Review of BenchPrep’s Online Test Prep Site

Check out BenchPrep!I just logged into the BenchPrep test prep website and am welcomed with their greeting of “Gain an unfair advantage on test day”; I like this – a test prep site with an edge! Let’s continue exploring…

After you sign in and choose your test (see list below), you’ll then choose your target test date. The program then generates a study plan of week-by-week tasks that you’ll need to complete to achieve your optimal preparedness for your chosen exam. Each task has a timeframe next to it, indicating the expected amount of time the exercise should take – a nice touch.

As you move through the little icons on the left side of the screen, you’ll encounter some nice features – games (mainly flashcard games – pretty simple and straightforward), practice tests, discussion boards, study groups, and others. Another organizational feature is the table of contents icon which, when you click on it, gives you a very clear outline of your study plan with links to other parts of the site.

There is also a BenchPrep mobile app (Android and iPhone), making this program excellent for test-preppers on-the-go!

One thing I’d like to see more of on this site are videos. There is certainly no shortage of written prep resources here – there are loads of practice tests and explanations and tips, which of course are extremely important. For some people, this may be exactly what they’re looking for, but others – those auditory/visual types – the absence of video will be noticed.

Tests (a sampling):

ACT • GMAT • PMP Exam
• AP Exam • GRE • Police Officer Exam
• CFA Level I Exam                       . • LSAT • Postal Exam
• CLEP • MCAT • Praxis Test
• EMT • Nursing School Entrance Exams        . • SAT
• FRM • PCAT
• Firefighter Exam • PE Exam

Features:

• Ask-a-tutor, and receive an answer within 24 hours
•  Bookmarking and highlighting features
•  Ratings/tracking of your confidence level (so you can go back to review those weak areas)
•  Games
•  Practice tests
•  Discussion boards
•  Study groups

Head to BenchPrep now to check out these features on your own!

MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips

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WSJ Law Blog Offers Most Recent Law Applicant Stats

Check out our recent podcast episode, "Business, Law, and Beyond."

Number of LSAT test takers is down, and that’s a good thing.

Highlights of the Wall Street Journal article, “Number of LSAT Test Takers Is Down 45% Since 2009,” include:

• The number of LSAT exams administered in October 2013 (33,673 exams) is 11% lower than in October 2012 (37,780 exams). This is the lowest test taker volume since 1998.

• The total number of LSAT test takers in June and October is down 38% from four years ago when test taker volume peaked. The number of test takers in October alone is down 45% compared to the 2009 high.

• The number of law school applicants dropped 12.3% compared to last year, and application volume dropped 17.9% this year.

My Take

This is good news.

There used to be a naïve belief that a legal degree was a “good thing to have.” That’s true if it’s also an inexpensive thing to have, which a law degree is not.

When the legal job market initially tanked, applicants were still applying to law school in droves. Apparently that madness has ended. These LSAT stats indicate that those serious about the law and using their legal education professionally are taking the LSAT and that far fewer applicants are defaulting to law from the social sciences and humanities than did so a few years ago.

People committed to a career that requires a legal degree and promises an income in excess of the cost of a legal education are the ones who should be taking the LSAT. And there are simply fewer people who believe they fit that description today than there were five years ago. Plus, more people today recognize both the high cost and the more limited opportunity associated with a J.D. than in years past.

They should have recognized it five years ago. The good news is that more do so today.







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Should You Retake the LSAT?

Click here for advice on dealing with a low LSAT score

To retake or not to retake?

Completing the LSAT requires both time and money – you must dedicate extra effort to preparing for the test in order to earn as high a score as possible. After you receive your initial LSAT score, you must then decide if it is worth the additional resources necessary to retake the test, aiming for a better score. In coming to this conclusion, there are three factors that you should consider.

How far below your intended school’s ideal score were you?

Schools typically publish the range of LSAT scores for their admitted students, and future admissions decisions are largely based on the candidate’s GPA and LSAT score. Obviously, the higher your LSAT score, the stronger your application will be, but you need to consider how close both your GPA and your LSAT score are. If one, or both, are at the top of the range, then you have less to gain from retaking the test – you are already in a comfortable position for admission. If you are on the low end, however, then you may wish to sit for the exam again in order to increase your score and therefore your odds of acceptance as well.

