LSAT Diary: Studying While Traveling For Work

LSAT Blog Diary Studying Traveling Work
This LSAT Diary is from Ashley, who improved from 151 to 161 on the February 2013 LSAT after using my 5-month day-by-day LSAT study plan!

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Thanks to Ashley for sharing her experience and advice!

Ashley's LSAT Diary:

For those of you who work full-time, travel for work and study part-time, the LSAT will not be easy but it’s doable. It is doable, I assure you. That was my situation... I am a full-time flight attendant, Canadian but living in Dubai for work and also finishing up my degree studying part-time. Basically, that means I have very little free time and when I do have free time, I am usually jet-legged. The LSAT requires an alert mind more than almost anything else, in my opinion, and getting to the right state of mind was extremely difficult for me. In the end, I was PT-ing at an average of 165 and even did one test of 173 about two days before the test (probably a fluke, I know). After a horrible, noisy testing experience in Dubai, a place where LSAC does not normally administer tests , I rejoiced when I saw that I’d scored 161.

Basically, the university happened to be running a tour the same day of my exam with students congregating right around the corner from my little office, with a couple of students even coming to knock on the door to ask for tickets. (Believe it or not, it can happen) Not everyone would be so happy with that score but after all of the sweat and tears I put into that test, I was so happy to have scored over 160. I’ll only be applying for law school in the fall for entrance in 2014 and am praying that the score is enough. This is my story of how I went from 151 to 161, in spite of my crazy lifestyle and my noisy test centre and I hope it is helpful to some of you out there in the same place I was a year ago.

Once I decided that I wanted to go to law school, I immediately started looking into writing the LSAT, completely underestimating the exam itself and what I was going to go through in writing it. I was always a great student with straight As throughout high school and university and I had never found anything too difficult. The LSAT showed me up. Big time. I booked the LSAT for October 2012 and started studying the June beforehand, reading that most people took about 3-4 months to study for the test. After only looking at the logic games a bit, I scored 151 on my diagnostic. Disheartening, yes it was. But considering that a 151 is in the 48th percentile, meaning I scored higher than 48% of people who take the test without studying, I didn’t feel too bad about it.

I kept at it - I did timed preptest after timed preptest. Getting used to the time is difficult and I definitely recommend mixing timed preptests with untimed sections and not starting off with just untimed. You have to get used to the time. I  kept a watch in front of me with a dial that works as a stop watch, on which I would mark the time the next section was starting and know when 35 minutes would be up. I started off trying to write down the time and calculate 35 minutes but this was far easier.

I never bothered with Reading Comprehension very much because that was my strongest section and my problems were very much topic-related, whereas Logic Games and Logical Reasoning needed a lot of work. When September arrived, I knew I was nowhere close to where I needed to be. Although there was no LSAT scheduled in the United Arab Emirates in February, I paid the extra money to have the centre set up for me because I didn’t feel I’d be ready for December but didn’t want to wait until June. In the end, February was perfect and well worth the money.

Once I re-booked the exam for February, I got down to business, no longer underestimating the LSAT’s difficulty but seriously doubting my own abilities. I realized I wasn’t going to learn just by doing the questions over and over again and hoping for the best; I needed to drill the sections and question types and work from there. I bought Steve Schwartz’s 5 month LSAT study plan to help me with this and followed it to the best of my ability, although not day by day. With my travelling job, it was physically impossible to study every day. So, what I followed were the topics and the question types for both LR and LG. Drilling questions and games helped tremendously. I kept records to see how I was improving and watched myself improve, albeit very slowly. I recorded each game I did and how I scored the first time, second time and third time I did that game. In & Out games were my nemesis.

For LR, I rarely did the same question twice but there are just too many questions to get through so I just kept working on them by type and difficulty, reading their explanations over and over again to understand why I made errors. Even in the end, I don’t think I ever really understood a lot of LR questions and the errors I was making. I never thought it would be the most difficult section but I do think it was, thinking back. With LG, I never became fast enough and only once ever finished the section with perfect marks in the allotted time but I did get to the point where I was only making between 2-4 errors per section. The best tool I found to help with LG was the videos provided on Steve’s blog, which clearly explained each game.

The difference between LR and LG for me was, with the logic games, I could always understand where I went wrong and could perfect each game after my third attempt. With LR, I could do the same questions over and over again and unless I simply remembered the correct answer, I often would never really understand. I think a personal tutor could have been my saviour in that aspect but I couldn’t justify the cost. I always felt like there was something I was missing and talking to someone about my reasoning would help point out how my reasoning was flawed but I didn’t allow myself such a luxury.

When I had a busy week where I couldn’t study, I noticed my scores drop. When I stopped studying over Christmas because I went on holidays with my husband, my scores dropped. I definitely learned how important it is to keep at it because it’s even harder to get back to where you were and so discouraging.

The other biggest lesson I learned was to blindly review your tests, which is actually something I only picked up on about 1 or 2 weeks before my test. I had always heard people say, review your answers, review your answers and that I always did. But by blindly reviewing them, where you cannot see the correct answer yet and you mark yourself, I felt like I learnt the most. I made significant improvements in the last 2 weeks before my test, definitely because of that but also because I took the time off work to be at home, sleep 8 hours a night, go to the gym, eat healthily and focus. My test scores jumped and I felt ready as can be. I had a massage the day before the exam and just relaxed and woke up the test day ready to kill it.

Although I don’t know how I would have scored had the test centre been quiet, peaceful and organized, I know that my focused days before the exam helped ensure I got a score I was happy with even despite of less than ideal circumstances. Just two weeks before my test day, I had a bad sleep, wrote a preptest in a noisy hotel and I scored my lowest score for months, a mere 157. This just went to show me how those few days or week before the test are so, so important in ensuring you are in the right frame of mind.

In conclusion, the best advice that I can give to someone writing the LSAT is: No matter what type of life you lead, keep studying as regularly as possible. Give yourself a lot of time to prepare, particularly if you do have life, study and work requirements beyond the usual students’. Try to be mentally alert when you study, otherwise you’re wasting your time. Review your answers blindly. Write as many preptests as you humanly can (I wrote 30 in total - leave the newest ones for last). And lastly, take the week off before the test if you can in any way do so. If you do these things, no matter what test centre you write at, or what job you have, you can succeed at this test. Just be realistic.

Photo by bobaubuchon


  1. Ashely, your story is truly inspiring. My first LSAT was 150 last year. I am planning to take June test shooting for over 160. Working full-time and raising two kids, it's not easy but my score gradually improves. I congratulate on your success. From Washington D.C.

    1. Yes. I completely agree it can be hard to find time to study. Married, a toddler and infant, and fulltime employment really does limit what you can do. I try to do at least an hour a day. No exceptions. It is just to hard to get back to studying after a break of even a few days.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience I totally feel more confident in my preparation for the upcoming October LSAT. The key to doing well is studying consistently and reviwing your tests. Taking timed tests is also a must.