Some LSAT Reminders for the Days before the LSAT (and Best Wishes to February’s LSAT Takers!)

Saturday and Monday are the February test administrations for the LSAT, so the next few days are big ones for many thousands of LSAT takers and law school aspirants.

If you’re taking the February 2011 LSAT, what should you do and not do in the days right before the exam?

In the few days before the LSAT, you should not do anything radically different than you’ve done in the prior weeks.  Cramming is particularly ineffective for an exam such as the LSAT, which requires that you be comfortable in and assured with the techniques that you’re using to answer each type of LSAT question.  Losing sleep, trying to introduce new things, adding too much to your schedule and other common errors are more likely to decrease your confidence going into the LSAT and increase your susceptibility to distraction during it than they are to have the desired result.

If you’ve followed a consistent and well-conceived LSAT prep program over the last 9-11 weeks, you’re as ready as you can be.  Whatever score you attain is one you should be proud of.  If you haven’t followed a solid program, there’s not much you can do in the last two or three days to correct that.   The most you should have to do in the week prior to the exam is fine-tune some content- or focus-techniques.  You should not overhaul any area of your preparation.

The same goes for the day before exam day but double.  You should do just enough to keep your head in the game for the next day.  Teams don’t have full-contact practices the day before the Super Bowl.  Similarly, you shouldn’t shift into high gear for the LSAT at this stage; indeed, the opposite is better.  You understand what you understand, you have the techniques you have, and an extra day isn’t going to matter.  In fact, hard preparation the day before the test is usually counterproductive; it can induce panic, uncertainty in your techniques, and just generally wear you out so you’ll be less rather than more fresh on the one day that actually matters.

You should, in other words, follow the schedule for the day before the exam that you established weeks ago; seldom do adjustments to a well-conceived plan help.  Do a little refresher work or review but no more.

If there’s not much content work that will be productive, there are still a few LSAT-related activities that can help lock you in to do the best work you can do (aside from the obvious getting enough sleep, having sensible meals, etc.).  Hopefully, there’s nothing here that you haven’t been doing regularly during your LSAT prep, but it’s useful to remind yourself of them now (and on exam day).

There’s a simple fact and two general rules.  The fact: most LSAT takers fall off their “best practice LSAT score.”  That can’t be content-related, which is why my clients’ LSAT preparation programs are structured to maximize exam-day test-taking from the start, so that content and exam day execution (which differs from non-exam day execution) are always integrally related.

The two rules that follow from that fact: first, no surprises; second, the only thing that matters to you while taking the exam is the question in front of you.

To help minimize surprises, you should review LSAC’s rules carefully the day before the exam (if you haven’t already).  They’re available here.  You should have your exam-day packet ready at least 24 hours before you’re leaving for the LSAT.

The second rule, focusing only on the question in front of you, has a lot of LSAT exam day implications, a few of which follow.

Before the exam and at the break, it’s helpful to be thinking about one or two types of questions that have given you trouble and drill yourself on how you’re going to approach them (here, the “question in front of you” is the first question on the exam or after the break).  If you’ve had issues in certain parts of certain sections (for example, you’ve tended to lose focus in the last half of sections, had trouble getting started in sections, or had difficulty recovering concentration after a difficult question), focus on those.

There’s often a lot of milling around and yakking before the exam and at the break, and you should not participate.  Find a quiet corner and occupy it.  There’s plenty of time to catch up with people after the exam is over.  But in fallow times on exam day, all the chatter is a distraction from what you’re there for, which is getting your highest LSAT score.  Drilling and review can be especially productive during the break, when you know at least one section that’s coming and can focus on approaches to question types in that section.

There’s also a registration gap, including filling in your demographic and test information, and writing your certifying statement.  All the time you’re doing that, or waiting for others to finish, you should be thinking about approaches to certain types of questions on the exam.  For baseball fans, it’s essentially “bullpen” work that a starting pitcher does before taking the mound.

During the exam, there will be distractions.  Simple as that.  The person next to you may be irritating, there are people who try to depress other takers, the proctors may be loud or walk around, their time cues may be inconsistent, etc.  You need to tune those distractions out and focus on the question in front of you.  You should have developed and refined specific techniques to do that during your LSAT prep, so just remember to use them.

You’ll also need to avoid self-distractions.  One of the most common is constantly reminding yourself of whatever you believe the significance of your LSAT score is.  It won’t help you to keep thinking, I’ve got to do well, I’ve got to do well, my future’s on the line, etc.  That will prevent you from getting your highest LSAT score.  To do your best on LSAT exam day, concentrate on the question in front of you.

Still, you will lose focus at various times during the LSAT, and you’ll need to recover that focus.  I’ve talked in the past about some rituals to do that.  But here’s the point: not only does nothing around you matter, but the last question and the last section don’t matter either.  You’ve done what you can do, and there’s no percentage in missing the question in front of you because you’re still thinking about a prior question.

A special note on time cues: during LSATs, when the proctor notes time, there’s generally a mad shuffle of papers.  That indicates a loss of focus among many takers.  You should understand the significance of those cues (and your own cues when occasionally you check your analog watch) and use them to refocus.  If the proctor gives a 10-minute cue, you still have ton of time to do great work.  Often, it helps to think, ok, just focus for the next 10 minutes.  Then, the cue isn’t a distraction but a refocusing opportunity.  Even a minute left, even 30 seconds, is enough time to do some accurate work.  At 10 or 15 seconds, well, maybe not, and you should fill in the remaining ovals on questions you’re not going to get to.  And then forget about it as you turn to the next section.

Above all else, keep it simple and don’t panic—every bit of energy not focused on the question in front of you not only wastes energy that you’ll need for hard questions but decreases both your speed and your accuracy.  If your preparation has been effective, you should be able to obtain an LSAT score at your top practice range—it’s not luck, nor is it (beyond a certain minimal level) “intelligence” that will get you your best LSAT score.  It’s always knowing what the next step is and calmly and efficiently executing it.  So, be calm and be efficient!  Not as inspiring as “Good luck!” perhaps, but it is what you actually need to do.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on February 9, 2011.

One Response to “Some LSAT Reminders for the Days before the LSAT (and Best Wishes to February’s LSAT Takers!)”

  1. […] Best of luck! And for discussion of more tips on staying focused before and during the LSAT, you can check out prior entries here. […]

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