LSAT Diary: Practice Tests Score Plateau

LSAT Practice Tests Score Plateau Diary
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Please leave Rob some encouragement and advice below in the comments!

Rob's LSAT Diary:

In my more youthful days, I had a good friend whose father had decided that the family should learn how to play golf. Every weekend, he would trudge out his two boys and dutiful wife to some nearby club for an hour or two at the driving range. All other members of the family, through no fault of their own, became decidedly better at golf over the course of a couple months, but the father simply could not figure out how to use his driver. He’d hit ball after ball after ball, only to achieve slice after slice after slice. Either out of sheer enjoyment of watching this squat, penguin of a man turn deeper and deeper shades of pink, or (and more likely), out sheer fear that the first balls he might adequately connect with would be their own, no professional at any club ever attempted to help him correct his stroke.

Many years later on a trip with his son to visit me at my university, this same man teed up with his stance completely askew, trying to compensate for his slice. He hit his first ball, and just like every other drive in his golf career, it tailed off far, far to the right. From the back of our little group, one of the heavily Scottish caddies said, “Aye, ye feets are all afoul, and ye grip could strangle an ox. Ease up a wee bit and bend like ye had too many a pint.” He walked up to my friend’s father, adjusted his feet, made sure his grip was loose and tilted his back. Looking rather shaken, my friend’s father took his stroke and the ball flew straight and long.

Just like this (long-winded, but applicable) example, at some point in your LSAT career, you will hit a plateau of sorts, where scores seem stagnant in the same range. My own came in the 159-163 range, which I hasten to add, I think is the worst range to be caught in. The 159-163 range is where you begin to really get into top 50 law schools, but if you could just get a few points higher it would make the difference between ‘consider’ and ‘strong consider.’ You can tell when someone has hit that plateau by the type of verbs they use – “Yeah, I pumped out another PT today” or “Go home, bang out a practice test, and watch some TV.”

When you know what score you’re going to get, the LSAT seems to lose its magic, and your test-taking becomes mechanical. At one point I could almost predict the number correct on every section – 18-19s on the Logical Reasoning sections, 15-17 on the Logic Games, and 20-22 on the Reading comprehension. I, probably like you, searched the internet time and time again for little hints or tidbits I might have missed. I wanted any sort of trick that would get me those few extra points I needed.

But I had learned every trick their seemed to be. No matter how much I broke down my previous practice tests, I could not teach myself to recognize the cohesive logic needed to answer many LR questions. Also, one of my main problems was mental fatigue, though even with more and more practice, I’d get down to the answer choices of questions only to realize that I hadn’t yet comprehended the stimulus.

I do believe that the more you practice, the easier and more intuitive the LSAT becomes, but in my experience, it seems like at some point you reach an intuitive roadblock that your mind can simply not function beyond. Where do you go from there? What is your next step? Sure, you can review your notes and books, and then carefully analyze your incorrect answers, but what if that doesn’t work?

Two strategies have significantly helped me in the past month:

First, if you do something wrong for the third time, you might do it correctly the fourth time. But if you something wrong for the 100th time, then when you do it for the 101st time, chances are it’s going to end up wrong again. When I finished one practice test with a 160, I decided it was time for a sea change.

I had been taking my tests at night, after work, so I changed up my schedule to do the tests in the morning, before work. I began to drink coffee, but that ended up leaving me incapacitated by the fourth section, so I quit that. I threw in a fifth section, and then a sixth section. I started running before the tests, and then when that became too much, I started running in the afternoons. Sometimes, I would combine tests just to mix it up. Rather then go to bed straight after my tests like I had been doing, I began spending my lunch hour going over the test answers to allow myself time to relax between testing and the pseudo-masochism of analysis.

The point is, what I was doing wasn’t working, so I switched it up.

Now, this isn’t a fourth quarter Hail Mary play; this is something that takes a week or two to define and then refine. Make sure the changes work for you. As long as don’t make anything easier, then the changes you’re making are simply getting your mind and body out of a rut. But I think another element is key as well.


Second, let yourself relax. Reserve some time for yourself.

My schedule, both devised by my adoring fiancée and myself, drove me to a breaking point. While there is no doubt that I am hemorrhaging Man-points by admitting this, my fiancée walked into my study-dungeon at the end of a section to find me sobbing my eyes out. Honestly, I am not prone to crying. Ever. But for some reason, I couldn’t find the right answer to question 17 on the first Logical Reasoning section and melted down.