How many more points do you need for scholarship money?

Some schools will make scholarship decisions based, in part, on LSAT scores. Even if your LSAT score and GPA are comfortably within the school’s required range, an LSAT score above the school’s 75th percentile can often translate to awarded financial aid. The less you pay for school, the less debt you will graduate with, and therefore, it may be worth the extra effort to take the LSAT again.

What was your LSAT score the first time?

Before deciding whether to retest, you need to critically examine what your LSAT score was and why you got that score. Lower scores are, by their nature, easier to improve upon; it is easier to go from a 150 to a 160 than it is to go from a 160 to a 170, and it is harder still to get from a 170 to a 175.

In deciding whether or not you have room to improve, the first thing to consider is what your highest practice scores were – were they better than your test day score, or lower? If your test day score was significantly higher (more than three or four points) than your strongest practice score, then you may want to hold on tight to the score that you have. Try taking another practice test and see if you are able to get a score close to, or higher than, your test day score.

You should also determine why you got the score that you did. Did you run out of time on a section and answer the last five questions incorrectly? Did you struggle with one particular logic game, but get the rest of the section largely correct? In situations like this, retaking the test, especially if you can fix the timing issue or understand how to solve the game that you didn’t comprehend the first time, can improve your score. However, if you answered random questions incorrectly for no discernible reason (and not, for example, all of a certain type of logical reasoning problem, like the assumption questions), then it will be more difficult to increase your score.

Retaking the LSAT, if your score increases, will likely aid you in gaining acceptance into a better school, and may result in more scholarship money. However, retaking the test can also be a gamble and you do risk your score dropping. You need to consider whether the potential reward justifies the time, expense, and uncertainty. If it can ensure your acceptance to your first-choice school, greatly increase your chances of a scholarship, or is an easily correctable mistake from the previous test, then taking the exam again is probably advisable. Otherwise, it might be best to stick with the score that you have.







Justin Meyer is a professional LSAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He holds a JD from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William & Mary.

What do Law School Adcom Think about Law School Admissions?

Law School Enrollment Declines

54% of law schools reduced their 2013 entering class size

The Kaplan’s 2013 survey of law school admissions officers provide the answer to this and many other questions about law school admissions trends, trends in legal education, and the role of the LSAT. Here are some highlights from the Kaplan report:

• 54% of law schools reduced their 2013 entering class size as compared to class size in 2012.
• Only 2% of admissions officers said that they are “very confident” that law school applications will begin to rebound in the next application cycle; 32% were “somewhat confident”; 45% were “not too confident”; and 22% were “not at all confident.”
• 70% of admissions offers accepted June 2013 LSAT scores for fall 2013 admission; 30% did not.
• 60% of respondents “generally disagree” with President Obama’s statement that law schools should condense their three-year programs into two-year programs. 5% “completely agree”; 20% “generally agree”; and 15% “completely disagree.”
• 12% of admissions officers said that their law school currently has an accelerated two-year JD program.
• Of the 88% of schools that do not have an accelerated program, only 6% say that they plan on creating a two-year program.
• 42% of schools offer 6-10 clinical programs; 29% offer 1-5 such programs; 16% offer 11-15; 13% offer more than 15; and 1% offer no such program.
• 62% of respondents “generally agree” with the following statement: “The LSAT is important to law schools because it is the only uniform, objective measure by which law schools can compare applicants.” 26% “completely agree”; 9% “generally disagree”; and 3% “completely disagree.”
See the Kaplan report for more details.

Take-aways

1. With 88% of respondents agreeing that the LSAT is important, it isn’t going away anytime soon.

2. The two-year law school will remain the exception and not the rule for the foreseeable future.

3. Don’t look for the go-go days of law school to return in the next couple of years.







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Law School Admissions Tip #1: Develop Your Law School Admissions Strategy

Law School Application Strategy

The Top 15 Things Every Law School Applicant Should Know is a series that will teach you the ins and outs of successful law school applications. Stay tuned for the remaining elements. This week starts with “Law School Admissions Strategy.”

Numbers and stats for law school admission are important – certainly more so even than for undergraduate – but the right components of your application can make all the difference in the world.

