Nice to meet you online and welcome to Lsatters —
As you might imagine, I can’t give you a black-and-white answer to those questions — by this point countless students have used just the Trainer + practice exams to get 165+, 170+, and 175+ scores, and other students have found it more beneficial to combine the Trainer with other learning products — every student is different, and ultimately the best study system is going to be the one that is best tailored to your particular needs —
So, at this point, I think the most useful things that I can try to do for you are to
a) help you develop your big-picture sense of how you are going to achieve success studying for this exam
b) give you what I think are the biggest considerations when thinking about how to schedule your prep
c) give you some general suggestions for how to stay flexible and adapt the Trainer study schedule to your needs &
d) help you develop a clearer sense of certain gauges that you can use to monitor your progress along the way
A. In terms of the big-picture, I think the first thing to consider about your prep is that the LSAT is not just something to learn, but rather something to get good at — in this way, it’s very different from most other tests we take in school (which are usually designed to test what we have learned), and more akin to getting good at playing an instrument or a game like chess —
Ultimately, your success is going to be based on how well you perform in the moment.
In order to perform well, you need to develop effective skills and habits that align with the design of the exam.
And in order to develop these skills and habits, you need to
a) develop your understanding of the exam
b) learn effective strategies
c) get plenty of practice applying that understanding and strategies
d) be able to accurately assess and improve upon your performance
So, whether you use just the Trainer or the Trainer + the Manhattan books or those two plus other learning products, you want to keep in mind that, at the end of the day, you want to combine that learning with plenty of practice, and you don’t want to shortchange your practice time because you invested too much time on too many learning products.
B) In terms of the key factors you ought to consider –
1) As you may or may not know, I co-created Manhattan before leaving and developing the Trainer. I’ve talked about the differences between the products other places, but to summarize, the key positive on the side of the Manhattan books is that they have been influenced by the work of many different talented instructors, and the books have benefitted from those multiple perspectives — the key positive on the Trainer side is that by the time I wrote it, my understanding of the LSAT was at a completely different level than it was when I developed the Manhattan products. In my very biased opinion, that makes the Trainer both simpler and more advanced than any other resource out there.
2) The Trainer provides all of the instruction you need to solve every single problem you might face on the LSAT. In order to be able to make that claim, one thing I did before writing the book was to break down over ten years worth of published exams, categorizing and taking notes on every key challenge I could identify for every single problem on every single test. I then designed the Trainer around all that I had uncovered, with the belief that if the book accounts for over ten years worth of exams, there isn’t going to be anything a student might see on test day that isn’t connected to what is in the book.
So, you don’t have to worry that if you just use the Trainer, you are going to miss out on any necessary instruction.
3) Having said that, unless you are limited for time (more on this in just a bit) — in general, there is far more good that can come out of using multiple learning products than there is bad. As long as the products are of high quality, it’s generally very easy to deal w/any differences between study products, and, a lot of times, it can really help to get multiple perspectives on the exam — this can certainly give you a better chance to understand and master concepts than you might get using just one learning product.
4) As I’ve alluded to, the big factor you want to consider is where these learning products fit into your overall study schedule — more specifically, you want to make sure you
a) have plenty of time to study your learning products carefully (it’s not worth it to rush through a bunch of study guides — better to ready dig deep into at least one) &
b) have plenty of time to practice applying what you are learning on practice problems, so that you can convert your understand and strategies into skills and habits that you can depend on on test day.
C) So, with all that said, here are suggestions for helping you to stay flexible and to adapt the schedule in whatever ways you see fit —
1) Note that the schedule you choose is meant to be used with pt’s 52-71, which are meant to be purchased separately. If you want to instead use the Cambridge packets for your drilling, that’s great too (you can just replace the given drill assignments with those from the Cambridge packets) but, at the least, you will want to make sure you have 62-71 to use as practice exams (you’ll want more recent tests to practice with before test day).
2) Also keep in mind that the schedules are designed so that you can easily move assignments forwards or backwards — if you know you want to use more learning products, you may want to adjust it so that you are finishing more of the Trainer earlier than the schedule suggests.
3) Keep in mind that the schedules suggest you split up your drilling, or organized practice problems, into three different rounds.
4) So, what I would suggest is that you start with the Trainer, and complete the first round of drilling along with the book as the drilling is assigned.
5) After you finish the Trainer and one round of drilling, you can assess how you feel about your own strengths and weaknesses, and at that point determine whether you want to invest time in some or all of the Manhattan books, or if you feel good with your understanding and strategies and want to move on to more drilling.
6) If you want to incorporate the Manhattan books (or any other resource) you can do so before your second round of drilling — so that basically you are going Trainer + Drilling, then Manhattan + Drilling, then finally more drill work at the end before you move on to PT’s.
D) Finally, in terms of developing your own gauges, I think the most important gauge is the amount of comfort you feel and the amount of confidence you feel when you are practicing full problems —
— So, if the problems go as you expect, and you are getting right answers and developing stronger and stronger habits, you are in great shape, and —
— when you find certain problem types or game types or whatnot challenging, that’s when you want to assess and try to figure out why —
If you think your understanding or strategies are deficient, that’s when you want to go back to studying the Trainer or another study product — if, when you review these challenging problems, you find that it’s not your understanding or strategies, but rather your execution, than you know that more practice and careful review will probably be the best way to utilize your time.
You’ll surely develop more and more specific gauges along the way, but I think that’ll get you started on the right path.
Whew! Sorry for the length — I know these are important decisions for you, and I wanted to err on the side of giving too much rather than too little info — if any of that wasn’t clear, or if you have any follow-up q’s, just let me know —
Wish you the best with your prep — Mike