An interview with LSAT master Dave Hall

Today, I present to the world an interview with a man who has scored a 180 on the LSAT three times! That is seriously incredible. Interestingly enough, those three 180’s are from June administrations of the LSAT. (Maybe you should take the LSAT in June?) Anyways, Dave Hall is the founder of Velocity Test Prep and was kind enough to provide excellent answers to a few questions:

I just finished reading your bio posts and am very curious about the time you spent in rural Appalachia. How much time did you spend there and what was it like?

I lived in eastern Tennessee for one year in 2003-2004. It was awesome. I worked with a small crew building homes and erecting pre-fab concrete foundations. We’d go to work sometimes before the sun was up, and we’d work until it got dark.

At the end of the first summer, I was in the best shape of my life and was brown as a nut. The last 10 years of LSAT prep, while pretty great in most regards, have not been so kind in those ways.

The legal industry has been hit hard by the economy. Has it impacted Velocity Test Prep?

Yep; after explosive growth in our first two years, that growth has slowed recently. Last month, for example, we saw just about a 7% uptick in enrollments over the previous year. So, even in a declining overall market, we’re still adding students.

This is really simple economics, actually; Velocity is a world-beating course, and we sell it cheap so everybody can get on board. We think that’s keeping up our end of the deal; the market seems to respond favorably.

What changes have you seen in the recent LSATs?

The test evolves. If you look at any five consecutive PrepTests, anywhere along the timeline, you’ll find that they’re all pretty much identical. However, if you compare PrepTest 18, say, to PrepTest 68, you’ll notice some real differences. Notably, the Games section has gotten more predictable, the Logical Reasoning is a little more formulaic, and the Reading Comp is harder.

With all sections, I think these changes are the result of an increasing standardization. Games are more like each other. LR arguments are more like each other. And the test writers have gotten really good at crafting wrong answer choices in the Reading Comp that sound right to lots of people for some reason.

One of the most important lessons from this evolution is that you’ve got to go into the LSAT knowing that you’re going to answer questions, which is an activity that’s distinct from choosing among answer choices. Go into it looking for the best answer choice, and you’re going to get jerked around. Go into it looking for the answer you already know is correct, and you’re much less likely to be taken in by a pretender.

There have been fewer and fewer people taking the LSAT, do you think we’ve hit the bottom?

I think we’re at least close. This February, we saw the first year-over-year increase in test takers since 2010. It was a very small increase—barely over 1%—but it might mean the bleeding’s finally stopped. It suggests that possibly, the discounting that many schools were offering to top applicants has worked.

But as any self-respecting LSAT student could tell you, that correlation does not necessarily indicate a causal relationship!

Do you have an all time favorite LSAT or LSAT game/question/reading passage?

Yes! My favorite game is probably the first game from PrepTest 43, just because it’s got these badass jugglers in it that WON’T BE TOLD WHERE TO MARCH IN THE CIVIC PARADE. I just love it.

Also, I’d like to formally nominate answer choice (A) from PrepTest 48, Reading Comp Question 22 as the Greatest Answer Choice of All Time. The question asks what we can infer from the passage (it’s about genetic similarity across species, and is as riveting as it sounds), and this incredible answer choice says that—and I’m going to accurately paraphrase it here—we can infer that since fruit flies and humans are genetically similar, we can therefore draw useful analogies between fruit fly and human behavior.

WTF?! How did people in the room not stand up and cheer? OF COURSE FRUIT FLY BEHAVIOR IS AN EXCELLENT RESOURCE FOR UNDERSTANDING WHY HE CAN’T JUST PUT THE TOILET SEAT DOWN! Of course it is. Dear me. I’m pretty sure I would’ve had to laugh out loud, even if I were in the room on test day.

Oh, LSAC, you bunch of rascals, you.

What tips can you share for those studying for the LSAT?

Here’s my top three LSAT tips:

#1. Think about the way that you’ve learned to get good at anything else you’ve done – hard work and smart practice. Expect to put in real effort if you want to succeed at this. Anticipate that you can probably benefit from a good coach. Know that you’ll have to do organized review in order to grow.

#2. Don’t just take practice tests – try instead to gain mastery of each individual question type. This will give shape and focus to your prep. In order to be fast for test day, you’ll need to be good at what you do.

#3. (Really more of number 2) Pattern recognition is key. For example, there’s just not enough time in a Logical Reasoning section (I’m speaking from my own experience, here) to analyze every argument. Instead, I’ve figured out how LR passages are related to others by kind. That way, I get to recognize answers rather than having to synthesize them anew for every question I work. This work of identification and classification was the single most important thing I did in learning to succeed on this test.