I was stressed, too stressed. Especially with the weight that the LSAT has not only on me, but my family, I just couldn’t face getting another disappointing score. Something about question 17 got to me, and I just could press on. As it turned out, I had gotten the first 16 questions of the section right, which even more pointed to me that a break was needed.

I started giving myself one day off per week.

The rest changed my test taking. I have gone from frantic and manic on sections to calm and deliberate. Half of my issue seemed to be the stress of the overall LSAT experience instead of the test sitting on the paper in front of me. No matter how serious you are about the LSAT, for your sake and the sake of those around you, take a little time to be human. Watch a movie, play baseball, take a walk, whatever, leave that uber-uncomfortable desk chair and remind yourself of the world that is not broken down into sufficient and necessary elements. Seriously, I would guarantee you a higher score if I could.

This will be my last post until after the October 9th LSAT, but good luck to you all. May our pencils fly to the correct oval, may our minds stretch long and far, and may we not sit next to a mouth-breather.

Photo by keithallison



6 comments:

  1. This has been my exact experience! I'm glad I'm not the only one. Thanks for writing!

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  2. Thank you for posting this! I am also taking the exam tomorrow and have been 'cramming' like crazy all week/the past 3 months. I have seen a decline in my diagnostic exam scores in the past week and am at the point of breaking down. I think I have to step away and relax. I've studied all I can study and I think my brain is exhausted. It's nice to know that other people out there are feeling the enormous pressure that this test brings. Good luck.

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  3. Thank you...I have experience the exact same thing, coupled with my scores plummeting. Its been a little stressful to say the least. Thanks for the insight and reaffirming what I have been doing as well! Good Luck! We will all do great tomorrow!

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  4. Really comforting to hear this happens to other people too... The first time I took the LSAT my PT scores started dropping the week before the test and it completely freaked me out and put me in a terrible mindset to go take the test. This time around I've stayed a lot more calm in general, but the last PT test I took (on Wednesday) was significantly lower than my previous 3 (like 170 to 161, yikes). I decided that I needed to just stop studying completely until tomorrow. So I went to yoga yesterday, hung out with friends, and generally did relaxing non-LSAT related things. Same plan today. While it's really difficult to refrain from studying after having my confidence take such a hit on the last PT, I think it's the right decision. I am hoping that this will lead me to be back on my game tomorrow morning. Good luck everyone!

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  5. 6 years later and this is still exactly what people, like myself, need to hear. I'm taking the LSAT for the second time this Saturday and I'm exhausted. My score has seen little improvement even though I would bet my life on the fact that I've learned so much more since the first time I took it. I've spent the last month cramming and cramming yet seeing little, if no, improvement. I know that I've reached a plateau and I'm worried I won't get out of it, but I've come to peace with that thought. If I don't get out of it, I'll take the test a final time and give myself longer to improve. However, if and when I do get out of the plateau I know my score will increase to just the point I want it to. I know I'm capable of getting the score I want, it's just a matter of having definite proof that's making me grow grey hairs. After reading this article and multiple others I know the key is to just relax and take a day off. So long story short, thank you for the last minute confidence boost I needed and for reminding me that not ever LSAT taker is a robot easily scoring in the 170's and laughing at those who are even in the 160's.

    ReplyDelete
  6. 6 years later and this is still exactly what people, like myself, need to hear. I'm taking the LSAT for the second time this Saturday and I'm exhausted. My score has seen little improvement even though I would bet my life on the fact that I've learned so much more since the first time I took it. I've spent the last month cramming and cramming yet seeing little, if no, improvement. I know that I've reached a plateau and I'm worried I won't get out of it, but I've come to peace with that thought. If I don't get out of it, I'll take the test a final time and give myself longer to improve. However, if and when I do get out of the plateau I know my score will increase to just the point I want it to. I know I'm capable of getting the score I want, it's just a matter of having definite proof that's making me grow grey hairs. After reading this article and multiple others I know the key is to just relax and take a day off. So long story short, thank you for the last minute confidence boost I needed and for reminding me that not ever LSAT taker is a robot easily scoring in the 170's and laughing at those who are even in the 160's.

    ReplyDelete