All Old Generals Fight the Last War
Since I've worn myself out today studying for this year's exams, I want to give exam advice. Unfortunately, I know nothing about how to take a 1L exam, since I've not really taken one yet. (Yes, there's Legal Methods, but I'm not sure it's typical.) So, dear Wormwood, I figured I'd write a little about what I found useful preparation for the LSATs, and what makes good pre-law reading.
All of this, of course, is just my opinion, and your mileage may vary.
I only took the LSAT once, because I started applying late in the game: one of my best friends challenged me to apply to law school with her in September, and I didn't start prep-work until late that month. (She then backed out on me, and is spending the next year with her boyfriend in South America. You can keep comments on who had better judgment to herself.) I can only recommend the following:
Get sleep the night before, eat well, and don't stress about it any more than you have to in order to do well. This is probably more valuable advice than anything below--but it's also something anyone could tell you.
Everyone will have their preferred study aids, but I only used two. The first was a used copy of Barron's How to Prepare for the LSAT from my aforementioned study partner. It was pretty good, but pretty simplistic. After reading a few of the pointers, I found that I was only really interested in the stuff I kept getting wrong.
For this reason, probably 80% of my studying was done with Kaplan's LSAT 180. Basically, it's a compilation of real brainteasers. When I started feeling OK with these questions, the standard practice tests held much less fear. Of course, you may not need either prep-book: some people say you don't. I think they probably helped me, but again, your mileage may vary.
I didn't do all my LSAT prep in the books above, though. One of them recommended an exercise that I think really helped me with the logical reasoning: read the newspaper. Specifically, read the opinion pages of at least one newspaper a day, and pick apart the articles.
Logical reasoning questions on the LSAT tend to deal with logical inconsistencies, assumptions, and fallacies. Op-eds, from authors on both sides of the aisle, are peppered with these by their very nature: deadlines, word-limits, and partisan appeal keep Maureen Dowd or George F. Will from fully fleshing out their arguments. I found that reading an op-ed page every day and underlining anything that was an assumption, leap of logic, or outright contradiction made the habits I was 'learning' for the LSAT a little more second-nature. Especially if I agreed with the article, it was a worthwhile exercise: I'd spot my own assumptions, and those pop up more than I would have expected on an LSAT.
For me to give you advice on law school applications would be insulting: I only applied to three places, and got rejected outright by one and waitlisted by the other. I also committed possibly the most chronic mistake: I waited until the last minute to apply. Let me tell you, near as I can tell, the earlier the better.
Likewise, find a bulletin board that lots of JD2B applicants are on, and chat to them. The one at the University of Chicago is pretty good. You may not learn anything you need to know, but it's good to have co-sufferers as you're waiting for applications to come back.
Anyway, that's all I can think of for now. Hope all of you studying up for that test I was so nervous about last year get everything you wish. A few months from now, I'll post my recommended reading list for your summer. God knows that after I spent so much time wondering about what to read last summer, I owe that to you, dear Wormwood.