- The Washington Times - Monday, August 13, 2001

Just imagine having to read a six-inch block of type, analyze it and then answer the question in 1.8 minutes. It's the equivalent of trying to read a Reader's Digest article in the grocery store line when the guy in front fo you is about to get his change.

That's the drill for students taking the Law School Admissions Test, one of the most grueling admission tests in the world. It's no joke — six sections, five of which are multiple choice, timed at 35 minutes each. There's an experimental section, but you don't have a clue what it will be about. Hold on, there's more: Think essay.
But there's someone who might be able to help. Ian Ivey is a coach who assists hundreds of angst-ridden hopefuls each year realize their dreams and get into law, business or graduate schools.
Think 180, the perfect LSAT score.
Seven years ago Mr. Ivey decided to pursue a career in law. As a senior at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., he signed up to take a sample LSAT examination courtesy of Kaplan Test Prep, the largest test preparatory company in the nation with more than 160 test prep centers in the United States. Kaplan Inc. provides education and career services for individuals, schools and businesses.
"It was a free chance to sit down and take a sample test. Before I went into take the test, I thought, 'I'll be done in the afternoon. Then I'll go and have a nice dinner and enjoy the rest of my day,'" Mr. Ivey recalls. Standardized tests never fazed him in the past.
"The test was so difficult, I had to call my brother to come and pick me up, and I went home and slept for five straight hours. It was a surprising experience," he says.
Once he got his score back with a breakdown of his strengths and weaknesses, he knew he had to hit the books, although he scored better than expected. Mr. Ivey ordered back tests from the Law School Admission Council and enrolled in the Kaplan three-month LSAT classroom course.
He credits the methods and strategies he learned in the course for landing him in the 99th percentile of law school applicants. He graduated from Georgetown's law school in 1999 and works as a trademark attorney for the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Arlington.
Now Mr. Ivey, 30, is passing along the favor, so that others who are taking the tests don't go through as much trauma he experienced. For the past four years as a teacher for Kaplan Test Prep he's helped people take the first step in attaining their goals.
"The majority of my students are two years away from graduating or two years out of college. And then there are people who are five, 10 or 15 years out of college who have decided to make major changes in their lives. They want to go to law school or to another graduate school," Mr. Ivey says.
Mr. Ivey, who lives in Germantown, teaches the LSAT course on M Street in Northwest on Tuesdays from 7 until 10 p.m. He also teaches a prep class for the Graduate Management Admissions Test and the Graduate Record Examination. He started to teach at Kaplan during his second year of law school.
The upbeat teacher says the LSAT course over the span of eight sessions covers in depth the three main question types: logical reasoning, reading comprehension and the final and most dreaded portion, logic games or analytical reasoning.
"You know," Mr. Ivey says, laughing, "You've got seven people, and Bob can't sit next to Cindy and if David sits in seat five, then Alex must sit in a higher numbered seat than Bob," and so on.
"They're usually the most feared and the easiest to conquer. We teach students an overall method and teach them how to approach them in general," he says.
Students get to practice taking the LSAT three times over the 11 class sessions, Mr. Ivey says.
The best way to overcome the fear of the test is to become familiar with it, so that there aren't any surprises.
"We expose students to the types of questions on the LSAT. But the big benefit of the course isn't just the exposure to test questions. We talk about methods and strategies to help students score more points," Mr. Ivey says.
"If you know how to approach the test in a methodical way, not only are you familiar with the test, you are in control of the test. That's what I try and give to my students," he says.
That's why Mr. Ivey says he loves his second job and the idea of giving students a sense of mastering the test. The analytical skills students learn aren't just test-focused, he says, — they can be used when listening to a TV advertisement or a politician's speech.

