LSAT Crash Course Diary: You Can Do It, But You Shouldn't

LSAT Blog Diary Crash Course Can Shouldn'tIn this LSAT diary, Ricky describes how he retook the LSAT and improved his score by 7 points in just 6 weeks.

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Thanks to Ricky for sharing his experience and advice, and please leave your questions for him below in the comments!

Ricky's LSAT Diary:

I took the LSAT twice, in December 2010 and then again several weeks ago in February 2011. The first time, I received a 153 and the second time, a 160. A lot of snobs turn the cold shoulder and dismiss anything south of 165. Pay them no mind. Everyone has different goals.

Personally, I take comfort in the fact that out of 100 college-educated people who took the LSAT in February, I did better than 80 of them. Given that, and while I am very happy with my score, and the improvement I posted and can show to law schools, I feel that I am still 5-10 points of where I could be if I did this thing right. However there is little I can do about that now (I need to go to school in the fall). You live and you learn and you can’t change the past, learn from it and move on.

One of the big things I heard about the LSAT before I really dove into it is that you either “got it or you don’t”. This is both right and wrong. For example, a very good friend of mine who is now on a full ride at a top-tier law school (ass), did his undergrad in engineering and just for shits and giggles decided to take the LSAT and got a 172 on his first practice test. I hate him, not really, but I do. I wasn’t so lucky. I thought to myself “Hey, it’s a logic-based test, I’m a logical guy, and usually a good standardized test taker, I got this, no problem.” HA! This is the first of many examples in the next few paragraphs that show me being an idiot.

This fall, I worked as an outdoor education instructor in Texas. While one would assume that a teaching job in outdoor ed would provide ample time for studying, that was not the case. We were short-staffed and overbooked. As a result, 60-hour weeks featuring 2-3 nights and intermittent Saturdays working outside in the Texas sun were the norm. While I’m sure there are some of you who have studied facing similar obstacles, I just could not do it. I registered for the LSAT a week before the deadline, found some study material and bought a book of 10 PrepTests.

In the next weeks, I finished probably 70 pages of the book and maybe a section of a practice test by the time I finished the season in Texas and moved home to start really studying. I had exactly 12 days to L-Day (get it, like D-day but for the L-SAT…hahaha, I don’t care if anyone else laughs, I thought it was funny).

8 days before L-day, I took my first practice test. 148. Shit.

That test just whooped my ass, it shocked me. I’ve been out of school for almost three years; I haven’t had to think like that in a long time. I mean, there is no way they expect me to read those four incredibly dense reading passage filled with paragraph-long sentences about the diet of caveman and how archeologists are using dental fossils to determine what they ate and finish 27 questions in 35 minutes…do they?? I’ve never taken a test that hard before. You know what, whatever; I’ll do much better tomorrow.

The next morning, took it again. 149. Shit.

I still had my sanity and my composure at this point, let’s give it one more try tomorrow. Halfway through my third test in as many days, I cracked. It was the infamous mauve dinosaur logic game that pushed me over the edge. I did not even know where to start on the problem. I didn’t understand how to start, after four or five minutes, I couldn’t even get the first answer. .I stopped working, slammed my fist on the table, hurled my practice test into a wall, and let fly a chain of expletives.

What does this have to do with Law School let alone the practice of the law? Why does this friggin clown have such complicated requirements for how it needs to dress (December 2006 LSAT Logic Game) The average LSAT score is 151, and I couldn’t even get THAT. I was frustrated, terrified, panicked, and angry.

I started looking at this blog a couple of days before the meltdown and mustered the energy to leave the fetal position and email Steve (editor of LSAT Blog) a whiny email explaining the situation and asking for help on a LSAT Hail Mary. He promptly responded with some encouragement and references to a few past posts that helped me out. Soon thereafter, I accepted the fact that I am remarkably stupid for thinking I could beat the test in two weeks and decided to take the test in December as a dress rehearsal. Once I accepted that, I went into the test relaxed. The pressure was off, I was going to retake in February.

The only thing that really threw me off on test day was having to write the “certifying (I won’t cheat) statement” in cursive. What am I in - fourth grade?? Could the LSAT get any more archaic?? I haven’t written anything more than my name in cursive in over a decade. Just stupid. Besides that, it was hard, but I felt alright about it. In early January, got the score back 153….

Time for ROUND 2!

After a few days off, I bought another round of books. I realized that I still put myself at a disadvantage. From everything I read, they said to really improve it takes 3-4 months of studying. I had about a month and some change to go before L-Day Part Two: Ricky strikes back (that’s what I named the second L-day, get it, because its like the 2nd Star Wars movie….whatever, don’t judge me)..

I moved back to my home state, Iowa (God’s country) and started studying the right way. I took Steve's advice and started breaking down my practice tests, grouping the questions and analyzing which ones I needed to improve upon. I used that information, targeted those areas and the scores on my pt’s started to creep into the consistently into the mid 150’s. I stopped any partying (which was pretty difficult while moving back to a college town and working at a bar) and was studying 4-5 hours a day. My scores on LR and RC were drastically improving.

