LSAT Diary: Avoiding Panic and Gaining Confidence

LSAT Blog Diary Avoiding Panic Gaining Confidence
This installment of LSAT Diaries comes from Sarah, who took the December 2013 LSAT after using my 1-month day-by-day LSAT study plan.

Update from Sarah:

"I got a 160! Which, if you remember from my diary, is the best score I've ever gotten! I know it's not the greatest score ever, but it's MY best score and it'll probably get me into the law schools I want to go to (Northeastern, specifically). Thank you SO much for all the help you've given me through your blog. I hope you know how valuable your site is to people who can't afford traditional tutoring."

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Thanks to Sarah for sharing her experience and advice!

Sarah's LSAT Diary:

The day I decided to finally apply to law school, I took the PrepTest on LSAC’s website. Somehow I pulled off a 156, a score that haunted me for the rest of my studying. That was the end of July, when I white knuckled my computer and signed up for the October test.

I was lucky enough to stumble on to Steve’s blog early on, and bought the one-month LSAT study schedule. I couldn’t afford any prep courses, so before the schedule, I trudged through those first awful chapters in SuperPrep and asked myself, “That’s it? Now what?” The new structure gave me intention and strategy for each day, and I confidently stepped into my new life: study all day, work all night. Working in a bar didn’t do much for my mental energy, but it did afford me the daylight hours to dedicate to LSAT. My partner and his four year old saved me from some pretty devastating panic attacks when I got to the Grouping games. Sometimes, though, I indulged in family time a bit too much. It was almost like I was leading a double life, whenever I was with my boys, I thought about LSAT, and vice versa. Hard to stay focused when a little one is challenging you to a sword fight. Somehow I pushed through.

When it got to be two weeks before October 5, I assessed my status: Two months in and I was just rounding out Logic Games. My times and accuracy with the games were up to par, but I hadn’t even cracked the LR Bible. I fought with myself and asked everyone I knew for their opinions on postponing - if I push the date back, I’ll have more time to study, but I’ll have to juggle all the other application stuff! I’ll go out of my mind! Maybe I should just bite the bullet and get it over with?

Nope. I postponed. That was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. Which was confirmed the second it clicked that Logical Reasoning was two whole sections and I couldn’t believe I didn’t realize before! I took PrepTest A in Super Prep after I finished studying the games and I got a 155. Alright, so I haven’t pulled my score up...but maybe that’s because I haven’t done Reasoning yet? So I kept on studying.

After I got through the LRB and the different LR questions - each of which threatened to kill me - I worked on the Reading section. I wanted to end it all. Why was it getting harder? It was two weeks before December 7 and I started doing timed tests. My first two scores were 146 and 154. Oh crap. They were going down! How was it even possible? The worst part was that I was bombing the games. After two months of putting LG’s on hold to study the other sections, my times were all over the map and I couldn’t even remember how to complete each setup.

I thought that maybe it was because I was still adjusting to the timing and how the sections worked together. So I drilled and reviewed and managed a 159 the next time! Go me! I called everyone I knew and threw a parade for myself! I made it! I improved! I took another, and had a complete and total breakdown. I took Steve’s advice to take prep tests in coffeeshops, bars, etc. And it was at the coffeeshop that I totally bombed. I pulled a 149 and thought I was going to lose it. I took another test that same day at home after I’d calmed back down. I got a 148. My lowest score yet - with less than a week left. I was devastated. I felt like, maybe this isn’t for me. Maybe I should just give up? I mean, what’s the point? I’m actually worsening my score the more I study!

I realized that I was doing it to myself. I was sending myself into a panic every time I cracked a book! I decided to take a new approach. Which is exactly the advice I will be giving every person who ever asks me about the LSAT.

First, I focused on my mind and body more than my score. Yoga went from being something I did every now and then, to my every morning routine.

Second, I started visualizing the morning of the exam. What would it feel like? What would be the best routine for staying calm and being confident? I started adjusting my sleep schedule, waking up at the right time. Drinking coffee, doing yoga, and driving to the exam location to study.

Which would be my third, but not third most important, piece of advice. My LSAT was scheduled for the science building of a local college, so I started going there a week before to study. I figured out where to park, where the building was on campus, and where the bathrooms were. I spent almost a week straight in the science library and sitting in the auditorium where I would take the most important test I’ve ever taken (so far). I pictured walking in and out of that building feeling the best I’ve ever felt. No matter what.

Fourth, I decided a week before that I wasn’t actually shooting for a number. My next few Prep Test scores were 149, 151, 155. I cried a lot those last few days. I felt so disappointed in myself. Somehow after four straight months of studying, I was doing worse than I did before I’d even heard of conditional reasoning. I started to realize that the most important thing is that I feel good about myself and that I treat myself with respect and compassion. Beating myself up wasn’t going to do me any service, and it certainly wouldn’t be the attitude that gets me through law school. So, I loosened up.

The first snowfall of the year was on the ground that sunny morning, and it was stunning. An ice storm had hit overnight, and many test centers had cancelled (not mine), due to the weather. I had a moment of longing for the possibility of another week of studying - but realized I didn’t want it. I was ready. I woke up, made coffee, did some mind clearing yoga, kissed my partner and got in the car. When I walked into that exam room, I was calm, smiling and confident.  I saw the terror in my fellow test-takers’ eyes and I looked back reassuringly. Even at the guy sitting next to me who dropped things, yawned obnoxiously and farted - loudly - through the whole exam.

Taking the LSAT made me realize that I might not have taught myself how to pull anything higher than a 160, but I taught myself how to take the LSAT. I was the calmest I’d ever been yesterday. I paced myself so well that I finished every section, even Reading Comprehension and Logic Games. There were a few moments when I thought I might not finish a section, which would have sent me into a panic a week before the test. I just breathed through it, and only had to fill in a few sparse blank bubbles. I laughed to myself when I opened my third Reasoning section and realized that I was wrong to think all my studying was for naught. Logical Reasoning had become my best section! By the time I got to the Writing Sample, I was grinning like a fool.

I killed it! I have no idea what my score will be, but I took that test like a boss. A week before the test, I thought I would leave the exam room crying. Instead, I was smiling and laughing about the farting guy with another test taker. I have never been more proud of anything I’ve ever done - and while there are many more people than just myself I’ll need to impress with my score, I’m just glad I got through it with dignity and confidence. That’s my advice to everyone. Don’t lose yourself to studying or your score. Balance your time and energy between studying and self-care. Take care of yourselves, and the LSAT will follow.

Photo by bobaubuchon


  1. This was really uplifting to read =)

  2. I can totally relate!!! Thank you so much for sharing!! And Happy New Year! :)

  3. Im feeling the same way. Thanks for the share!

  4. Thank you for your encouragement. I'm in the same boat. i'm hoping for a 160 as well. I have about a month left and I'm hoping to study as best I can. I'm very happy for you :)

  5. Thanks for sharing. Your story is so inspiring- :)

  6. Love this story! It's important to note that most LSAT diaries are about overcoming your own self-confidence. Poor prep tests come and go but it's about believing in yourself; brushing yourself off and getting back on that horse again :p

  7. Sooo inspiring and motivating!!! and congratulations on your score!!

  8. Thank you everyone! Good luck on your exams, and be patient with yourselves!