LSAT Diary: 20-Something Paralegal Driven to Success by Anxiety

LSAT Blog Diary Paralegal Success AnxietyThis LSAT Diary is from Law School Dreamer, a 25-year-old paralegal. She talks about studying for the LSAT with ADD / ADHD and test anxiety.

One of her tips involves studying in a tunnel.

Why? You'll have to read on to find out.

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Leave Law School Dreamer some encouragement below in the comments!

Monday, March 22, 2010 – Introduction, Issues, Goals, and Study Plan

For starters, allow me to introduce myself. I am a 25-year-old non-traditional full-time college student, I work full-time and am involved with far too many extracurricular commitments (both on and off campus). I never thought I would attend college, and thus never took the SATs and have very little experience with standardized testing.

Aside from my inexperience with standardized testing, I am also a nervous test taker – scratch that – I am an anxiety-driven college student. Anxiety literally drives me to succeed. I am so nervous of not doing well that it actually creates this anxious drive in me to succeed. Why am I so nervous of not succeeding, you ask? Well, because no one in my whole life ever told me that I should find out what makes me happy in life and to follow my dreams.

My parents hate the fact that I am “wasting my time and money on school,” and my mother told me that I will soon find that “college is for the smart, privileged kids.” Additionally, I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder two years ago (when I started my college career, which was five years out of high school).

I am determined to not seek special accommodations during the LSAT for the following reasons:

1) I have spent my entire life attempting to succeed despite my ADD without special accommodations, why start now?

2) I like to believe that my medication puts me at a normal level as any other test taker;

3) I am not convinced that my application won't receive prejudicial consideration if I have this “black mark” on my LSAT score indicating I took the test under substandard conditions.

Two weeks ago when I registered for the LSAT my anxiousness kicked into high gear. I am registered to take the June 2010 LSAT – a huge step in my law school application process. I remember I sat idling at the checkout/payment page of the LSAC website, just staring thinking to myself “here we go.” My husband laughed at me, reached across the desk, clicked the “submit” button and said “done.” I could have killed him. I am not ready – but I will be (I hope).

I had planned to begin my study plan on January 1, sort of like a New Year’s resolution. I already have very little free time to myself, and it got passed over for my work on my university’s undergraduate research journal and my research on judicial selection in state courts. I kept telling myself that I had plenty of time to study, and kept putting it off. While the average person may be able to pickup the LSAT materials and strategies in three months, I find that my anxiousness, lack of extra time, and ADD require me to take things slow, and learn things in short increments.

Yet now I find myself a little over three months away from this dreadful thing. I have started to master Logic Games. And wow, what a difference! I remember my initial diagnostic test, the first time I had ever seen the analytical reasoning portion of the test. I had no strategy, no approach, nothing. I sat there thinking, how in the world would any one figure this stuff out? I now have an attack method, and currently I am honing those skills.

I am now working my way through each logic game (and timing myself at 8:45). So far, I’m feeling pretty confident, I most often complete each game in the allotted time, and answering correctly 90% of the questions. I hope to have all of the logic games completed by April 1st. Then I will work on the Logical Reasoning questions as I am doing the logic games.

Then, for the newest PrepTests, I will take full, timed tests. I am focusing less on the reading comprehension since it was my strongest section on my diagnostic, and I will naturally have practice with it during my full preptests. I plan to complete preptests 41-59 during the month of May leading up to the June 2010 LSAT.

My study schedule is as follows:

Monday and Wednesday: 1:30 to 4:30 (6 hours)

Tuesday and Thursday: 4:00 to 6:45 (2:45 hours)

Saturday: 7:00 to 10:00 (3 hours)

Sunday: 7:00 to 10:00 (3 hours)

Total hours per week: 14:45

This schedule works for me in that it is a set time for which I have no reason to be doing anything else. By that, I mean, these times do not conflict with school or work and I have still allowed myself enough time for regular homework duties on Saturday and Sunday (so no excuses).

I have learned that having a schedule and sticking to it, which later creates a habit is absolutely essential for any person trying to cope with ADD and ADHD – and the same is true for school, personal, work matters. Consistency is key.

Additionally, checklists are very helpful. I am a visual person, and I feel gratified to be able to check something off my list. Though its important that my list does not look overwhelming – so I break it up into months. For example, my LSAT study check list looks something like this:

Month of March

-Read short section on logic games from LSAC’s Official LSAT SuperPrep

-Complete LSAT Logic Games study plan

-Work through every LSAT logic game in sections through preptest 40, grouped by game type.


-Read short section on logical reasoning from LSAC’s Official LSAT SuperPrep

-Complete Logical Reasoning study plan

-Work through every LSAT logical reasoning question through preptest 40, grouped by type. (spreadsheet)


-Take timed preptests 41 through 59


-Try not to freak out.

I have received some flak for not enrolling in a prep course. For one, I can’t afford it. For two, none are offered that jive with my unconventional school and work schedules. Third, I tend to learn at my own pace, and find that when I am forced to teach myself something, through trial and error, taking my time, etc. I actually learn better.

Moving on to my study diary:

1:30 – arrive at home after work, make a quick lunch, and start attacking basic linear (unbalanced) logic games (I already completed basic linear balanced games). Before beginning though, I refresh my memory on attack methods.

2:00 – distracted – I find myself answering emails through blackberry – turn blackberry off, try to eliminate distractions, ugh! Get to work!

4:00 – Yessss! My class has been canceled – I can continue on with my studying!

I’m realizing that part of my issue is memorizing when I realize an inference, or if the rules change, what this does, how it shifts the rest of the variable (ie. apartments/trains/whatever). But my diagramming and understanding of the rules is okay, and I’m making all the inferences (ie. connecting all the dots) and marking down the not laws.

