A common question that gets asked on a lot of message boards is: “This is what I’ve got (list of materials). What else do I need to get started?” And to be clear – questions about what books you should get, whether different methods will help you, and stuff like that are all 100% legitimate. What really gets me, though, is that these questions are often asked *before the student has even cracked a book*. Questions like “I bought PowerScore’s bibles, should I get the Manhattan books too?” really grind my gears in circumstances like those. If you think you may be one of those people, then this article is for you.
I think the reason a lot of students like to collect LSAT material is because it makes them feel good. I mean, let’s be honest here – when you look at a stack of prep books, your immediate and inescapable thought is “how could I NOT be prepared with all of this stuff?” Everyone KNOWS in their heart of hearts that there’s a world of difference between having the materials versus actually being prepared. But it’s just the nice visceral look and feel and smell of new, never-before-opened books that contain the promise of a 180 that makes people want more. It’s an easy high, sort of like that feeling when you get a new video game that you don’t have time to play and winds up gathering dust on your shelf for three months, or that new book that you’ve been meaning to read for the past eight months but which makes you smile every time you see it on the bookshelf. Prep books are like a block of LSAT death-dealers, ready to reveal their secrets, and the more volumes you can add to that block, the firmer your conviction that you’re going to crush this thing. Frankly, I’m no different – my backlog of video games to play is huge, and I know I don’t need to buy any more and I should just play the ones I have, but somehow new games keep finding their way into my library anyway. It’s the same idea – it just FEELS good, even though objectively it’s dumb.
Obviously, the problem here only arises when that conviction doesn’t translate into actual study. For all of my nitpicking about various materials, you typically won’t find a technique published in a book by a major test prep company that is blatantly wrong – most of the time, it’s just that there exists a slightly easier way to understand it, or that the explanation isn’t as clear as it could be. But among the most-recommended test prep materials (I’ll use Manhattan and PowerScore as the example moving forward), the techniques themselves don’t differ all that much and the overall difference isn’t actually that great. For the vast majority of students, the nitpicky differences between Manhattan’s LR book and the PowerScore LR Bible aren’t going to matter, because the vast majority of students make mistakes that have nothing to do with the small differences between the two methods.
I fully recognize that there are students who profess that one book was complete gibberish and the other made complete sense. I have two rebuttals to that:
- Your reading of the second book was likely informed by your reading of the first book. For example, people like saying that Manhattan LSAT’s LR book is better than the PowerScore LR bible, and it very well may be. But if you’re reading the Manhattan LR book after reading the PowerScore Bible, you already have all the pieces floating around in your head, and it’s not clear that you wouldn’t have been able to come to the same understanding with the PowerScore book and a little bit of critical thought. There are people who have come at it the other way around, too – professing that PowerScore’s LR book is what made everything click – and I have the same thing to say to them. It can’t be the case that both books are better than the other, so I’m much more inclined to believe that it’s just reading things through a second time with slightly different wordings that made things click.
- You’re not necessarily the demographic that I’m talking about here. If you read one book, didn’t understand, and then picked up another to help you out, then great – that’s what you should be doing. This post is directed toward LSAT prep material collectors – the people who haven’t even cracked a book before asking whether they should get another one (so in some sense, you’re failing the sufficient condition from above – IF you’re one of those people, then this article is for you).
There’s zero reason that you need to buy all of your materials at one time. This is an age of one-click shopping and 2-day shipping directly to your door. Yes, ask around for recommendations on what to get initially – that’s just smart. But once you have the Manhattan LR book and the PowerScore LG Bible in your hands (for example), you’re DONE shopping for now. Don’t ask yourself whether some other book might help you understand better when you haven’t even tried to understand the materials in front of you – it’s a waste of time. Open the books and get to work.