The Goldilocks Problem in LSAT Preparation: Part Two

The “Goldilocks problem” is the difficulty many LSAT takers have calibrating the right amount of time to spend studying for the LSAT.  The key is to be at your peak—neither past it nor not yet at your best—on exam day.  Those who are serious about their LSAT prep tend to take too much time, in some cases far too much.

In part one of “The Goldilocks Problem,” I focused on two problems aggravated by excessive preparation time.

First, it can make the LSAT seem much scarier than it is so that, instead of being prepared and confident on exam day, many LSAT takers become more fearful.  That blocks them from getting their best LSAT score.  They walk into the room with a panic disability.

Second, more than about 10 weeks spent preparing risks a loss of momentum.  Both factors help account for why many LSAT takers’ actual scores are short of their best practice scores.

There are other difficulties created by too much worry and time spent on LSAT practice.

There are a limited number of high-quality LSAT prep materials available.  They are past exams available from LSAC—that’s it.  It generally takes an incipient LSAT question years to make it onto the exam.  Questions are carefully vetted, refined and perfected.  No other individual or organization is as well-suited to produce questions that will be a reliable indicator of the questions that will appear on your LSAT.  One of the most damaging things you can do in your LSAT study is to try to prepare with questions (especially logical reasoning and reading questions) that purport to be “like” those used on the LSAT.

The problem is that once you’ve practiced past LSAT questions, they’re pretty much gone.  You can do them again and again, of course, but you’ll remember more than you think and you’re likely to believe you’re better prepared than you are.  The bottom line is that your best LSAT prep should include having substantially all questions available for you on a first-time basis (if you’ve done a couple of practice exams, especially older ones, that’s ok).  Some questions should be used for actual practice tests, others for intensive exercises that hone specific skills at the right time.  If you use up too many past LSAT questions over too long a time, there’s nothing left for you to prepare with.  There are just so many bats and balls to play with.

Finally, don’t you have better things to do with your time than spend four, five, six months, a year, two years, preparing to take the LSAT?  I fully endorse the desire to do your best.  To help my clients do their best is why Advise-In customizes preparation for each client and doesn’t do impersonal classroom instruction or per-hour tutoring that tends to delay identifying and solving problems.  But there’s rarely any marginal advantage to extra time, for the reasons I’ve laid out.  And there’s just a lot to do in life—fun to be had, other work to be done (including producing a compelling law school application package).  The longer the LSAT keeps you from other things you need or want to do, the more you’ll resent it, and that too will cut against obtaining your highest LSAT score.

The best LSAT preparation courses and programs will provide a specific program that is designed for you and you alone—and it won’t take too much calendar time doing that.  Longer is not better; more is not better.  You want to be fresh, rested, confident and able to play your best game on game day.

Of course, there are things you can do to prepare for the LSAT before your official preparation start date.  Think of these as off-season gym work before you go to training camp.  I’ve talked about some of these measures in a prior post and won’t repeat them here.  I will give two reminders about why this pre-prep prep is a good idea.  First, the LSAT uses a single theory of argument; the more you can incorporate that theory into daily reading, the better off you’ll be.  Second, the hardest problems to overcome in a limited period of time are difficulties in reading.  More reading “offline” is, I think, the best way to begin your LSAT prep.  It will pay off down the road, you won’t burn off good practice materials or lose momentum (you should actually gain it), and more reading can actually help reduce the tendency to build up the LSAT into a mythical, unconquerable beast.  Doing more targeted reading will likely help you much more than endless, unfocused LSAT practice far in advance of your test date.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on June 22, 2010.

7 Responses to “The Goldilocks Problem in LSAT Preparation: Part Two”

  1. […] In addition, your first shot is generally your best to obtain your highest LSAT score, as distinct from a marginal improvement.  You’re less likely to be fearful of the LSAT (if at first you don’t succeed, it’s harder to believe you’ll do so when you try, try again) and you won’t have already used up a lot of the limited high-quality practice materials, as we’ve discussed before. […]

  2. […] stop and start.  This is especially true for LSAT preparation.  It’s another aspect of the “Goldilocks problem” of the right amount of preparation time.  Many people study for the LSAT for a long period of […]

  3. […] because another major difference is that while people spend years preparing to win a medal, they don’t and shouldn’t spend that long preparing for the LSAT).  The biggest difference between the LSAT and other competitions is that in the LSAT, all your […]

  4. […] stress” of any high-pressure situation; practice under “game” conditions; calibrating the right amount of practice; simplifying the LSAT and LSAT study techniques rather than making LSAT prep an obtuse “your […]

  5. […] work, even though the 10-week program doesn’t start until late July.  I’m big on optimizing the time spent on the LSAT prep itself—neither too long nor too short.  You don’t want to use up too early the limited number […]

  6. […] not recommending extending dedicated LSAT prep time—I think that too long spent preparing is just as unhelpful as too short a time, as I’ve said several times on this blog.  What’s important is the […]

  7. […] not recommending extending dedicated LSAT prep time—I think that too long spent preparing is just as unhelpful as too short a time, as I’ve said several times on this blog.  What’s important is the […]

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