I was nailing the balanced linear, and even within the time frame, but having difficulty with finishing the game and questions in the allotted 8:45 timeframe for each game on the unbalanced linear. I suppose the added variations (as is the case with unbalanced games) is slowing me down). Additionally, I seem to be having issues with “must be false” questions – its just so much easier to find the “could be true” and maybe even a little easier to find the “must be true.”

I spent from 2:00 to 7:00 drilling the logic games (under timed conditions) and then scrutinizing my answer choice (when wrong) and retracing my steps of where I may have gone wrong when I chose incorrectly.

Started researching what type of applicants (number-wise) my top choice schools are accepting – which makes me even more nervous.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 – Bring on the Distractions

Having ADHD means I am very easily distracted. My medication keeps me in-check and allows me to concentrate and focus, or at least get back on task when I am distracted, but it doesn’t always keep me from getting distracted in the first place. The only thing I can really equate it to is in the adorable movie “Up!” when the dog (who talks thanks to his inventive master) is on task until he sees a squirrel – all focus is lost. That’s exactly what I feel like.

Anyway, I was told that proctors walk up and down the room watching for LSAT offenders or cheaters during the exam. I am left-handed. This likely means that my test center (which is an auditorium with flip-up/built-in desks) will likely place me in an aisle seat, therefore proctors will be walking up and down the aisle right next to me.

I thought about quiet places that would simulate similar conditions, immediately I thought of my undergrad’s “Tunnel;” a long, underground hallway that connects our library to a lecture hall. Its very quiet and many people go there to study, but there's constantly a swarm of people walking through it.

So Tuesday I went to the “tunnel” and at first (as predicted) found myself very distracted, I couldn’t help but glance up every time someone passed by, not only did this kill my timing, but it ruined my concentration. It's difficult for me to keep multiple elements or variables in my head at a time, and if for a split second I think of something other than the task at hand, I lose all of that information. So training myself to not look up (and not even notice) when someone walks by is important and I found that my simulated testing conditions were helpful in that training. After an hour or so, I never looked up, or cared if anyone was walking by.

Total study time: 2 ½ hours.

Wednesday, March 25, 2010 – Need 4 Speed!

I am feeling so much more comfortable and confident with the logic games. I feel I have mastered the basic linear (balanced and unbalanced) and can even complete them with time to spare.

A few tricks that I have learned:

“must be true” means sure, other answer choices could be correct, but which variable MUST be in a specific slot and cannot be placed anywhere else. This is obvious, I know, but for some reason it just now clicked with me.

Second, it actually saves time to graph hypotheticals and see what can go where. Often, what CANNOT go in another slot is more important than what can go in a slot. Often, the answer to other questions is within a previous question. If you're given a “which of the following can be a complete and accurate list of x” add it to your hypos if you don’t already have it (though you should have already gotten it) – chances are, that hypothetical will help you answer a later question.

Third, change a negative into a positive. When it says “f and g cannot be first or second” and the only other variable you have is “h” you know “h” must appear first and second. So the negative was what could not go first or second, so flip it to a positive to show you what CAN go first or second.

Overall, today was a great day for many major breakthroughs. I’m feeling better already!

Thursday, March 26, 2010 – Back to the Tunnel

I resorted back to the tunnel for some distraction training – completed all of the advanced linear (balanced and unbalanced) logic games from PT1 to PT40. Feeling good!

Friday, March 27, 2010 – Off Day, but Still Motivating

I intern with a local county judge on Fridays, which is very motivating to me, but it means no time for LSAT study. But I think its actually beneficial to have a day off. I actually find that if I try to cram too much studying into one day, or spend more than a couple hours focused on LSAT studies, I stop learning and only get frustrated. But it's amazing how much better I am each day that I go back to it. As though subconsciously I am getting better even when I’m not working on it, though, this could be from my constant thinking of how every day life is like a logic game. Maybe I’m too obsessed.

Saturday, March 28, 2010 – Nightmares

I had a terrible nightmare last night! I dreamt that I bombed the LSAT and was unsure whether to cancel my score. I just stood there, frozen in the LSAT test center not able to move and not able to decide what to do. Yikes! I did, however spend four hours today, things are really coming along. The more familiar I become, the less anxiety I feel – though I’m sure test day will be full of anxiety!

Sunday, March 29, 2010 – Making Contact

I am deeply interested in Animal Law and through a six degrees of separation sort of way, was introduced to a law professor that teaches Animal Law at my state university. It was so inspiring to hear what opportunities would exist for me in the realm of animal law if I chose to attend that school. The admissions at this university is extremely competitive, so its all the more reason to master this LSAT.

My LSAT ticket is not ready for printing yet through LSAC, but as soon as it is, I’d like to go see the test center to help better visualize what it will be like on test day – I have always found that visualization actually helps calm my nerves.

Photo by lij


  1. Sounds like your prep work is going quite well! I had the same problem when deciding to click the "Submit Payment" button when registering for the June test, and am being haunted daily by prep-work. But from what I've seen and heard from both myself and others, you have a very strong schedule and dedication, and I'm sure you'll be fine, if not amazing on test day.

    Good luck on your continued studying!

  2. You're brilliant and will continue to do well in everything you do. I'm impressed and inspired. Thank you!

  3. I love reading your journals so much. You remind me of myself when you talk about your anxiety issues. I find myself with them too, the what ifs kill me. I'm still trying to decide when or even if should take the LSAT and go to law school thought. :-( Thanks for the interesting reading material :-)