LSAT Diaries: Reducing Test Anxiety

LSAT Blog Diaries Reducing Test Anxiety
This LSAT Diary is from Anthony, who improved his original LSAT score from the 140s to a 161 on the February 2012 LSAT. (Read the first half of his LSAT Diary, too.)

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Thanks to Anthony for sharing his experience and advice, and please leave your questions for him below in the comments!

Anthony's LSAT Diary:

Some types of questions would repeatedly give me difficulty. Parallel reasoning questions were absolute time sinks. I found them nearly impossible to complete correctly and within a reasonable amount of time. The sheer amount of text required to synthesize was something that I found so time consuming that I'd usually avoid them and finish them at the end if I had time.

The February 2012 LSAT was scheduled for February 11. Knowing this, I booked the week prior to the test off of work to prepare without any distractions. Three weeks before this, however, I found myself being burdened with a lot more difficulty than normal with things around me. My car was breaking down, my manager at work was losing his grip would later be fired, my study schedule was calling for 3 – 4 full length tests per week. I felt completely swamped. I had no choice but to push some of the tests until my week off from work. This would mean that I would spend several days doing back to back full length practice tests on my last week before the LSAT. I would later learn that this is a huge mistake.

On the week before the test, I noticed a sharp decline in my scoring. Previously I had been scoring in the 160s, and once even in the 170s, I was now sitting in the low 150s. With each practice test I would do, there would be no improvement. I was stressed out to the max. I began thinking to myself that these three months of studying 3 hours per day could be all for nothing. The admissions committee at my target law school could look at my application and see the most inconsequential improvement to my LSAT score that they may as well throw my whole application in the trash.

As a consequence from all of the stress, I started to get massive and frequent migraine headaches. Known as “cluster headaches”, these headaches come in batches and sometimes wake you from the middle of the night in excruciating pain. It made studying that much harder. Trying to complete a full length practice test days before test day when you know you've been scoring terribly and you have a horrendous headache is an arduous task. I felt as if I had turned from 25 to 65 overnight. I was unable to cope.

My mother intervened and suggested that I start taking walks in the morning prior to studying to clear my head and relieve stress. Fortunately, I'm living near a beautiful park that has a semi-frozen river with several bridges that cross it. Every morning for a week before test day, I'd walk through this park and sit and listen to the birds and squirrels. I would just sit and stare at the ocean that the frozen river runs into. Sometimes I would just sit with my legs dangling from the bridge and watch the water run over the rocks at the bottom of the small river. It was this sort of mind-clearing time that I really needed in order to focus.

This relaxation time, in combination with reducing the total amount of practice tests I would take to make it so that I could take one day off in between, saw significant improvement in my practice test scores. I was back into the low 160s, right where I needed to be.

When test day came, I was ready. I was nervous, but I felt confident. I went for my walk that morning and took a good fifteen minutes to stare at the frozen ocean as the tide went out and the ice slowly cracked and rested down on the shoreline. In many ways, the pressure was already off by test day. The biggest challenge was just the patience required to get there.

In the end, I scored a 161, and I've now been accepted to my target law school. It wasn't easy getting here, and a lot of people have scored higher with much less work. The truth about it is that we're not all cut from the same block. If I could provide one suggestion for those who are aspiring to score well on the LSAT, it would be to not let stress get the best of you. Plan an LSAT study schedule well in advance of test day, and for heaven's sake, relax and stare at something beautiful every once in a while.

Photo by bdorfman


  1. Thanks for sharing. I'm in the same situation & losing hope that even with all my effort I won't improve my score. You've encouraged me to drown out my doubt and not compare myself to others.

  2. I've found that if you're not feeling well emotionally or psychologically, the test scores you'll be getting will not be indicative of your full potential at all.

    Scoring well on the LSAT and keeping a good rhythm as you're writing is the product of having a good rhythm in nearly every other part of your life.

    Even if it costs you a week of your study schedule, take the time to get yourself back into shape. Relax for a little bit. Keep your mind logically sharp with sudoku, but don't let the anxiety get the best of you.

  3. Thank you. Positivity and believing in yourself are key. I've been breathing the LSAT these past few months and have seen a steady increase. Just be diligent and work on specific areas you're weak at.

  4. Wow! I’m so encouraged by this diary. Part 1 of this diary is literally the story of my life! Nothing ever seemed to come easy for me and I can't tell you how refreshing it is to hear it from someone else’s perspective. I've been on this journey for over a year. This has truly renewed my drive to keep on keeping on!

    1. Awesome! That's great to hear.
      Keep pushing on. Don't get discouraged.

  5. After reading your diary, I feel so much more motivated to start studying for my second try at the LSAT (which will be this Oct). I am trying to raise my score just as high as you did. I was wondering how did you arrange your LSAT studying around your work schedule? I never realized how difficult it is to be working full time and studying until I had to do that for my first try.

  6. Thank you for your story Anthony. I'm in a similar boat to your previous situation. I wrote the October 2011 LSAT and scored an unsatisfactory 152 :( All my practice tests seem to be stuck in the 150s. I remember the first practice test I wrote was something like a 148. It's been pretty tough on the ego haha. I'm waiting and working towards the day when I get a score of 160 and up!

    Logic games seem to be my worst section. I can't seem to ever finish the last section on time. Any general tips you could give me? Thanks :)

    1. I landed a 152 as well in Dec 2011. Logical reasoning looked to be my weak point. I just wanted to say good luck to you! I too hope to raise my score to a 160 or higher.

    2. THanks! Good luck to you as well :)

  7. Amazing. Thank you so much. I needed to hear this as I feel as if I'm in the same situation.

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