Students prep for LSAT

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Jeremy Ward, senior political science major, doesn’t have any big worries when it comes to taking the Law School Admissions Test on Dec. 3, because he said it all comes natural to him.

“I’m looking forward to taking the LSAT,” Ward said. “My first diagnostic (test) went extremely well. With the scores I got from the diagnostic and the prep classes I’m taking, I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t achieve at the very highest level on the LSAT.”

Ward is enrolled in a prep class through Kaplan Test Prep at CSUN. Kaplan is a private program designed to help students prepare for and achieve higher scores on the LSAT.

The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120 to 180, and the average score is 151. The program covers analytical and logical reasoning, reading comprehension and the writing sample.

The prep classes help students by providing them with the necessary skills and strategies necessary for breaking down different questions.

Ward scored a 160 out of 180 on the diagnostic test, which is given to students at the start of the program to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses so they can improve before the real test.

Ward plans to graduate in Spring 2006. He is applying to all tier-one schools in Southern California, including UCLA, USC, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.

When Ward was younger he did not have any intentions on becoming a lawyer because he saw how hard his parents worked. His views on law school, however, soon changed when he came to CSUN and began taking pre-law courses.

“I found those classes interesting and it comes natural to me,” Ward said. “Doing my homework didn’t seem quite like a chore.”

Ward said he attends Kaplan’s test prep classes twice a week for three to four hours. The class costs $1,850 for students, but Ward said he managed to get in the program for free when he made a deal to promote Kaplan by posting and handing out fliers at CSUN.

Ward said the most stressful part of preparing for the LSAT is trying to set aside time in his busy schedule to study. Between working close to 20 hours per week in the Political Science Department office and his 15-unit class load, he said he finds preparing for test time consuming.

The College of Extended Learning at CSUN also offers test preparation programs on campus for seven different exams: the LSAT, California Basic Education Skills Test, California Subject Examinations for Teachers, Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, New Scholastic Aptitude Test, Graduate Record Examination, and Graduate Management Assessment Test.

“We started the program at the Extended Learning Center because private programs were too expensive and students couldn’t afford it,” said Jerry Bobrow, program administrator for the test preparation programs at CSUN and author of “Barron’s: How To Prepare For The LSAT.” He is the author of more than 20 test preparation books.

Simin Bahmanyar, senior program development director of test preparation in Extended Learning, said the program at CSUN prepares students for the exams and teaches them various test-taking techniques by reviewing each subject area and question type, while offering timed practice.

The Test Preparation program originated at CSUN in 1973. The program has assisted more than half a million students in preparing for graduate, entrance and credentialing exams.

The LSAT program at CSUN cost $345, and if students do not feel ready for their test or do not perform well after taking the course, they can repeat it for free. Students meet for LSAT classes in Sierra Hall 108 for three full Saturdays.

“There is a lot riding on the LSAT,” Bobrow said. “Your score might get you into a law school you thought you couldn’t get into. Students should want to give it there best shot.”

The LSAT is more stressful for students who have not prepared, he said, adding that students have the most difficulty with analytical reasoning. He said, however, that the analytical portion of the test is the easiest section to improve on.

Unlike Ward, Colleen Flynn, an attorney for Mann and Cook law firm, said she wishes she had taken prep courses before she took the LSAT in 2000.

“I didn’t take any classes and I definitely should have,” she said.

Flynn attended Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and graduated in 2004. Rather than taking preparation classes, Flynn prepared for the LSAT on her own.

“I didn’t really stress about (taking the LSAT),” she said. “I guess I didn’t take it very seriously.”

Flynn believes the LSAT prep courses are not based on an individual’s skills, and rather on secrets and tips to perform better on the test.

“The classes don’t prepare you for law school,” she said. “They tell you the secrets to passing the test.”

Valencia Bankston can be reached at city@csun.edu.