LSAT Diary: LSAT Prep Timeline

This installment of LSAT Diaries comes from Xavier, who improved from the 150s to a 162 on his first actual test, to a 171 on his February LSAT retake after using LSAT Blog and reading other LSAT Diaries.

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Thanks to Xavier for sharing his experience and advice!

Xavier's LSAT Diary:

So for the first part of my LSAT diary I'll do a basic timeline of my study schedule, along with the different obstacles i found along the way. I'd like to devote the second part to specific tactics and approaches I used in preparation for and on test day which I found helpful.

I started to study for the lsat in september 2013, with the intention of taking the december test of that year. After realizing that i'd be at somewhat of a disadvantage for applying late in the cycle, and realizing that studying while juggling my last semester of undergrad was more work than i'd anticipated, i decided to focus on getting my gpa as high as possible and taking the june test instead. Between sept and dec I focused on developing as solid a foundation of LG technique as possible.

While I never took a cold diagnostic, I went through a few timed individual sections that fall and realized that studying for the lsat was going to be far more work than i'd anticipated; my LR scores fluctuated anywhere between -8 and -15, while critical reading was usually -10 or so. I'm fairly confident that if I'd taken a cold diagnostic, it would've been somewhere around or slightly below 150. I didn't bother to take any timed games sections for a while, when I did, I was averaging -5. I took my first 'realistic' timed lsat in March and scored a 161. I knew that for law school to be worth it for me I'd need to clear the 170 mark, so this was pretty discouraging.

In order to assess where I was at in terms of strengths and weaknesses, i started doing untimed full sections to see if there were any holes in my technique. At this point, i'd picked up games fairly quickly and was averaging around -2 timed, so i put games practice on the backburner for a few weeks. My LR on the other hand was still a mess, and while there wasn't a solid pattern in the types of answers i was getting wrong, my technique was bad and i struggled to really understand the different question types. I went through LR pretty quickly, still expecting to take the June exam, and experienced my first 'breakthrough'. My timed LR scores jumped up to -6 or so, and I started to feel the familiarity with the question types other test takers had described. I also found that as i devoted more time to focused practice, my critical reading also improved slightly, although definitely not as drastically as LR.

At this point it was around mid-may, and decided that my PT scores still weren't good enough for me to confidently take the June exam. Postpone. I was sad to have to sacrifice my summer for the lsat, but realized I'd be much more upset if I bombed the test because I was still shaky on technique. It was around this time that I began seriously working with a study partner; a friend who'd heard me complain about the test on too many occasions, sat down and took a timed PT with me and he scored a 170 cold, and decided  to study for the Sept. test and apply to law school on a whim. On one hand, having a study partner proved helpful in the sense that I could discuss the intricacies of the questions with someone, but at the same time I was still scoring in the mid to low 160s and feeling very discouraged. Not to mention I'd plateaued and hadn't really seen a score increase in several weeks. I decided to start drilling LR sections every day, developing a method of circling answers I was uncertain of and focusing on process of elimination. I can't stress enough how much this helped. If I had to single out one part of my studying process that most drastically improved my score, it would be developing a good practice of elimination technique. I got very good at eliminating wrong answers down to two, and for that reading explanations proved very useful in explaining why particular questions were wrong and others right. Drill, drill, drill from early june to august.

By august I was PTing around 167-170. Careful not to exhaust my supply of exams before the big day, i worked on the 50s for august, and the 60s-73 for september. At this point I was taking 2-3 timed tests a week, spending the other days carefully reviewing mistakes. At this point i was putting in around 20 hours a week or so per week, definitely the most so far. Studying for a year gave me the luxury of taking breaks to avoid burnout when i needed them, and i generally never spent more than 15 hours per week on the lsat until this time.

A word on burnout; at this point I knew i needed to work on my timing if I was going to get that 170+. My technique was good at this point, but i was barely finishing LR + CR sections on time. I realized that if i could move quickly enough to have ~5 minutes at the end of these sections to check my answers, I'd have no problem clearing 170. I decided the best way to do this was to start taking 4 PT's a week, on consecutive days. On one hand, I noticed that doing this actually did improved my speed towards the last few days; the first week i did this i scored 169,169, 171 and 176 respectively. On the other hand, I was beginning to feel serious burnout. After two weeks of doing this my scores plummeted back to 167. And I was unable to break through this barrier, including the last PT i took a few days before the actual exam. As you can imagine, days before the actual exam, this caused me to panic. My PT average less than two weeks before the exam was a 168. I figured at this point, avoiding burnout while doing everything I could to be on top of my game for test day was my best and only strategy. I started looking up articles and advice about managing pre-test day nerves, and used this advice to create my own test day strategy.

Photo by bobaubuchon

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