldwide as long as you have an internet connection. So, realistically, you can take a PowerScore course from anywhere you might be. As far as geographic expansion, we continue to add locations every year, and we keep adding more locations within the cities we already serve. As for course offerings, we will shortly be adding an On-Demand version of our Virtual Course. This will allow students to access the entire course at any time from any location.
Your books, The PowerScore LSAT Logic Games Ultimate Setups Guide, The PowerScore LSAT Logical Reasoning Bible, and The PowerScore LSAT Logic Games Bibleat LawBooksForLess.com. Why do you think these publications have become so popular among the pre-law set, and do you have any other titles in the works?
I think the LSAT Bibles have become popular because they are very in-depth and written in a clear style. I first decided to write the Logic Games Bible because, frankly, the books on the market sucked. There were these 400 page books that tried to cover every section of the test, and they tended to be vague at best and confusing at worst. I had friends and students who would come to me and they would just be completely baffled by what they were reading. It was as if these companies published their books in order to confuse people enough so they would then drop $1000 on one of their courses. That irritated me, and I decided to put out a book that really explained things in depth, the way I would explain them in class. Last year we added the PowerScore LSAT Reading Comprehension Bible to the series, so now there is an LSAT Bible for each section of the exam. And, just recently we released the first of our workbooks, the LSAT Logic Games Bible Workbook. The workbooks give students the opportunity to practice with the techniques on real LSAT questions, and then review a complete explanation for each. We will soon add more workbooks for each section of the test.