Does it seem like you just finished your undergraduate applications for admission, and now here you are applying to law school? Or maybe you did your undergraduate more than a few years ago, and are returning to law school after an academic hiatus. Either way, it’s important to know what admissions committees are looking for BEFORE you starting working on your application. You need a strategy.

The first thing to know is that the numbers that schools list on their web sites are real. Yale really does look for an LSAT score in the mid 170’s, whereas Tulane is happy with a 160. So look at the web sites of the schools in which you are interested, and make your list accordingly. Of course, you should always reach for the stars by including a couple of reach schools, but you also need to be realistic.

When making your list of schools, other things to consider include location, and whether or not you are able and willing to move to attend law school. For someone in their early 20’s, this often is not an issue, whereas if you are returning to law school a little later in life, you might be settled where you are and therefore are not able to relocate. From a financial point of view, the local school may also be more affordable.

At least as important as location and affordability is focusing on what kind of law you want to study, what you want to do with the degree, and which programs will therefore be the best fit. Are you interested in corporate law or do you see yourself working for LegalAid after graduation? Different schools have different specialties. Do your research and make sure that the schools you are including on your list match your interests.

Once you have done your due diligence and figured out where you can reasonably hope to be admitted, which schools have the best program for your interests, and which two or three schools fit into the “reach” category, then it is time to assess the potential strengths and weaknesses of your application. Suppose you have an excellent LSAT score, but your GPA suffered your junior year, thereby bringing your overall GPA down. Instead of seeing this as only a weakness, you need to make sure that you frame this in the best possible way. (Our professional consultants and editors can help you.)

After assessing and summarizing your professional, extracurricular, and community service activities, the single most important part of your application is your personal statement. This is your opportunity to make your story come to life and give the admissions committee an authentic look into who you are. Make sure you dedicate the appropriate time and energy into this essay. We’ll cover the personal statement in a later post, but if you want to get started immediately or simply want individual advice, consider hiring a law school admissions consultant to guide you.

For now, figure out your strategy, make a plan, and get started. You’re ready!

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lsat



Law School Admissions News Roundup

  • Does No LSAT = More Diversity?- As part of a conference at the University of Virginia School of Law on improving diversity in the legal sector, a panel of admissions experts didn’t feel that getting rid of the LSAT would increase diversity at law schools. One reason mentioned was that admissions officers might focus on less objective factors without the LSAT. Those in the other camp might point to the fact that Hispanic and African-American test takers have median scores below those of whites. However, “that gap […] is evident across all major standardized tests, not just the LSAT.” Another issue is that some schools rely too heavily on LSAT scores, and perhaps those results should be emphasized less.
  • More First-Time Test Takers Passed NY Bar- As reported by New York Law Journal, of those who graduated from ABA-accredited schools and took the July New York bar exam for the first time, 86.1 percent passed, up by 0.5 percent from last year. However, 69.2 percent passed out of all the 11,182 July test takers, compared to 70 percent, 72 percent, and 74.7 percent in the previous years.
  • Best Law Schools for Externships- The National Jurist has adjusted its externship rankings to only include full-time law students. The rankings are based on a ratio of field placements to enrollment, with University of St. Thomas taking first place. Filling out the top five are Northeastern University, University of Utah, Brigham Young, and Thomas Jefferson.
  • Can Anyone Become a Lawyer?- In an op-ed piece for The New York Times, Clifford Winston argues that anyone should be able to practice law—whether or not he/she has a J.D. or passed the bar. Accordingly, the poor would be able to afford legal services by those with less training, while others can choose to pay higher fees for more formally trained lawyers. Potential competition from “non-lawyers” would also bring down legal costs in general, Winston speculates. He also calls for a better assessment of lawyer quality by consumers, since “in the absence of an open, competitive approach to information about the quality of legal services, the existing licensing and discipline system creates a false sense of security.” Above the Law, among others, takes issue with Winston, noting that he doesn’t differentiate well between quality and quantity, and is not using common sense. A blog from The Washington Post argues that deregulation would not only lower standards, but quality as well. A better solution would be to reform law schools “by offering a better balance of the doctrinal, skills, and values education that students need to become competent legal professionals.” Additionally, the bar exam could become less concentrated, and instead be extended over years and test a number of skills. It seems that whichever side you fall on, some modification of legal education and training is in order.
  • Pre-Law Students Are Facing Reality- Potential law students are taking off their rose-colored glasses. A survey by Veritas Prep revealed that 68 percent of respondents would still apply to law school even with the knowledge that many would not be able to find jobs after graduation, versus 81 percent last year, The National Law Journal reports. More students are expecting to take on loans—49 percent, as opposed to 38 percent in 2010. Plus, the top concern for 73 percent of those queried is to find a job that would enable them to pay back their student loans. Last year, most were concerned with finding an “appealing long-term career.” While location and prestige remained the top two factors in choosing a law school, more students this year are considering affordability as well.
  • Interested in an International LL.M.?- The National Jurist covers everything you need to know, including what to consider when choosing a program, and researching its faculty and courses. While international students are more likely to pursue these LL.M. degrees, U.S. students are increasingly drawn to the courses as well. The article also has a comprehensive guide to all LL.M. programs offered at U.S. law schools.