Believe it or not and contrary to popular belief, I think RC might be the easiest area to improve on once you understand how to read the passage and keep track of the points of view. I was still getting my ass kicked by logic games; my mind just doesn’t work like that. I knew I didn’t have enough time to get really strong at those games so I did what I could and I focused on two of the more popular types of games, linear and grouping, and did what I could moving forward. My scores were now around 157-158 consistently and I was starting to feel better. I set my over/under on test day at 157, got it and I would be content, over happy, and under pissed. Bring it.

Luckily, I never have really gotten test day anxiety, and I felt good going in. The test itself is a blur. LR felt harder, until I thought about it and realized that all LR sections, past, present, and future are the same. I got caught spending too much time on one RC passage, but thought I recovered alright, and the games were slightly less awful than usual. There were several people in my testing room that felt the need to have a coughing competition at the end of one section; lsat during flu season is a crap shoot. I felt good, it was over. I went to aforementioned bar and got reacquainted with my friend, Jameson.

Test score came back a month later, 160. I was happy. Here is my advice for all of you:

* Do not cram, you will lose. It can be done in two months with some success, but it shouldn’t be. If I had another month or two to study, I could be several points higher, I’m sure of that.

* Do a ton of practice tests in real conditions, three sections, ten minute break, two sections. Do not deviate from that, no allowing extra time, answering a text, working after the buzzer or taking a bathroom break.

* Get an LSAT study plan from Steve and simplify your life. Know your weak areas and attack them. Understand how/why you got every question wrong.

* Come up with a badass playlist to listen to on L-Day. I chose All I Do Is Win by DJ Khaled, It’s My Time by Fabolous ft. Jeremiah, and Here I Come by The Roots. That stuff gets you jacked!

* Do your research before buying books/signing up for a prep course. Don’t sign up for Kaplan because they have an “improve your score guarantee.” Anyone who is exposed to the test that much is going to improve their score no matter what. It helps for some, but you don’t need a prep course to improve. Use the books but adapt the strategies to fit your strengths. Don’t diagram too much on LG’s, and don’t underline too much in RC. You're wasting time you don’t have.

* Relax on Test Day morning. I know it is easier said than done, but if you’ve done the appropriate prep you will be fine. If you have done PrepTests under the right conditions, nothing is new. The worst thing you can do is freak-out about it, get out of your head and trust yourself. If something throws you off, take a deep breath, close your eyes for a second and move on.

As much as I hate to say this, I do miss studying for the test. You know you’ve crossed an unfortunate plateau when you start laughing at jokes about sufficient and necessary conditions and finding logical flaws in conversations about anything. Love it, or hate it, but if you want to be a lawyer it has to be done. Hit me up in the comments if you got something to say. Try to have fun with it. This video does a good job of running through the gamut of LSAT emotions, particularly how good it feels to be done. Good luck.

Photo by wallyg



8 comments:

  1. Great points! And way to represent Iowa.

    I never really understood the "got it or ya don't" thing... Maybe in relation to how well you start out, but this test is like jogging. Keep doing it everyday, and eventually you *will* be able to run a marathon!

    Caleb

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  2. Thanks for the post I'm taking the LSAT in June for the third time and I've had people tell me to give up, I even started thinking that I should but I've realized that one lousy test isn't going to keep me from achieving my dream. I've improved a lot and I keep studying more and more and its true, the more you practice the better you'll get. Thanks for sharing your story

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  3. Iowa really is God's country.

    Congrats on the score improvement!

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  4. Diggin all the Iowa love!!

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  5. This post is really helpful and inspiring! I'm in a similar position (in Texas as well actually!) and have been attempting to study for the June LSAT since January. Now with only about 10 weeks left to prep, I am considering waiting to take it in October since my position ends in July and I will be able to dedicate the entire 2 months prior to the LSAT to studying. I started out scoring a 158 on my initial test and hope to be able to increase it to be competitive at top tier schools and this post has given me the extra motivation I needed to keep working towards that goal! So thank you!!

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  6. I just did my diagnostic test and I scored a 148... I have about 5-6 weeks to prep, and the feb LSAT is the last one the school I am applying to will accept for the upcoming fall start. I'll be working two part time jobs and taking a stats course. Contemplating pushing back the LSAT to June and applying again for the sept 2016 start instead. I'm aiming for a 165. Thoughts? I did worst on the logic games and I understand that's the section you can see the most improvement on. I ordered the logic games bible, and will be working with the logical reasoning and reading comprehension ones too as prep.

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    1. My best suggestion for the logic games would be to mark any practice questions that you are not completely confident in for review. If you guess correctly, but do not check as to why your guess was the winner, you aren't learning anything.

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  7. Ive been following a 12 week study course and am about a week behind for the june lsat. I dont work and live with my parents. I had a mini family emergency and had to take a few days off studying which set me back. Is it unrealisitic that i think i can catch up (since i dont work) with the week that im behind ? I was treating it like a full time job but wanted to know if you thought my expectations were unrealisitic for june. I havent started doing anything timed yet either but have l the oppurtunity to study at least 8hr days in a quite environment. Please let me know, thanks !

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