More Keys to LSAT Success – Avoiding SWT (and Other Distractions)

Before actually taking the LSAT, some prospective takers do a little strutting about how well they’ve done on their practice tests—many fewer can do so after getting their scores back.  Most takers don’t match the range they thought they could achieve; many fall off precipitously.  A few people, however, meet or exceed their best practice score.  There are many reasons why a distinct minority of people match or top their best practice score.  One is that those people have built their endurance for a very long, intense exam day, while the larger “falloff” group generally hasn’t.  (For a few others, download our free white paper.)

We’ll talk about some things you should—and shouldn’t—do to increase your ability to focus throughout exam day.  First, though, a reminder of what the stakes are.  Your LSAT score is the single most important influence on your admission and merit-based financial aid opportunities.  Our website analyzes the median “payoff differential” of groups of law schools (i.e., the earnings potential of their law degree against the cost of attendance, including debt).  The differences between elite, top and lesser law schools are substantial—in the short term, hundreds of thousands of dollars, to say nothing of enhanced career flexibility.  Then there’s the recent spike in LSAT takers, which increases the competition for top schools.  Your LSAT score converts to money and opportunity, for better or for worse.

One reason most LSAT scores fall from their takers’ best “practice scores” is because they didn’t take enough practice tests, their practice tests weren’t really tests at all, or (usually) both.  It seems obvious that you should practice under “game” conditions but most people don’t, except for the few times that their prep course offers a test.  They don’t fill in name/rank/serial number ovals, don’t take five-section tests, don’t do the writing sample, etc.  Doing all of that takes time—and endurance.  Why do it?  Only one reason:  you’ll have to on exam day.

There’s only one way to endure several hours of focused concentration—and that’s to do it repeatedly, so it doesn’t seem so taxing.  It’s a lot easier to get a great practice score when you take breaks to see what’s in the fridge.  You’re always fresh, ever focused.  I was tweeting a few days ago, and saw messages from people who were studying while tweeting, were taking breaks to tweet and eat, etc.  Let’s call that SWT (“Studying” while Tweeting“).  It’s a lot like “Driving” while Intoxicated.  I don’t want to sound like a scold (and it’s ok, it’s ultimately your money and opportunity), but as The Hold Steady once said, “Guys, it’s like we’re not even trying.”  You can’t run a marathon if you practice in 50-yard dashes.  And you can’t do your best on the LSAT unless you’ve practiced—a lot—under game conditions.

So, what should you do?  Find a quiet place to focus on your LSAT study—no interruptions, no distractions, no SWT.  Take a lot of tests under game conditions and, even when you’re doing groundwork that is of shorter duration than a full test, take an hour or two to devote exclusively and intensively to your study.  When you start doing this, you’ll probably get very tired early.  As you keep doing it, you’ll tire less and later.  And if you’ve prepared correctly, on exam day, you won’t feel tired until after the LSAT—and you’ll be much more likely to get a score that matches up to (or beats) your top practice score.  That will be because you really practiced; you didn’t SWT and call it studying.

image from Gettyimages

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on February 15, 2010.

One Response to “More Keys to LSAT Success – Avoiding SWT (and Other Distractions)”

  1. I would like to know more about when your LSAT preparation courses are offered. More specifically, I intend to take the June 2010 test and would like to prepare starting in April 2010.

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