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New prep course will prepare prospective law students for LSATs

Saint Vincent College will introduce an LSAT (Law School Admission Test) prep course to prepare potential law students for the official tests that will be a part of their law school application process.

The course is to be given in two parts: the first half will center on the logic and analytic reasoning portion of the test and will be taught in the fall by Dr. Margaret Watkins, associate professor of philosophy, while the second half will concern the reading comprehension and writing part of the LSATs and will be instructed in the spring by Dr. Dennis McDaniel, associate professor and chair of the English department. Both courses will be worth one credit each.

Dr. Watkins elaborated on the benefits of the upcoming course.

“It’s a great benefit to people who can get unnerved by the test,” Watkins said. “When people know that this one upcoming test is important, they can easily suffer from test anxiety when they wouldn’t otherwise.”

Watkins described the format of the LSAT exam as unusual.

“You can take the GRE on a computer, but the LSATs are still a written test, like the SATs,” Watkins said.

According to Watkins, her portion of the course will mainly focus on the two logic-based sections of the LSATs, along with practice tests and general testing strategies.

Watkins finds a collaborative atmosphere and practice testing to be beneficial aspects of the class.

“I’ve enjoyed teaching the class because it’s very collaborative,” Watkins said. “There’s only so much a professor can do. It’s in the hands of the students. The single most important thing you can do is take practice tests and the course provides a kind of mechanism where you can get feedback on the tests.”

The course was offered previously and has long been taught by McDaniel and Watkins, but it was not available last year.

Dr. Watkins explained the decision to reinstitute the course during 2017-2018 academic year.

“I heard a lot of people asking about it. Bruce Antkowiak [chair of the criminology department and the general counsel for Saint Vincent] said more people are applying to law school this year than usual,” Watkins said.

McDaniel explained that the course has one real purpose.

“It is designed to prepare students to succeed at the LSAT course by providing them with effective test-taking strategies and by giving students opportunities to take practice tests in a monitored environment,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel provided more information about how the LSAT Prep course was instructed in the past.

“Prior to this year, we offered the course on two different evenings during the same six-week time period; however, because I’m on sabbatical this fall, and Dr. Watkins will be away this spring, we’re breaking the course into two parts: Dr. Watkins’ section will be taught in the fall of 2017, and mine in the spring of 2018,” said McDaniel.

McDaniel stated that the course was reintroduced to help Saint Vincent students who are interested in law school.

“Dr. Antkowiak and Dr. Smetanka [vice president for academic affairs and academic dean] saw this course as a good way to help our students gain admission to law school,” McDaniel said.

Concerning effects that the course has had on students in the past, McDaniel stated that the results have been encouraging.

“Students have responded very positively to the course because it is practically oriented. In my segment of the course, students learn how to read a reading comprehension passage in a manner that anticipates the kinds of questions commonly asked. Also, students learn how to analyze writing prompts, all of which ask students to defend a choice, and practice framing responses that exhibit their critical thinking

skills,” McDaniel said.

Mary Reich, a senior international business major, says she has already begun preparing for the exam and will be one of the students participating in the course.

“I’ve already taken at least one practice test,” Reich said. “The LSATs themselves are just one giant logic test. My expectation is that they’re hard, but also based on common sense and they’re straightforward if you prepare the right way.”

Reich explained her perception of the exam.

“It’s crazy, but it’s a different experience from taking the SAT because there’s no pre-required knowledge, it’s more ‘can you reason through the problem that we’ve presented to you’ which is nice because you don’t really study, you just practice instead or at least try to make yourself better at those sorts of things,” Reich said.

Reich anticipates that the LSAT Prep course will provide a classroom setting with the opportunity to ask questions about areas of struggle.

“It’s nice to be in a group of people who are all facing the same thing,” Reich said.

Reich has not had either McDaniel or Watkins for any previous classes, but said that she is confident in their ability to teach the material in the course.

Reich described the course as something positive that Saint Vincent has to offer.

“I think it’s really nice that I don’t have to go out of my way to search and pay for [a prep course] off-campus. I think it’s a valuable resource they’re offering and I think they should continue to do so because we have a lot of students of various degrees who are interested in law studies. And this could be the difference between them getting in and them not.”


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