So, you’ve decided to take the LSAT, probably the most intimidating test you’ve taken to date. Don’t stress yourself out too much though. While the LSAT is still important, law school are giving less weight to your LSAT score (when compared to your other achievements) than ever before.
Below are a few tips and tricks to get you started.
• Work Quickly and Efficiently.
You need to allocate about 45 seconds per question. Spending three minutes trying to get a tricky question right comes at the cost of answering four other easier questions worth just as much as the hard one. Instead, pass on that question, and come back to it later.
• Recognize Patterns.
When solving practice questions, you will identify patterns that emerge after enough repetition. You will notice that you start picking up on the pertinent facts, how they interact with each other, and the different types of logical gymnastics that the question type requires.
• Diagram Whenever Possible.
Look beyond the basic facts of the question. Diagram not only what you know, but also what you don’t know, possible answers, and what you’re trying to figure out. It may seem time consuming, but diagrams will have you answering the actual questions in seconds, making the effort worthwhile. By the way – it can be a useful shortcut in the logical reasoning questions, too!
• Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.
Take as many practice exams as humanly possible*. You learn your pace and areas of strength (or weakness) and teach your brain to handle the workload and pressure. Try to mimic real LSAT environment – no bathroom breaks, no phones, sitting in a freezing room, etc. – to get your body acclimated to the day of the exam.
• Learn From Your Mistakes.
When you get a question wrong, don’t get disheartened. Use that as a learning experience; you may make a mistake once or twice, but if you’ve read the explanations, the third time around you’ll think to yourself, “Wait! I’ve fallen into this trap before… I know how to avoid it.”
• Don’t burn yourself out.
Studying for any exam becomes counterproductive when studying for too long. Try not to take more than two or three practice exams a week, or your brain might melt and spill out your ears**. Take some time to work out, catch a movie, hang out with friends, or do anything else that is your happy place. Your body and spirit will thank you.
• Mind the Plateau.
If you take a practice exam and find your score plateauing or regressing, it’s not the end of the world. Pinpoint what caused this hiccup. To borrow a cliché from basketball: The best scorers have terrible memory; the fact that they missed a handful of shots doesn’t dissuade them from shooting (and scoring); you too should move on and not let one bad score get in your head.
• Relax and Retake.
If you happen to be retaking the LSAT, the preceding paragraph applies to you doubly. Most retakers do better the second time around. You already know what to expect – the tiny chairs, the freezing climate, etc. It gives you a leg up over the first time you took the exam, taking away some of the uncertainty of the day.
All this advice is great in theory, but come game day remember that only one thing matters: Trust yourself and the hard work you put in. Don’t let nerves get to you – take every section as calmly and methodically as you would take a practice exam, and you will match (or surpass) your practice scores. You got this far – now go crush the LSAT!
*LSAC publishes booklets with 10 practice exams for ~$25 (available on Amazon), an incredibly helpful source.
**Note: I am not a doctor.