SEPTEMBER 09, 2010 \\ Blueprint Test Preparation is owned by Trent Teti, Matt Riley and Jodi Triplett. Trent, Matt and Jodi are all highly intelligent and vastly over-qualified — just ask their moms. Blueprint was formed in 2005 and quickly gained a reputation as the best LSAT prep company ever (according to them!). Blueprint believes the best way to study for the LSAT is to have fun while doing so, and their results back it up. Blueprint students average a 10-point increase on the LSAT (one of the highest in the business). Read more and see for yourself what they’re about.
Read the Full Q&A Below
What’s the average length of time a person spends preparing to take the LSAT?
The Law School Admissions Council reports that approximately 63% of people who take the LSAT for the first time don’t take a commercial prep course to study for it.
The LSAT is such an important piece of law school applications that you REALLY SHOULD study for it. Because the Blueprint LSAT course is 100 hours and our average score increase is so high (10 points), our demographic of students tends to be those who are interested in prepping seriously for the exam. As such, they spend an average of 2-3 months studying for the LSAT the first time.
If a person wants to apply to law school in the Fall, when is the best time to prepare for and take the LSAT?
This question actually turns on two important considerations: (1) the rolling admissions practices of law schools in which applying earlier is better and (2) when students have the most time to study to maximize their score. For a while we thought it would include considerations of the best type of ice cream for studying, but we rejected that as unworthy of this readership. Although if it had come up, New York Super Fudge Chunk is indisputably the leader in ice cream tastiness.
We have an article that addresses this question in detail here, but the short answer is that most students have time over the summer to study for the September/October LSAT. Taking the September/October LSAT will allow you to receive your LSAT score in time to apply early in the admissions cycle. For this reason, it’s typically the preferred testing date.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about preparing for the LSAT?
The greatest misconception about the LSAT is that it spells “Tassel” backwards. This is incorrect. It actually spells “TASL” backwards, which, although pronounced the same as ‘tassel’, means nothing.
Here are another three misconceptions about the LSAT:
1. You can’t study for the test. This is an old myth that has been largely clubbed to death like a baby seal on the shores of the White Sea (for the record, we support seals but not the myth). However, if you own a poodle skirt and think of dating as “going steady”, you might still think the LSAT is a test of intelligence. It isn’t. Otherwise, this guy wouldn’t have scored in the 99th percentile. The LSAT actually measures some basic inferential and reading skills. These can be learned like any other mental processes. The idea that you can’t get better at the LSAT is as silly as the notion that you can’t get better at calculus. Except the LSAT is way easier.
2. In order to score high on the LSAT, you need to start high. (High as in your score, not as in THC content). Although it’s undoubtedly helpful to begin with a high LSAT score, there is no limit on how much your score can improve. Over the course of our prep class, we’ve had students with score increases of over 20 points. They key is to grasp important underlying concepts, such as sufficiency and necessity. Students may be scoring in the 130’s when suddenly they grasp the concept of sufficiency and necessity. Voila! 5 more points right there. Follow that up with understanding of causation, common fallacies, etc. and suddenly you’re adding points to your LSAT score faster than new mistresses are surfacing for Tiger Woods (it’s too soon, we know).
3. A class by itself or taking prep tests alone is enough to raise your score. In our experience, two things are required for real LSAT score increases: understanding the best way to approach a question and then practicing the technique until it becomes automatic. This requires doing lots of problems the correct way and being able to diagnose what you did incorrectly and correcting your technique. Because of this, it is highly unlikely that you will substantially increase your score if you merely attend class without doing the homework or simply take several practice tests on your own without trying to evaluate the problems you missed and why. You may raise it a few points just from familiarity with the test, but real score increases take work on your part. Disappointing, but true.
If a person needs to take the LSAT but only has a couple weeks to prepare, what do you recommend they do?
If you only have a couple of weeks to prepare for the LSAT, our considered advice is to purchase a tub of fried chicken and turn on Sportscenter or the Lifetime movie channel to help reconcile yourself to a score more or less the same as your first practice exam.
In college successfully studying for many exams involved the following steps: cram a bunch information into your head over a 10 hour period, bleed it out on a bluebook page, exit exam and fall into a coma-like sleep during which all the aforementioned data slips out of your mind never to enter again.
