How the Actual LSAT Compares to Practice Exams

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If you signed up for the June ’18 LSAT, your exam is just 10 days away. That’s not even long enough to binge-watch every season of Supernatural. Let’s assume you’ve done everything right up to this point in your studies: drilled down the fundamentals, made your way through the curriculum of each section type and completed multiple practice exams under exam-day conditions. But speaking for all of the law school-bound perfectionists eager to use every opportunity to prepare for the exam, I can tell you that there are some things about your official, LSAC-administered LSAT that just won’t be the same as what you practice. The best you can do now is to read about the particularities of Test Day and give yourself the time to get mentally ready for this oh-so-unique experience.

Waiting: The proctored practice exams administered by Blueprint can give you some of the very best practice for your real LSAT, but even your Blueprint instructor isn’t cruel enough to force you to wait the way I did on my official exam day. I got to my test center early, made my way through the check-in line, and was assigned as seat in one of testing classrooms. The 12:30 check-in deadline came and went. So did another 45 minutes with my class full of LSAT students sitting in restless but complete silence, with the unforgiving face of our proctor staring back at us. I don’t know what was going on outside of our classroom that forced us to wait all that time, but I’ve learned since then that waiting is all too common during the exam day.

Nerves: Most of us get nervous during at least a couple of our practice LSATs with the pressure of the official exam bearing down on us. It still may not compare to the real-deal testing stress — when it really counts. There’s a lot of help out there for managing stress and building confidence on the LSAT, but it’s much better to accept that the test comes with psychological pressure than to try to suppress it until test day when, as I described above, you may find yourself with nearly an hour to kill in silence before your exam even begins.

Bathroom: At home or in a familiar classroom, you never really have to worry about where a bathroom is and when you can use it. On test day, once you check into your exam, you may not be allowed to use a bathroom at all until AFTER the exam begins. Don’t feel like you really have to go before your check in time? That could change in the indeterminate number of hours before the test break. Make this one less thing to worry about during the exam, and go before you check in.

Rules: Outside of the official exam, it’s tempting to fudge the time at the end of a practice section, or to check your cell phone when you hear the ping of an incoming text. Remember that bending the rules is not an option on the real test. Do you want to know what happened when students didn’t listen to the proctor in my testing classroom? I’ll tell you: nobody disobeyed our proctor because she was an all-powerful, all-knowing LSAT spirit who would smite us if we so much as thought about violating the rules of the exam. When you read about a broader group of LSAT takers on the internet, you see what the consequences of cheating, or even more innocuous rule bending can mean on the exam. You’ll see the stories about students sitting for the exam, when their cell phone went off, and even though they forgot it was in their pocket, and even though they went to turn it off, they ended up kicked out of the test with a black mark on their record to explain to every law school they would apply to.

Writing Sample: If there’s one thing that practice exams teach you, it’s how to get through five full-length, timed sections of LSAT material. Once you’ve built up the endurance for this, you can practically see the light at the end of the tunnel as you’re finishing off the fifth section of an exam. Not so fast though! On the official LSAT, you will follow that fifth section with your 35-minute writing sample and you won’t be allowed to leave until the end of that section. I remember how the kid sitting closest to me during my official exam just sat in his seat during the writing sample, not even opening his book to read the writing prompt for that whole 35-minute period. You know this section is coming, and you know that this piece of writing, while not representative of your best work, will be a piece of your law school application. Do your best to finish strong on that last section, even while you take a big sigh of relief that the difficult part is all behind you.

When it comes to the LSAT, nothing quite compares to the real thing. But with this list in your back pocket, you’ll be as prepared as possible to walk into the official exam.

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