4 LSAT Explanation Red Flags

Reading a few LSAT explanations is a great way to determine whether an LSAT prep program is the right fit for you. Here are four all-too-common issues with LSAT explanations that should make you think twice about using that prep program.

For new students, it’s hard to navigate the world of the LSAT. Now more than ever. New students have to keep up with the many changes to the LSAT and law school admissions just to figure out what’ll be on their LSAT and how that score will impact their admissions chances.

It’s even more difficult to tell whether an LSAT prep company will be a worthwhile investment of your time and money.

As a new student, how would you even evaluate all the different curriculums out there? You’re not yet an LSAT expert, and distinguishing between different curricula and teaching styles can be challenging. And who has the time to watch all those videos and attend all those classes? That’s time you need to study! Plus, most LSAT prep companies keep their content behind a paywall, so you can’t even review the materials until you’ve already paid. And message boards and third-party review sites can be unreliable and provide outdated info — and maybe even worse.

Fortunately, there’s a relatively quick and easy way to decide whether an LSAT program is the right investment for you. Read the explanations they provide.

Any worthwhile LSAT program will feature written explanations of why the various answer choices are correct or incorrect. These explanations will be your main study buddy. Even more than lesson videos or live classes, these explanations will be your guide as you distill the many concepts on the LSAT into an approach that works for you. So, reading these explanations is a quick way to form a impression of the program’s approach to the LSAT.

Some common issues with explanations can help you make an even faster decision. If you encounter any of these four red flags, reconsider that prep program. These are signs that the program isn’t bridging the gap in experience and knowledge separating LSAT instructors and new students. And if the program isn’t willing to invest the time, effort, or brainpower into their explanations, you shouldn’t waste your time, effort, and brainpower with that program.

1. You can’t understand what the explanations are saying.

Sometimes, explanations are aimed squarely above any new student’s head. These explanations, written by some eggheaded LSAT instructors, employ the same tortured syntax and vocabulary that the LSAT questions use. They overuse jargon-y phrases like “out of scope” and expect you to know what that means. They don’t break down the LSAT’s complex questions into the simple, intuitive ideas that frequently lie at the heart of the questions. Instead, they keep things complicated.

You don’t want to spend your time figuring out what the questions and the explanations are saying, so it’s a good idea to avoid explanations that sound like they’re written for an academic seminar instead of you. 

2. The explanations repeatedly say something is “obvious” or “clear.”

Empirically, things are never obvious or clear on the LSAT. Each answer choice manages to trick some test-takers into selecting it. And any experienced LSAT teacher can tell you that LSAT questions can confound LSAT students in unpredictable ways. What confused one student might be clear to another, and the reason one answer choice was obviously wrong to one may not be so apparent to another.

And yet, so many explanations insist that some answer choices are so “obviously wrong” or “clearly incorrect” that they barely merit an explanation. Really — some explanations just say an answer choice is “obviously wrong” and move on to the next answer choice. Imagine being a student who picked that answer choice! I can easily imagine how small and stupid they must feel after reading such a dismissive brush-off. But I can’t imagine why the people who write these explanations can’t also picture how such explanations must make their students feel.

If LSAT prep programs don’t bother providing the most basic and minimal intellectual empathy to you, you shouldn’t bother providing your hard-earned money to them.

3. All the answer choice explanations are roughly the same length

This one might sound a bit weird — why wouldn’t all the explanations for the answer choices be about the same length? Especially the wrong answer choices — aren’t they all the same level of wrong?

Not quite. Most questions have three types of answer choices. The correct one, the wrong one a lot of test-takers select, and the wrong ones far fewer test-takers select.

The wrong one a lot of test-takers select demands a more in-depth explanation than the wrong ones far fewer test-takers select. The LSAT-makers are really good at making some wrong answer choices sound correct, tricking many test-takers into selecting the wrong answer.

So, if answer choice explanations are all the same length, the explainers aren’t willing to acknowledge or address the plain fact that some answer choices are trickier than others. They’re not looking at the statistics to see which answer choice is most commonly selected or they’re not putting themselves into the mindset of a test-taker who just selected that wrong answer choice. The explainers probably aren’t considering what part of that answer choice appealed to that test-taker and addressing that head-on.

And, if the explainer isn’t willing to acknowledge you, you probably shouldn’t acknowledge them.

4. All the explanations start to sound like “This is correct because the passage says X” or “This is incorrect because the passage doesn’t say Y.”

Some explanations only tell you why the correct answer is correct and why the wrong answers are incorrect. Many of these explanations essentially,say, "This answer is correct because the passage says X, and this answer is incorrect because the passage doesn't say Y." This is especially true for the Reading Comp explanations.

Such explanations won’t be very helpful to you because the why (as in, why is this correct?) is rarely as important as the how (as in, how do you answer this correctly). Most students, once they know that an answer choice is correct, can understand and sometimes even explain why that answer is correct. They don’t need to learn the why — they figure that out on their own. Instead, they need to learn the how.

Good explanations provide the the why and the how. They describe the process a test-taker would employ to find the correct answer. And excellent explanations provide the why, the how, and incorporate advice on how a test-taker might work efficiently under the LSAT’s time constraints.

So, even if the explanations sound good and are easy to understand, ask yourself whether they only provide the why. Such explanations fail to provide the full picture — they’re only providing the part that you could probably figure out on your own. 

— — — — —

So, before you invest your time and money into a prep program, take a look at their explanations. They explanations are one of the most important features of your LSAT study program, so you want them to be free of any these red flags. So, as you read explanations, ask yourself a few questions. Are they explaining things in a way that’s easy for you to understand? Are their explanations thorough? And are they going beyond the why and showing you the how?

We encourage you to take a look at our explanations. You can sample some of our explanations by signing up for a free account. If you want to take a closer look at them (or you want to study with just our explanations), you can choose our Self-Study course, one of the most affordable study options on the market.