Sadly, the LSAT is not an exam that submits to cramming, since it doesn’t simply test a body of facts. It rather tests certain rational procedures that you have to be able to perform quickly and accurately. You don’t have to know stuff; you have to be able to do stuff. This requires that you train yourself to think in a certain way, and two weeks generally isn’t enough to do this.
Another response to this question is: can you put off the date of the LSAT to prepare more? Your LSAT score is such an important piece of law school applications that even waiting another year to apply so that you can have enough time to study is worth considering.
Barring these considerations, the best thing you can do in a short amount of time to increase your LSAT score is to learn basic game diagramming and basic logical concepts (sufficiency, necessity, and contraposition). This will give you the potential to increase your score on games and to understand the logical reasoning portion of the exam better. For reading comprehension, you should also begin reading short, dense passages and quizzing yourself on their main idea and details, afterward. Articles in The New York Times and The Economist work well.
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?
When your first score isn’t what you want, the most important factor to consider is how interested you are in attending truck driving school. If the answer is “not very,” then you should definitely consider taking the test again. In this case, you should find out whether or not the school to which you’re applying average LSAT scores. The second is whether or not you can realistically increase your score. Fortunately, we have a neat little video that precisely answers this. The short answer is that in order to increase your score, you’ll want to diagnose what you did wrong the first time and systematically eliminate these errors. For example, if the first time you took the LSAT you were working full time and didn’t study very much, you’ll need to decide whether or not you can make more time to study the second time around.
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?
A more competitive LSAT score will always help you. Instead of just getting into a mediocre law school, get into a good law school. Instead of paying full tuition, get an amazing LSAT score and get offered a scholarship. Why settle for Bridget Moynahan when you can marry Giselle? (again, too soon).
The point is that a better LSAT score will more than repay the cost of studying—whether the cost is the time and effort of self study or purchasing an LSAT course. In pure dollars and cents, the correlation between your LSAT score and the money you will make as a lawyer is fairly high. A better LSAT score typically equates to a better school, which typically equates to a better job, which typically equates to a better starting salary. There are exceptions, of course, but the additional cost of a prep course is generally more than repaid by a better caliber of school and starting paycheck. Even if one has chosen to attend a lower raking school, a higher LSAT score will make one a better candidate for official and “unofficial” scholarships law schools offer.
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.?
The Law School Admission Council actually tracks these numbers so we don’t have to. (Which is good, because our market research tends to involve the office staff googling Lindsay Lohan’s latest stint in rehab). According to the 2007-2008 numbers, approximately 37% of people who take the LSAT take a commercial course. About 32% use LSAC materials to prep, 44% use a non-LSAC book to prep, and about 48% do self study. If those categories seem like they add up to more than 100%, they do. Clearly, people can check more than one category so it could be the case that a student does self study with LSAC books, for example, and is accounted for in each category.
For whatever it’s worth, we would guess that most people don’t choose individual tutoring for their entire course of study because it’s by far the most expensive way to prep. Similarly, our hunch is that more people take commercial classes than the study reflects because not every student wants to admit to LSAC that they paid for a prep course. It seems undeniable that more people are studying harder for the test than ever before.
What matters, of course, is that whatever type of prep you choose you realize that the LSAT is essentially a curved test and that you are competing against the other people taking the exam. This means that your score is a reflection of how much you’ve prepared versus the people around you. If you’ve done no studying and Joe Schmoe prepped with a book, you could be in trouble. If you prepped with a book and did a couple of prep tests and Betty Schmetty took a 100-hour awesome course like ours, that also has the potential to suck a great deal for you. So, however you prepare, remember that you’re in an arms race against the other students in the room and, all things being equal, you’ll want to have studied more (or better) than they have.
Can you give an overview of the PowerScore’s approach to LSAT instruction?
The LSAT is boring. Ever tried to draw logical conclusions about 18th century feminist literature? Not exactly a carnival of amusement. Blueprint thinks that people learn better when they’re interested in the material, which is why our approach to the LSAT is to teach the fundamentals of the test while making it fun. Think comedy traffic school or Barney teaching ABC’s in falsetto song. Only without the purple dinosaur. Or the falsetto.
We do this by writing our books in an amusing way (our examples more often feature people like Paris Hilton and Chuck Norris than Al and Bob) and by screening our instructors for humor. (More on this below). We also have a blog to help you through the day with things like the five most important things to do before the LSAT.