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5flaws-law



New GRE Book Reviews: Wrap Up and Video

  

This post is courtesy of our friends at Magoosh.

Here are a few hypothetical scenarios to help you figure out what material you should (and shouldn’t!) use while studying for the revised GRE…

If you need help with Verbal:

The strategies in Princeton Review are both clearly presented and helpful. There are exercises that will allow you to practice techniques, and the questions are a good place to start, as well. Once you become more confident, and want to move on to more difficult content, you can use Barron’s. However, do not rely too much on Barron’s strategies, as, more often than not, they might confuse you. Simply use Barron’s for content.

At this point, you should transition to the ETS material. You may want to start off by taking a test from the PowerPrep software. This will set a baseline, and help you focus on the areas that you need the most work on. If you need extra content on reading comprehension, then you can use Kaplan. I’d also recommend buying the GMAT Official Guide, especially if you need help on the critical reasoning component of critical reading.

If you are struggling with Quant:

Pick up a copy of McGraw-Hill’s Conquering the GRE Math. Make sure you are comfortable with most of the basics covered in the book. Do not feel you have to do every problem. Work on the math fundamentals that you are struggling the most with.

At this point, transition to The Princeton Review Math guide. The strategies are helpful, but you may work through the questions quickly. I would also recommend the SAT College Board book. The same range of concepts is covered, and with 600 practice questions, ranging from easy to difficult, you’ll have plenty of practice.

You’ll notice that I’m staying away from a lot of material for the new GRE. Just because it says “New GRE” doesn’t mean the content is the best. Stay tuned for an upcoming post in which I’ll talk about content that, while not developed for the new GRE, will actually help you prep for the new GRE.

In order to not forget the idiosyncrasies of the new GRE environment, you should also start prepping with Barron’s, especially once your math confidence is higher. Then…

If you want to score in the top 90% in Verbal

First off, your vocabulary has to be strong. I’ll be discussing vocabulary in-depth starting tomorrow, but you should know most of the vocabulary from the Word Smart Series, as well as any vocabulary I’ve included in my blog posts.

If you want to score at this level, I’ll assume that you’ve already got a strong handle on strategies, and are simply hunting around for the best content to hone your skills. For Reading Comprehension:

For TC/SE:

If you want to score in the top 90% for Quant:

If you cover the material listed below, there will be little that can surprise you on test day. In fact, a good way to think of it is to imagine you are preparing for the GMAT. You can even take a free GMAT test on-line. If you can score in the top 90% in GMAT, the GRE math should be a cakewalk.

If you’d like more specifics, here are the individual reviews for each of the books:

This blog post was originally posted here.





Law School News Roundup

  

  • In the past, the LSAC (Law School Admission Council) had a policy that test-takers could take the LSAT a maximum of three times in two years. However, a test-taker could always petition a law school for an exemption to this rule. LSAC recently announced that they have changed this policy, and as of June 2011 test-takers can only request an exemption directly from LSAC.
  • The University of New Hampshire School of Law will be opening a new, three-and-a-half-year JD/MBA program in partnership with the Whittemore School of Business and Economics in New Hampshire.
  • A reporter for The Careerist interviewed one of Debevoise & Plimpton hiring partners, Maurizio Levi-Minzi, to find out what qualities the firm looks for in a new hire.  Levi-Minzi explains that getting a call-back from Debevoise does not rely solely on grades. Additionally, Debevoise looks for people who are “creative,” “diverse,” and “authentic.”
  • New York Law School Dean and President, Richard A. Matasar, has announced his decision to step down at some point during this academic year. After 20 years as a law school dean, he explained, “I have become very interested in higher education issues outside of legal education and am considering some exciting possibilities that would allow me to expand my intellectual scope and focus.”
  • Above the Law takes a look at letters written by two law school students—one summering at Cravath, and the other still looking for a job.  The article characterizes the relationship between the have and have-nots of law school students.  When reading the two letters one also senses the hopelessness among the majority of 2Ls and 3Ls about the current job market.

