How to Pick Yourself Up from a Practice Exam

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Most students in the Blueprint course have just taken Practice Exam 2. I’ve also seen a noticeable uptick in the number of emails from students panicked over the results of their practice exam results. I’m tempted to say that there’s a cause and effect relationship going on here, but as we continue to study to common fallacies on the LSAT, we need to be vigilant in recognizing when we improperly infer causation from mere correlation.

I can definitely sense the panic settling in though. Any email or conversation I have after an exam goes like:

“So I started out with a certain score that was certainly not the score I wanted to end up with and after the last practice exam I still don’t have a score I want to end up with and now the test date is no longer a date that’s in some abstract, hypothetical future but is actually in a month that is adjacent to current month on the Gregorian calendar, I’m starting to panic. I know you said not to panic after this exam, but clearly you were talking to every student in the room other than me, so I want you to address me specifically and say whether or not I am doomed to a life of disappointment and destitution.”

This is a very understandable dilemma to face. Of course it’s easy to accept advice like “It’s all a process! A bump in the road doesn’t mean you’re not en route to your destination! A disappointing score on a practice exam doesn’t mean you’re going to get disappointing score on the real thing!” before a test. But when you’re confronted with a score that’s actually disappointing, you’ll obviously be disappointed, and it’s only human to start to worry. Nonetheless, when that sinking feeling starts, there are a few things you should remind yourself.

1. The scores on your practice exams ultimately don’t matter

This might come as a shock to you, but LSAC won’t ask for any of your practice exam scores when you eventually apply to law school. The law school admissions offices won’t request them either. When you’re eventually in school—hammering away at a torts textbook, trying to make sense of the implied assumption of risk in inherently dangerous activities—this score will be but a number, as distant and vague as your weight at seven years old or the number of weeks Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas’s hit “Smooth” stayed at number one on the Billboard charts.

The scores on your practice exams don’t matter in the practical sense of applying to law school. The score of Practice Exam 2 doesn’t even really matter as a measure of your personal progress. As we’ve gone over before, there’s still a huge amount of material left to cover. Blueprint students still have to cover the Operation Family of Logical Reasoning, which amounts to damn near half the LR questions in a section at this point. We still have several important Logic Game types and a completely new type of Reading Comprehension passage (that lovely “passage A/passage B” number you may have noticed on your exam). And we haven’t even addressed the absolute hardest part of the LSAT—the writing sample timing. And yet, these things were a factor on Practice Exam 2. That you had to grit your teeth and wing it on these parts will naturally depress your final score on the exam, making that score a misleading indicator of your progress.

But there are still important things you can take away from the exam!

2. Good or bad, there are lessons to take from your practice exams

The whole reason we do these practice exams is to help you figure out which parts of the exam you’re doing well on, and which parts you need to review. For that reason, it’s imperative (a word that means important, but like, when the speaker wants to communicate urgency and certainty) that you take a very close look at how you did on each facet of the exam. You should know how you did on each of the LR question types, RC question types, and each logic game types that you had time to get to. When you break down performance like this, you get a better picture of what you can address to eventually bring up that score

What’s more, you should be looking at these questions to try to address what went wrong. You want to figure out what went wrong, so you can avoid these mistakes on future exams. These scores don’t matter, but building good habits matters a bunch. Did the timing get to you, and you read too quickly and missed some important things? That should be a signal to slow down when reading the questions first time through. Did you incorrectly diagram certain conditional statements or, worse still, fail to recognize that certain questions were could be diagrammed? Should be a sign to review those conditional statements. Did you miss a lot of Specific Reference or Inference questions in RC? Probably means that you should work on tagging and identifying secondary structures. Did you not make scenarios for a certain game, or spend too much time making scenarios that weren’t that helpful? Did you miss the author’s attitude on a passage? Did you misdiagnose certain fallacies? All valuable lessons to learn, and lessons better learned now than later.

For this reason, it’s important you go over the test as soon as you can, after finishing it. After taking a four-hour exam that felt like death, the last thing you probably want to do is take a biopsy. But reviewing the exam when it’s freshest in your mind will allow you more precisely diagnose what went wrong and what went right.

And even if you got certain questions right, but felt shaky on them, you should review them. It’s far too easy to become complacent and rely on what your instincts and intuition. But doing that doesn’t develop the skills we’re trying to acquire for the big test date.

3. There’s always still time to review

The last thing you should remember is that there’s still time to review these things! Even if you bombed certain parts of a practice exam, there’s still plenty of time to go back to these concepts and get practice employing them. Start with reviewing the basics, then do easier versions of those questions without any timing pressure. Once you feel good with that, move up to more difficult versions of those questions. Once you feel good there, you can introduce a little timing pressure.

You’ll still have time to do this when the test is a week away, so you definitely have time to do this when we’re a little more than a month out. So pick yourself up from the ground, take a hard look at how you answered the questions, and target your review based on that.

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