In addition to our irreverent teaching ethos, we also have a “top down” approach to the LSAT. This means we have a taxonomy for how to approach everything on the LSAT—from logical reasoning to games to reading comprehension in a step-by-step fashion. For example, every logical reasoning question is categorized according to its prompt. Once students recognize what type of question is being asked, it immediately sets into motion a sequence of steps they must follow. Each type of question has an accompanying flow chart so that every part of the process—from identifying what type of question it is to anticipating the correct answer choice—is disambiguated. Our students find this extremely helpful because they always know the next step in tackling a question.
Our curriculum is also built around post-2000 LSATs because we believe that the test is always changing. We suspect that some companies’ courses date from the Regan administration and while they might have updated the questions they use, deeper changes have occurred on the test that should be reflected in the curriculum.
How do Blueprint’s services differ from competitors like TestMasters, Kaplan, and PowerScore?
t’s difficult to compare too much since we aren’t intimately familiar with other companies’ materials. But from what we’ve seen:
1. We’re a whole lot more interesting.
2. Our curriculum is more intuitive.
#1 is a matter of taste so we’ll just leave it to you to decide. But check out our website versus our competitors and I think you’ll see what we mean. You can learn to diagram logic from monotone Mr. Hankey (If you’re a man, then you’re mortal), or you can do it with Beyoncé. lyrics (If you like it, then you should have put a ring on it). You decide.
#2 has to do with the “top-down” approach discussed earlier, which is extraordinarily helpful for students. Every company we’ve seen has some way to diagram a game. This is helpful, but only if you recognize how you’re supposed to know that a particular game results in a particular diagram. If you don’t, you’re left looking at a diagram thinking How would I ever know to do this on my own?
Blueprint makes sure that students understand, not only how to recognize every type of game, but also how that triggers a particular diagram. The same is true for logical reasoning and reading comprehension. So from the minute you begin a passage, question, or game you’ll be following a step-by-step set of instructions that have been drilled into you until they’re second nature.
How does Blueprint go about selecting its instructors?
When the selection process is narrowed to two, we construct a makeshift Thunderdome in the parking lot. Two men enter, one man leaves. (Not really, but that would be something, right?) We actually require several things. The first is that all of our instructors have scored a 170 or higher on an actual LSAT. This is important, because it ensures that the instructors understand not only the LSAT thoroughly, but also how to manage stress in real testing conditions. The second thing we require is that all of our instructors have great personalities and teaching ability. Every company says this, but we actually do it. Our training session begin with an improvisational comedy session and goes from there. Speaking of training sessions, all of our instructors are required to attend our intensive training in Los Angeles. This is conducted by the owners of the company and includes sessions on the material, improving pedagogy, and whether energy bars or Red Bull is the best snack at the break. Again, everyone claims their training is the most rigorous and their teachers are the best, so our protests by themselves (or those of our competitors) shouldn’t convince you. But you can infer a lot about our company’s ethos from our website, and you can learn a lot about our instructors from their bios, both written and video. We’re also happy to have student’s sit in on an instructor’s class if feasible.
With a 99th percentile requirement for your instructors, how many applicants do you reject who apply for jobs with PowerScore?
We require our instructors to score a 170+ on the LSAT. However, we reject a lot of the people who apply even if they meet this requirement because we also require that they be good teachers. Although we don’t track this information, out best guess is that only 1 in 20 applicants make it through the screening process.
Does Blueprint offer live online LSAT instruction?
Our online course consists of streaming videos. This is because we feel live online instruction actually defeats the purpose of online instruction. You purchase an online course so that you can prep when and where you choose. Being tied to a series of live broadcasts is exactly the same as being tied to a live class—except you’re viewing the instructor through a thumbnail video feed the approximate size of a postage stamp. Our streaming videos allow you to view Blueprint founders Trent and Matt in a large viewing platform whenever you want.
How big is Blueprint today?
We have an online course everywhere as well as live classes throughout California and in Manhattan.
What’s the plan for Blueprint in terms of geographic expansion and course offerings?
New for September 2010, we’re proud to announce the release of Blueprint: The Movie 2.0 – our newest online course! Featuring approximately 60 hours of fully animated, high definition video, it’s taught by Blueprint founders Trent Teti and Matt Riley. The animation helps make difficult concepts (like formal logic) clear while maintaining student interest. See for yourself by checking out video samples of Blueprint: The Movie 2.0.
In addition to our live classes in California and in New York, we’re planning on expanding to new cities. Check the live class schedules on our website in the future to see where we’re headed in 2011.