Brian LaChance, 38, is one of Mr. Ivey's students at Kaplan. He graduated from Rhode Island College in Providence, R.I., in 1984, where he majored in management and economics. Now he's determined to pursue his dream and go to law school, he says.
He enjoys the interaction in classes and the way his teacher presents the material, Mr. LaChance, 38, says.
"The class is unbelievable. The LSAT test is a very good test because it tests the skills needed to be a good attorney. The class has taught me how to approach the questions, but it's also taught me discipline," Mr. LaChance says.
When Mr. LaChance signed up this summer and made a three-hour-per-week commitment to the class, he thought that amount of time was manageable. He's since carved out much more time to devote to studying.
"It's not just a matter of only attending classes. I prepare for the class on Mondays, go to class on Tuesdays, review the material on Wednesdays. I'm taking a practice test on Thursday, and on Fridays, I'm doing more online studying and extra homework. I'm doing three hours, five days a week," he says.
"Without Kaplan I wouldn't have known how much of a investment of time I was making or how to make the best of the time. Kaplan designs a study program for you," the chief of staff for the United Way in Alexandria says.
The course is designed to change one's weaknesses into strengths and then focus on those strengths, Mr. LaChance says. If he were studying alone, he says he'd probably only focus on his weaknesses.
"It's very clever how they structure the work. I'm loving it. The class is interesting. Ian Ivey is great because he has a passion for the test. Although the time commitment is a killer, if I am not able to commit the time to this, how can I commit to law school?"
Since Mr. Ivey is a lawyer, he's able to impart words of wisdom to aspiring law students, Mr. LaChance says.
"He gets us through the book and all of the material, but he always talks to us about the mental preparation we need to do to prepare for the test. All of the assumptions I would have had going in, he has reshaped," he says.
For example, Mr. LaChance says his teacher tells his class that their first year of law school is critical. Law firms look at students' first year grades.
"He leaves quite an impression, and he gives his perspective in a passionate way because of his experience," Mr. LaChance says.

Bruce McBarnette, 43, practices contract law in Sterling, Va., and shares his expertise with students at George Washington University in Northwest. Since 1990 he's taught LSAT, GMAT and GRE classes. He also offers private tutoring.
Mr. McBarnette graduated from Princeton in 1980. He took a Sexton course, an LSAT prep course that's no longer offered, before taking the LSAT and then studied law at New York University. The native New Yorker, who now lives in Sterling, received his law degree in 1983.
Initially, Mr. McBarnette set out to teach memory techniques at George Washington's Center for Professional Development, but the director needed someone to teach the LSAT. He didn't have to plead his case. The Professional Development Center caters to people who have already graduated from college.
"That's how I got started teaching. I got started tutoring one-on-one shortly after. Many students would sometimes ask me if I could provide them one-on-one assistance, and then other students heard about me and called me about helping them," Mr. McBarnette says.
In a one-on-one sessions, Mr. McBarnette says he can observe how the student approaches and processes the information.
"For every problem, I can see how the student thinks and make adjustments in their thinking process," he says. That's difficult to do with every student in a classroom situation, he says.
Mr. McBarnette says that in one-on-one sessions, he can go into greater depth to ensure his pupils understand the problems. He teaches speed-reading techniques to help them get through the passages quickly, which is something he does not have a lot of time to do in the classroom, he says.
If asked, Mr. McBarnette will help students prepare their personal statements to accompany their law school applications, he says. In terms of giving them information about how one law school compares to another, students can get that from commercial books like Barron's or other books that provide information on law schools, he says.
But when it comes to advice about personal statements, students sometimes need help showing admissions committees of law schools why they are desirable candidates, he says.
"Many people think the approach to take in convincing a committee to accept them is to demonstrate how badly they want to attend. Whereas what is most effective is to show how much of a benefit they can be to the law school," Mr. McBarnette says.
It's not just about having a stellar GPA or a perfect LSAT score — law schools look for other attributes that distinguish one applicant from the next, he says.
Mr. McBarnette stresses leadership when he helps students formulate their one- to two-page personal statements about themselves, their future goals and their interest in attending a specific law school.
"I consider leadership to be one of the most important factors that schools want to see evidence of in the application. Is this person going to make a difference in the world? Those are the kinds of people who end up being great alumni in terms of extending the legacy of the school by becoming accomplished in their field," Mr. McBarnette says.
He says the LSAT course is the most in demand. He teaches three to four classes for the university per year, depending on enrollment, on Saturday mornings. On an average,15 students attend the weekend course, which runs for six hours. He often meets students for one-on-one sessions at the university's library, he says.
Like Mr. Ivey, Mr. McBarnette agrees students get stumped by the analytical reasoning section or the logic games. This section tests an individual's ability to understand certain analytical and spacial relationships. Students find it to be the most difficult on the LSAT because it is the type of question that most have not seen before on a standardized test. However, it's the easiest to improve. Mr. McBarnette teaches students how to create diagrams that can help them on each of these types of analytical problems.
There's lots of classroom participation. Mr. McBarnette uses the Socratic method that's used in law schools.
"It's a method of questions and answers which is very popular in law school. I try to get the students used to that. Most students are familiar with lecture format. Using the Socratic method, students are called upon to explain information much more extensively," he says.
Mr. McBarnette says it's important that students give themselves ample time to study for the LSAT and do a lot of homework.
"There are substantial rewards with excellence in the legal field. Therefore, it makes it worth your while to go to the very best law school you can get into. Just in terms of employment opportunities, the most competitive graduates can walk into their first year job at a salary of over $100,000 a year."

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