The Goldilocks Problem in LSAT Preparation: Part One

LSAT preparation I often talk with eager prospective law school applicants who want to take as long as possible preparing for the LSAT.  I’ve even talked to people who have spent, gulp, 5-10 years, off and on, getting ready to take the LSAT.

In contrast, Advise-In’s program is 10 weeks, first to last.  I resist prospective clients who want a longer program and I sometimes have to remind them that among the reasons they want to hire me are that I got a 180 on the exam and have been teaching LSAT study techniques for quite a while.  Don’t worry, though; if you really want to prepare in advance of your “official” preparation start date, there are things you can do to help you much more than knocking yourself out with the LSAT (I’ll remind you of those next time).

Why not spend as much time as possible getting ready for “the most important exam of my life,” as one person put it to me?  Prospective takers and advisors are naturally inclined to think that more work equals a better result, right?  Well, no.  Targeted, individualized work produces a better result; neither is the same as “more.”  LSAT preparation has a “Goldilocks problem”—you want to eat the porridge when it’s just right, neither too hot nor too cold.

I appreciate the enthusiasm and the real desire that many prospective LSAT takers have to get their best score.  That’s the whole point of Advise-In’s LSAT preparation program, too.  But don’t think that more is the same as better; in the same way that too many LSAT techniques can get in your way, so can too much LSAT preparation time.  There are four principal reasons not to spend too much time (in my view, more than approximately 10 weeks) preparing for the LSAT.  I’ll talk about two in this post and the other two in the next.

First, you can create a monster, or make it bigger.  A lot of people want to spend months or years preparing for the LSAT because they think (or have been told) that it is a beast—a spit-mouthed, forked tongued, big-eared, pointy-tailed, wart-filled devil whom you need to crush to have any hope of attending law school; or because they haven’t done well on other “standardized” tests; or because they succumb to the fear-mongering that some engage in around the LSAT.

The problem is that the longer you spend fretting about the LSAT, the bigger the LSAT Goliath can become.  And that won’t help your preparation or your confidence.  Yes, it’s a hard exam; yes, the people who write the questions are clever; yes, it helps to have the right advisor to guide and teach you; yes, you should take it seriously.

But it’s not the occult.  The LSAT uses real words with precise meanings.  You can figure out how the creators of the test think, and part of being successful is learning to think their way.  That isn’t instinctive for some—it wasn’t for me—but it’s not secret knowledge given only to the high priests who are permitted inside the temple.  And it’s rare that a bell will go off in a year or more that wouldn’t have gone off in about 10 weeks.  Relax:  it’s a test, not a religious struggle.  Don’t risk making the monster bigger and uglier by keeping the LSAT porridge on high boil for an extended time.

Second, you risk losing momentum.  Here’s a simple rule: you want to be at your best on one day, exam day.  Sorry for the sports metaphor for non-fans, but the LSAT is your season wrapped into about four-and-one-half hours.  There are reasons that athletes don’t train for their season year round.  One, they don’t need to—they can hone their skills for season shape in a limited lime.  Two, they risk injury and fatigue by never giving their body and mind a rest.

Same thing here.  If you spend four, five, six months preparing for the LSAT, you’re very likely to get tired by the time your preparation actually matters, i.e., the closer you get to exam day.  You’re likely to peak too early and not have enough left for the big game.  This is why really good coaches and managers regularly rest players during a long season—they want those players fresh for the playoffs.  All work, no play makes Jack a dull (uninteresting) boy and a dull (with dulled senses and abilities) boy.

LSAT exam day is a long grind.  Anticipating that, your preparation should do two things (I’ve talked about this some in Advise In’s free white paper).  First, you should anticipate oddball things happening on exam day and have developed techniques for maintaining your focus in spite of them.  Second, you should be fresh.  Without the second, you can’t do the first—the porridge will be too cold.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Next time, I’ll mention two other reasons why you shouldn’t spend too much time preparing for the LSAT.  For now, a summary:

  1. Don’t make the LSAT bigger than it is.  It’s a test, not an epic struggle against incomprehensible forces.
  2. Remember that the objective is your best score on exam day, and key your preparation accordingly.  The LSAT grading machine only counts your last test.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on June 21, 2010.

4 Responses to “The Goldilocks Problem in LSAT Preparation: Part One”

  1. […] part one of “The Goldilocks Problem,” I focused on two problems aggravated by excessive preparation […]

  2. […] LSAT preparation, it should.  I’ve talked about the importance of being fresh for exam day, the problems created by excessively long preparation, the need to keep your techniques simple, etc.  And for some of the same reasons as Sokolove […]

  3. […] –be smart about your LSAT preparation (keep it simple, take the LSAT once (ideally), don’t over- or under-prepare and don’t try to save yourself a few dollars now that may cost you hundreds of thousands of […]

  4. […] June, I did two posts about “The Goldilocks Problem in LSAT Preparation” (link to Part One).  Briefly put, the Goldilocks problem is the difficulty that prospective LSAT takers have in […]

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