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Law School News Roundup

  

  • The New York Law Journal  released the NYLJ 100, a list containing the number of attorneys employed in New York’s 100 largest private law offices as of December 2010. There are about 400 fewer attorneys employed than expected, but the numbers have not changed substantially in comparison with last year’s list.
  • The National Law Journal announced that Duke Law School will be launching a master of laws program in judicial studies in the summer of 2012, tailored specifically for judges. The university will also be opening a new Center for Judicial Studies, supporting research on the judiciary. 
  • Above the Law looks at which law firms are ranked as being the most diverse, according to the 2011 edition of the American Lawyer’s Diversity Scorecard. American Lawyer defines the “diversity score” for each firm by the “minority percentage of all U.S. attorneys + minority percentage of all U.S. partners.” Check out the rankings to see what firms you might be interested in.
  • Blueprint Prep’s blog has a humorous post on “The Five Stages of June LSAT Grief.” While they only jokingly look at the five stages of this post-LSAT syndrome—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—the good news is that at least the stages end with acceptance!

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2012 Applicants: Time to Poke the Box





I just finished Seth Godin’s Poke the Box, an ode to initiative, innovation, and overcoming fear of risk and failure. In this short book, which Godin alternately and accurately refers to as a “manifesto” and a “rant,” he motivates the reader to just do it. Get going. In Godin’s words, “I’m merely encouraging you to start. Often. Forever. Be the one who starts things.”

I have had an idea percolating in my head for several months. But I hadn’t started. The idea has to do with MBA careers and MBA students, but inertia, and fear of rejection and failure were winning. I had more palatable and less honest excuses too: I was moving cautiously. I was busy. I had to check my email, Facebook, Twitter. Go to the gym. … You can probably imagine the list yourself.

As I finished Godin’s book, I decided to just do it. And I have started. I haven’t finished or “shipped” in Godin’s terms, but hopefully you will see the fruits of my start in a few weeks right here.

I poked the box. Now it’s your turn. While I am not sure Godin is a big fan of grad school or graduate business education, despite his MBA from Stanford GSB, Godin’s message is particularly pertinent for 2012 applicants.

Yes. You should start. This week. Today. Now.

Here are a few suggestions for 2012 graduate school applicants:

  1. Register for the GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, or whatever test is required of you, as well as the relevant prep course, if you haven’t already done so. You want to get the test out of the way and you want as high a score as possible. (See the video below “3 Action Items for 2012 Graduate School Applicants” from Eye on Admissions for a my mild rant on this topic and other suggestions to start your 2012 application. Now.)
  2. If you are an MBA applicant who will need to write a goals essay or someone who will need to write a statement of purpose for grad school, research your goal/purpose. Email 3 people to request an informational interview about your field so that you can clarify your reasons for pursuing graduate study and your intended path for achieving your goals.
  3. Assess your qualifications and begin to shortlist schools based on your goals and qualifications.
  4. I wouldn’t start writing application essays or personal statements yet, but I would create a file where you can jot down ideas for topics to include, notes from your informational interviews, and thoughts about schools and possible essays topics.

As I read Poke the Box, I also thought of the many programs, especially top MBA programs that ask applicants about times they took a risk or their response to failure. Understandably, applicants squirm when they have to respond to these questions.

Stop squirming. Godin has something empowering to say on this point too. “Change is powerful, but change always comes with failure as its partner. ‘This might not work’ isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you should seek out.” Failure is a tough partner to embrace, but embrace it nonetheless. It is Initiative’s significant other.

So whether you are facing memories of failure or fear of failure, just start. And consistently plow forward. Poke your box.

By Linda Abraham, Accepted’s founder and president.