LSAT Diary: Is the LSAT Pure Evil? NO!

LSAT Blog Diary LSAT Pure Evil NoThis installment of LSAT Diaries comes from Rebecca, who followed one of my LSAT study schedules and scored a 174 on the February 2011 LSAT!

If you want to be in LSAT Diaries, please email me at LSATUnplugged@gmail.com. (You can be in LSAT Diaries whether you've taken the exam already or not.)

Thanks to Rebecca for sharing her experience and advice, and please leave your questions for her below in the comments!

Rebecca's LSAT Diary:
When I first started studying for the LSAT, it was with a combination of dread and excitement. I was excited because beginning Steve’s 5-month LSAT study plan meant I was taking the first steps towards a new career that I hoped would be more rewarding, interesting, (and lucrative, let’s be honest) than my current job. I was dreading it because I heard from any number of sources that the LSAT was a terrible, terrible test designed to traumatize test-takers and frighten small children.

I have always done well on tests that primarily measure reading and analysis skills, but I was too scared to have my confidence busted by taking a diagnostic LSAT practice test. The key for me was the repetition Steve’s study plan called for. I kept getting my butt kicked by Logical Reasoning questions where I missed a single crucial word, or choosing answer choices that were almost but not quite right. However, after doing questions of the same type over and over, I started to recognize the tricks the test-makers were using repeatedly, and I found I could train my normally skim-prone eyes to read each and every word of the stimulus.

Logic Games were a bigger challenge. I have no head for games of any type, and anything that smells like math makes me nervous. Again, though, repetition was key. Going over the same game types, becoming more and more comfortable with the process of diagramming, and finally getting a handle on the rules about contrapositives and negation that were so slippery to begin with, all came to me as I fought with the games over a period of weeks.

After studying for a few months, it became clear to me that the LSAT was a test I could probably do well on. At least, a test I could do well on if I could take it as I was accustomed to studying for it, in my quiet apartment at the kitchen table. Taking it in a classroom where I had never been before with a room full of nervous strangers was another matter.

I thought a lot about where I wanted to take the test, looking at the test centers closest to me in New York City. Columbia – way too much pressure, thanks. Some random high school in Queens – LSAT test center reviews said the desks were all tiny and people complained about the temperature. Eventually, I thought of taking the test out where my fiancĂ©e’s parents live, in suburban New Jersey. There is a low-key community college five minutes from their house, and I would have ample time to scope it out beforehand to hopefully get comfortable with the room itself.

To prep for LSAT test day, I followed Steve’s suggestion of taking the test in a public place. I went twice to my local library, and the first time I was definitely distracted and nervous with all the other people around me. The second time I was much more comfortable, though there was an awkward moment when a guy sat down next to me with an LSAT book and started practicing logic games. Moments like that were worse than anything I was likely to face on test day, and flipped out as I was in the moment, I was grateful for the opportunity to give my nerves a thorough workout.

Eventually, after what felt like a million PrepTests and years of studying (which was actually 10 full PrepTests and 5 months of studying) the big day arrived. I had visited the test center twice, and after scoring consistently within a 10 point range on all my PrepTests, I felt ready. I was particularly comforted by what a previous LSAT diary contributor had written, that this LSAT was just another test that would eventually become a PrepTest like all the others I had taken. (This was not strictly true, since I was taking the February LSAT, but the sentiment was still helpful.)

I pumped myself up on the drive over, which my fiancée kindly accompanied me on. Once we got to the test center, he sat down to do some work in the lounge area, while I went on to the designated rooms. There was a long line there, and I was faced with the prospect of 20 minutes or more of waiting in line without so much as a scrap of reading material to distract me from the anxious looking faces around me, and my own wellspring of anxiety.

This was not a good situation to have before sitting down to the test. While I stood there considering how many times I could read over my test ticket to distract myself, I had my greatest stroke of luck in the whole process, and his name was Ed. Ed was a fifty-nine year old police chief who wanted to go into law to help people. He was a walking perfect personal statement, and he was blessedly not someone I felt at all in competition with or otherwise intimidated by. Ed talked on and on as the line slowly moved forward, and I have never been more grateful for a random stranger talking to me than I was for Ed. He kept my mind off my anxiety, and by the time we were all seated I felt pretty clear headed, if no longer exactly pumped up.

There were still little things that went wrong during the test – a proctor was suspicious of my watch (which was in fact an open faced pocket watch, rather than the prescribed “wristwatch” – I was allowed to keep it) and I was thrown off my game when I realized the logic games I was so pleased with doing well on was just the experimental section, and I still had a chance to screw up the real thing. All in all though, I felt like I had a good day, and after a fretful three weeks of waiting, I was rewarded with a simple email that arrived a whole day early – "Your February 2011 LSAT score is 174." More beautiful words were never written.

With the process over now, I feel a little sorry to have it all done with. Studying for the LSAT gave me a real sense of purpose, and a daily intellectual workout that is sadly lacking from my current job. Throughout the process, I was really grateful for Steve’s LSAT Blog, as it made me feel like I was part of a community that was sharing in my experience.

I think it was crucial to my success that I felt connected to the test: connected by regularly reading LSAT Blog, by making studying part of my daily routine, and by speaking to an LSAC representative at a law school forum. When I thought of the people behind the test, instead of thinking of an army of anonymous evil geniuses who delight in crushing the dreams of law school hopefuls, I thought of Michael, the rep I met at the forum. He was a nice guy in his mid-forties, balding, in khakis and a button-down shirt. He didn’t look like a man who wrote out questions while cackling evilly. He looked like what he said he was – a guy who wanted to be an English professor, but ended up writing test questions instead. It may not surprise you to find out that he said many of the good people at LSAC are English and Philosophy majors, who wanted to be college professors but didn’t quite get there for one reason or another.

So next time you’re feeling intimidated by the test, think of Michael, or one of your adjunct professors in a slightly less lucky universe, just doing their job with no particular malice towards anyone. And when it’s time for you to stand in line, with nothing but your sharpened pencils and your own nerves to keep you company, turn to the next person in line, and try to smile. It might make a big difference for both of you.



4 comments:

  1. This is pure motivation. Wow. I needed this. Thanks.

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  2. This is really awesome. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  3. So, to which law school did Rebecca end up taking her awesome 174 score?

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  4. Thanks for the comments! Sorry I'm checking in so late, and I'm actually not applying till this fall. Would love to stay in NYC at Columbia or NYU!

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