LSAT Tips If English Is Your Second Language | Law Admissions
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Salvation. I am a legal immigrant from El Salvador. English is my second language. I graduated from college in the US, where I got good grades, but I struggled with the LSAT. Do you have any advice? – RS
No one finds the LSAT easy. It’s fast-paced and grueling, designed so the average person can’t finish in time. Regardless of your language skills, the LSAT requires months of training.
Mastering the skills required to pass the LSAT requires focused and methodical practice, with enough time spent in careful examination of past mistakes to correct weaknesses one by one.
Beyond specific techniques, the test requires mental skills like maintaining confidence under pressure. Test anxiety can cause panic and self-doubt to flood your brain and inhibit your language skills. Non-native speakers may find it too easy to feel confused and overwhelmed.
While the LSAT requires strong English skills, it tests the more universal language of logical reasoning. The same argumentative techniques and logical loopholes exist whether you speak in English, Spanish or Tamil.
Nevertheless, each section of the test can pose different challenges to non-native speakers.
In English, there are few ways to say that something only happens if a certain condition is met. There are even fewer ways to say that one thing causes another.
Look for conditional reasoning and causal reasoning indicators. You can often answer a question correctly by recognizing these clues, even if you can’t decipher every word used.
Many logical reasoning questions are stuffed with superfluous information to confuse test takers. Don’t be put off by convoluted sentences with odd syntax or multiple clauses. Break sentences into smaller components, focusing on central parts of an argument, such as premises and conclusions.
Don’t be afraid to flag a question to come back to it later. Each LSAT question is weighted equally, so focus on the questions that are easiest for you.
Passages in the reading comprehension section of the LSAT are designed to be confusing and intimidating. Avoid getting bogged down in the details. Dig into each passage to extract the author’s main point and supporting claims, as well as competing perspectives.
Reading comprehension passages may feature absurdly mysterious vocabulary. Passages related to science and technology often use terms that only a specialist would know.
If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, don’t take it personally. Mentally abbreviate the word with its initial and move on. The questions rarely require you to know the meaning of unusual words, and when they do, you can look for contextual clues to make an educated guess.
Many non-native English speakers find the Analytical Reasoning section, made up of logic games, to be the easiest. The correct implementation of a logic game rarely depends on linguistic nuances. It is simply a skill acquired through practice.
If you feel less confident in your English skills, aim as high as possible in this section. A high score here can compensate for errors elsewhere.
Example of written expression
Writing a short essay on the fly can seem daunting to a non-native speaker. Don’t worry – the writing sample is ungraded and relatively unimportant.
Try to write a reasonable, grammatically correct and well-structured essay. However, law school admissions officers will focus more on your personal statement and other written materials to assess your communication skills.
Other options to consider
If the LSAT seems too inaccessible, try the GRE to see if it is a better match for your skills. Unlike the LSAT, the GRE tests quantitative and language skills, which some non-native speakers find easier to study.
There is also an LSAT in Spanish, offered once a year. However, it is only available to applicants in Puerto Rico and accepted only by the three ABA-accredited law schools. It is possible, though difficult, to qualify for the bar in a continental United States jurisdiction after attending law school in Puerto Rico.
Above all, remember that diversity of language, cultural heritage, and immigration status is valued by law schools. Taking on a tough challenge like the LSAT as a non-native English speaker is very impressive and should dispel any doubts about your English proficiency.