Allow me to explain. I had decided a few months prior to go to law school and fulfill my destiny of becoming a hotshot lawyer. I had it all planned out: In order to become a hotshot lawyer, I had to get into a good law school, and in order to get into a good law school, I had to take the LSAT and do really, really, really well on it. I was going to take the late September LSAT, so I’d have plenty of time to work on my law school applications.
I self-studied, and had no idea what was going on. The LSAT was completely foreign to me. The first thing I did was a practice test, and I did terribly. I was twenty points away from a perfect score on the SAT when I took it at 15, so bombing this practice LSAT made me spend a lot of time googling, “Do people get dumber over time?” and “sugar brain deterioration” (in case you were wondering, I didn’t give up my sugar habit, figuring it to already be a lost cause).
The kicker was that I decided to start studying a month and a half before the test, and was trying to manage a move to a different city at the same time. The impossibility of getting a killer LSAT score when I had so little time – not to mention that I had possibly gotten really dumb – meant that I saw my whole future crumbling to dust before me, keeping me up for hours at night.
The closer I got to the test, the worse things seemed to get. Time was of the essence, but I was still lying awake at night worrying about my dire future. Then, during the day while I was studying, I’d worry that I had wasted too much time lying awake at night.
The day of the test, I got very little sleep – per the usual for me. I sat in the car outside the test center, trying to somehow perform some miraculous LSAT-knowledge infusion in the last few minutes. Waiting to get in the test room, I listened to other people’s conversations and wondered if they were as freaked out as I was, and if they were going to do better than me.
In the test center, every time I got stumped by a question, I felt a combined sense of panic and the inevitable. The girl next to me kept tapping her pencil, and I wished she died a death by a thousand sharpened pencil stabbings. All these thoughts swirling in my mind meant that I had to skip several problems in nearly every section.
I canceled my score the moment I got home.
My experience was a worst-case scenario, but easily avoidable. What happens on test day is largely determined by what you do in the weeks leading up to it. Give yourself enough time. Don’t plan to do major stuff concurrently with your LSAT studying. Don’t approach the test with a sense of defeat. When you study, focus on learning the material, and block out any thoughts of disastrous scenarios. Think of the LSAT and the law as an option, not the be-all and end-all.
Blocking out negative thoughts will not only allow you to study more effectively, but it’s good practice for test day. You want to be able to focus just on the test, not on outside distractions or what missing a few questions might mean for your score and your future. Missing a few questions isn’t problematic, but worrying about them so much that you can’t concentrate on or get to other questions is problematic.