LSAT Diary: Preparing for an LSAT Retake

LSAT Blog Diary Preparing LSAT RetakeThis installment of LSAT Diaries comes from Anne, who retook the LSAT and increased her score from 150 to 164 using my day-by-day study plan!

She's got some great LSAT advice for you about she prepared the second time around.

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

Anne's LSAT Diary:

It took me a while to decide that I actually wanted to go to law school. I had the idea in the back of my head for quite some time, but it wasn’t until the then-current admissions cycle had come and gone until I actually got my act together. I was a 22-year-old go-getting business major with a 3.81 GPA but no real knack for standardized tests or real life law know-how other than taking a few business law classes in which the teachers suggested I might give it a try. I honestly was just good at being a student—and it was this attribute that I probably owe most to my success in my law school journey.

I graduated a semester early from my mediocre-ly good and medium sized private school, and it was then I decided my next “semester” off would be a good time to focus my LSAT studies and get the application process underway. I was still living in a college house with four other friends, and I still pretty much considered myself a student during this time because essentially, I still spent all my time studying, on campus, or working. Most of—scratch that—all of the people I knew took prep courses. In my formative LSAT studying stages, I started researching different prep courses to weigh my options. I did a lot of research.

For some reason I just didn’t want to cough up the couple grand it would cost for a prep course, and saw one of my roommates going to the four hour biweekly sessions and didn’t really feel like subjecting myself to the same thing. I had flashbacks of my SAT prep course back in high school, and how I had wasted the better part of a thousand dollars not really paying attention or getting anything out of it.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m sure a lot of people reap huge benefits from these courses. Given unlimited funds, I would most likely take one too. It was more the perceived value to me. For me, it just simply wasn’t the right choice. I’m not dirt poor, but I do largely support myself and paying that much for a class would be a stretch. I reasoned with myself, wondering if there was any possible way I could do it on my own. I really did look at all of my options. I was an extremely hard worker, as evidenced by my almost straight A record, early graduation, and working my way through college, and on and on and on. Could I do this on my own?

During my research, I found Steve’s LSAT blog. This is how I finally figured I’d give it a try and see how I did studying on my own. What’s the worst that could happen, right? Find out that maybe law school really isn’t for me? I bought the books and PrepTests he recommended and followed his study plan. I started studying far in advance—February for the June exam. I had the time, and I wanted to build up layers of studying over this period. I intermittently did PrepTests, timed or not, whole tests or sections.

I made myself study pretty much every single day, but tried not to pressure myself other than that. No time restrictions, and to be honest, probably not enough restrictions overall. I was pretty casual about the whole thing, telling myself I wanted something around a 160 or above (I used the free June 2007 LSAT PDF for a diagnostic exam before even cracking open a single LSAT book, and scored something like a 150). I took the June LSAT and was pretty complacent when I received my 159. It was so close… but just not quite there.

I swore to myself I’d never take it again, but I gave it a month or two, asked a few very wise people for advice, and finally decided I’d go for it. I’d always been very ambitious, and the pre-law advisor at my school told me that if I was willing to really crack down, I should go for it. So I did. I was a little harder on myself this time around, making myself do more five section tests, timing myself more strictly, and overall being more realistic. I didn’t baby myself this time, and was more committed to what I was doing. I went over every single question that I missed until I got it (okay… for the most part—and especially logic games), and tried to score more consistently on each test rather than the random 167 mixed in with the 158 two days later. Also, I think I was just refreshed. I had a new take and outlook on the test, and I was able to clear my head.

One of the biggest mistakes I made the first time around was focusing far too much on formal logic. If I have one piece of concrete advice for someone taking the LSAT, it would be not to focus too much on this. Sure, the contrapositive is important and useful, but this only scratches the surface of all the things you could get tangled up in. It’s not that you should wholly ignore it at all, just make sure you get the general idea and don’t worry about the details. I found almost no use for all the studying I did of these sections on the actual LSAT. Additionally, I did not focus nearly enough on reading. I thought “I can read! I don’t need to study this!” before my first test administration. WRONG. You need to learn to get into the head of the author. Become enthusiastic about the passage, just like Steve says. Mark up passages lightly, if that helps. Experiment with pre-reading or not pre-reading questions. In the end, I lightly marked up to save time and didn’t pre-read questions as it increased my time too much.

I also really found myself refreshed and with a new outlook on the wording of questions. I began to think like an LSAT writer, to get inside the head of the LSAT. I would start to pick up on nuances in wrong answer choices such as absolutes (ie an answer choice that states something such as “ALL scientists believe that the ozone layer will soon be depleted” versus a correct answer choice of “The general consensus of scientists at the conference seem to think that if action is not taken soon, the ozone will be in danger”) or wrong answer choices that didn’t refer back to the sources cited in the argument, ie choosing a wrong answer choice of “Aliens will invade the earth” vs. “The astronomers surveyed think that aliens will soon invade the earth” when astronomers were referred to in the original prompt. If you can start to have an eye for small things like this, something will click, and the LSAT will soon become a little bit simpler, if that’s possible.

Finally, I would say my last piece of advice is to go with your gut. I missed many questions on the first LSAT (yes—they give you your entire answer sheet to obsess over after, complete with erasure marks) from changing my correct answers to incorrect answers. This time around, I was a lot more confident. I tried not to change answers too much. Obviously, this comes with a caveat. Definitely go over a section if you have more time. But your first instinct is usually correct.

Maybe it was just having more time, maybe it was the 40-dollar tutor I found on Craigslist and met with once that I’m pretty convinced was actually a homeless man, or maybe it was my refreshed outlook. Maybe it’s because the June test is an afternoon test and the test I did better on was a morning test. Maybe it’s because I had more confidence, got dressed that second time instead of wearing sweats, and believed in myself. There are a million large and tiny factors that changed between the two administrations, but I do know that I simply could not have done what I did without Steve’s blog. It gave me the resources I needed to embark on this journey alone. I took the administration in October, and this time scored a 164, and I’ll take it! Thank you Steve for your tireless work, your response to e-mails when you have never even met me nor received much money from me, and your passion for the LSAT. Your blog has truly been an asset.

Photo by bobaubuchon



2 comments:

  1. your (Anne) diary entry is an inspiration. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete