LSAT Diary: Overcoming LSAT Test Anxiety | Tips

LSAT Diary: Overcoming LSAT Test AnxietyLaw School Dreamer writes, "My week 3 diary is attached. Thank you for allowing me to participate. It's really helping me to hold myself accountable and really stop and think about my LSAT practice, what I've learned, what's working, what isn't, etc."

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Here's Law School Dreamer's third LSAT Diary:

Monday, April 4, 2010 – Overcoming LSAT Test Anxiety

As I become more and more familiar with the LSAT, I have to admit, I am feeling less and less nervous about it. However, there certainly have been times where I was actually over-prepared for an exam and still found myself nervous and anxious during the test.

I picked up a brochure on test anxiety at my undergrad, but I was a bit miffed at what I read. Most of the tips listed were “develop good study habits and strategies,” “Manage your time, deal with procrastination, distractions, laziness,” etc.

This upset me. Despite being ADD/ADHD, I do actually manage my time quite well, maybe this is because the working world has forced me to overcome “procrastination and laziness” and my full-time school load often leaves me with little free time so when I do sit down to study I know it must be productive. The brochure left me feeling a little insulted; it was as though my test anxiety was likely as a result of mismanagement of time and laziness! I started to really think about why I get anxious and even developed a list:

1. I am afraid that all of my hard work and preparation will not pay off and I fear I will be left with disappointment in myself.

2. Often, I get in a rhythm when taking tests; I spend equal time thinking about each question, answering it, and moving on. If a question stumps me and I pause, I panic; as though taking slightly longer to answer means I am failing.

3. I take my grades seriously. Knowing that I will be applying to law schools at the end of this year adds pressure, of course. By most standards, my GPA is great (3.75) but for some reason I see this as .25 GPA points away from perfect. Like almost perfect, but not close enough. I think my current 3.75 is the lowest I will ever be happy with, and so I fear that if I bomb a test, I will only further disappoint myself.

4. I am a very competitive person; I get very anxious when I see other test-takers finished and turning in their exams, and feel stupid if I’m one of the last few test-takers to finish. To me, it means everyone else in the room is smarter than me, and for every additional minute it takes me to complete my exam that is how much stupider I am than the other test-takers.

I even apologized to a professor once for being the last one to turn in an exam. It was all essay and I told him that I really did study hard but I was so sorry for being the last one to turn in my exam. And to that he responded, “I’m sure you took the longest because you knew the most.” I got a 100% on the exam, an exam others hardly passed.

5. As for the LSAT specifically, I am nervous because this one test can have devastating consequences. But what I should be telling myself that it has the potential to unlock admittance into great law schools and scholarship money. But then, actually that just leads to more anxiety.

As I began to think about what would make me feel better, I thought of my competitiveness. While I am in a sense competing against all the other students in the room, there is nothing I can do about other people. So instead of feeling competitive with the other test-takers, I should look at the LSAT as my competitor. Every correct question bubbled, I am beating it. Every wrong question bubbled, its beating me. Screw everyone else in the room.

As corny as this sounds, I think self-affirmations work. I am not saying every morning I’m going to get up and tell myself I will score 180, but my own negativity towards this tests ends today. I am putting in the time, and I must believe my investment will reward me. In fact, the LSAT is an opportunity for me to show myself how hard work pays off. I have said I am always fearful that I will bomb a test and feel that my hard work didn’t prove worthwhile, and that has never happened. Not once have I ever failed an exam.

To bring my A-game on June 7th, I will eat fresh fruits and vegetables to help reduce stress, stay away from artificial sweeteners, processed food, junk, etc. I want my brain to work to its full potential. I will also plan ahead and have my “clear plastic quart-size baggy” packed and prepared ahead of time. I will have read all test center rules and leave in plenty of time to arrive early.

If I find myself anxious or tense (I’m sure I will, it is, after all the LSAT), I will take slow deep breaths, try not to think about my fear, tell myself I have prepared and this is my chance to show off my hard work.

As for my progress, I am feeling a little burnt out on the logic games. I have completed all basic linear (balanced and unbalanced), advanced linear (balanced and unbalanced), and the grouping defined balanced games from preptests 1-40. That leaves the grouping defined fixed (unbalanced), the grouping defined moving (balanced and unbalanced), the grouping partially defined and grouping/linear combo/hybrid games left for me to complete.

I find that I’m having fewer “aha!” moments, and I feel some pressure that it is April and I have not yet moved on to logical reasoning. Considering there are TWO logical reasoning sections to the LSAT, it makes sense to devote plenty of time to logical reasoning and I don’t want to short myself in my preparation. So for now I’m putting the logic games on the backburner but am promising myself to go back and finish the ones I have yet to complete (though I did get some experience with them through my previous studying). I will sprinkle them in when I need a break from the logical reasoning, etc.

Tuesday, April 5, 2010 – Logical Reasoning – Here We Go!
I did the “Must Be True” questions from PrepTests 1-40. Of the 37 questions I did, I missed 6. Not too shabby for my first shot at the logical reasoning, and I did immediately review why I chose wrong, and often I had narrowed it down to two questions and the correct answer choice was one of them.

I do have A Rulebook for Arguments and will begin reviewing that tomorrow. The book spends a chapter on an overview of argumentation, premises, and conclusions which are really the foundational concepts of logical reasoning. It'll get me ready to focus on specific question types.

I gave myself many months of on-and-off logic games practice. I spent about a month and a half slowly going over through Logic Games question types. Now that I have only a month to go over the Logical Reasoning section, and will do some extra practice with Logical Reasoning questions by question type.

Wednesday, April 6, 2010 – Large White Envelopes
Was it a premonition? A dream? Wishful thinking? No. Oddly enough I received a large white envelope in the mail today from a law school that I am interested in. As I held my mail tightly to my chest, I said to myself “this is what the admissions process will be like in 8-10 months, and all of my acceptances will be in large white envelopes.” But actually, the Animal Law Professor/Expert I mentioned a few weeks back had the school’s admissions office send me a viewbook. I am very impressed with the school and this really helps motivate me, but the cost of tuition is so high, around $36,000 a year! Yet another reason to master this LSAT, it can pay dividends in scholarship money!

I have begun recognizing a major difference between the Logical Reasoning section and Logic Games is that test-makers actually provide several answer choices that “tempt” you to choose wrongly. This is unlike Logic Games where one answer choice is correct, and once you find it you usually need not read the remaining answer choices (especially in must be true/must be false style questions). Having to read each answer choice certainly does not help with the time constraint. The logical reasoning sections contain 24-26 questions, which means I have one minute and twenty-five seconds to complete each question.

Additionally, when I began going through the “must be true” logical reasoning questions, I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about whether the arguments made would be true in the real world. I think while it is reasonable that I should take into consideration my own sense of what could be true or not, I need to remember that I need only examine whether an argument is true or not, based on the facts given in the question stimuli – not what I may or may not know to be true based on my own independent past experiences (college research, personal experiences, whatever). In other words, does the premise prove the conclusion? I think by not pondering the validity of the premise based on my own thoughts, this will save me some time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010 – LSAT Bum in a Tunnel
I love my study spot in the tunnel, its so useful for dealing with the distraction of having people walk by constantly yet its quiet. So when I say I’m a “bum in a tunnel” I’m using the word “bum” to mean somebody who is excessively devoted to a particular activity or place, not a hobo or homeless person. I’m making great progress. I’ve gone through about 50 of the “must be true” LR questions, and have also returned to the logic games – grouping/undefined/unbalanced (completed about 10 more games).

Friday, April 9, 2010 – More Nightmares!
Last night I had another LSAT nightmare. Well, I assume its LSAT-related but it may not be. Basically, I dreamt that my teeth were falling out and all I could do is just hold out my hand and try to catch them as they flew out of my mouth. I think this is stemmed from the fact that regardless how hard I try, the LSAT is still coming up in 59 days and I can’t stop it, I can’t control it. Anyway, according to the online “dream moods” dictionary, my teeth falling out may mean (among other things) a sense of powerlessness. It seems as the LSAT draws closer and closer, its coming at me faster and faster. I hope I can keep up!

Photo by offshore / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


  1. I have a reoccurring nightmare where my teeth start as very loose and I am quite concerned. As I go to check how loose they are one falls out. Before I can even start to exam the solitary tooth, all of them begin to fall out and all I can do is sit and catch them in my hands. It's by far my least favorite reoccurring nightmare.

    I sympathize with you. Also, your 3.75 GPA is fantastic; don't you dare think otherwise.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! When I was an undergrad, I tried to get help and was given the same "study habits etc" response. I'm very glad you didn't let this shake you. Look forward to reading your next post!

  3. Thank you for this. My LSAT is coming up in 27 days and I am beyond freaking out. I refuse to let myself panic while I'm studying though. I force myself to concentrate on the tips book and explanations when I miss a question. My RC and LR scores are way up. My logic games are still giving my trouble, but I will get there! Good luck on your exam too!

  4. Thank you for sharing this...seriously I can understand where all my anxiety stems now. I will conquer the LSAT!

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I am prepping for the LSAT now. Took my first Diagnostic today and thought I was going to have an anxiety attack. I felt crazy, like I was the only one dealing with this. I googled "LSAT anxiety tips" and found your blog. This was exactly what I needed to read! Everything you said is exactly how I feel. My GPA is good, but I worry it's not good enough. And if I don't "ace" this LSAT I won't get into a good school or scholarship. Your post helped me gain some perspective and focus. Thank you!

  6. It seems that we all have common stress about the lsat. I'm currently taking an lsat course and feel a bit lost and trying to understand every section and question type. My test is 27 days out and I'm not sure if i'll be ready for it. A couple of week ago, when I began my course, I too, had a dream about losing my teeth. Either way, only option is to keep studying. Thanks for this blog.