Stress is a part of life, but it can be especially difficult to manage on the eve of a life-changing test like the LSAT. If you are preparing for the February exam, you are acutely aware of the way a small point difference on the LSAT can dramatically impact your school and career prospects, as well as your debt burden for years to come. But managing your stress and testing frustrations are an essential part of performing well on the exam, and much more importantly, in supporting your long-term mental health.
Even though the LSAT is a pretty universally stressful event for future law students, people often fall on different extremes when it comes to their struggles with exam stress, and there isn’t just one solution for every student. Rather, the best advice can be to consider where you fall along the more extreme tendencies of LSAT students and take the advice that will set you on a more moderate, manageable path. After all, the habits you form for managing stress on the LSAT are going to need to carry you through even greater obstacles once you make it to law school.
Think of it like a game
Do you find yourself dreading your LSAT studying more than getting a tooth pulled? It’s normal to feel like there are things that you would rather be doing than exam prep, but the whole process shouldn’t’ feel like a form of mental torture. To the extent that your outlook on the LSAT will impact your score, it can be helpful to think of the LSAT as a game. You’ve done crossword puzzles, Sudoku — maybe even for fun. All of the LSAT sections can be like that (hello, Logic Games). It’s a test of puzzles, and puzzles are solvable.
Or think of it like a job
Another common issue for LSAT students is that they find their LSAT prep unwieldy. There are never enough extra hours in the day to study, and even when they aren’t studying, they can never really relax. If this sounds like you, try treating your LSAT studies as a job. Not like your job, if you have a really stressful career, but like the job of a character from The Office. If you’re Jim from The Office, you work for 8 hours, you go home, and you don’t think about work again until the next day. If you treat the LSAT like a job, that means doing your 2 hours of studying with total attention, then clocking out until the next study session on your schedule.
Take it as a learning experience
When you get through the first section of your LSAT exam and realize that you skipped the first space on your bubble sheet and all of your answers are out of order, what are you supposed to do? No matter how bad it gets, the thing to keep in mind is that this is all a learning experience. Of course, you can learn to pay better attention the next time you bubble in answers. But you can also work through the next four sections of your test to the best of your ability, and that exam will be a really great resource for a re-take. Apart from the lingering hope that your first mis-bubbled section was the Experimental section of the exam, your best path forward is to look at what you can gain from a mistake as a learning experience, because one exam is never going to be your only opportunity.
Or practice for the real thing
Who are you kidding? The LSAT is an important test, and no matter what you do, the pressure brought on by the exam still holds you back from performing to your full potential. If this sounds like you, then practice exams really are your best friend. The truth is that the LSAT is a high stakes test, so the best thing you can do to alleviate the test anxiety is to recreate the testing conditions until the stress becomes more manageable.
When I first started fostering my Chihuahua, Chico, he was so terrified of other dogs that he would try to launch himself into my arms any time a dog approached him. But after visiting the dog park every day for two weeks, Chico’s fear became more manageable (at least around even smaller Chihuahuas). The point being, if you recreate the most strict exam conditions, maybe with a few distractions and an unreasonable proctor thrown in, the real exam day will become a much less terrifying event.
Don’t get caught up in the negativity of others
Do you have a friend who wants to constantly compare your practice exam scores, or who makes every conversation about how they would rather do literally anything besides study for the exam? It can be great to have a study partner for the LSAT, but you haven’t found them in Negative Nelson. You don’t have to cut this person out completely (assuming they have other redeeming qualities) but keep your bonding far, far away from your LSAT prep, lest you get sucked into their black hole of negativity.
But don’t be afraid to seek help
There’s never a bad time to reach out to a professional who can help to promote your wellbeing and provide more tools to manage stress. When you’re equipping yourself with the best professional resources to teach you the LSAT exam, consider how you can give your mental health the same level of support.
With the February LSAT looming just a few weeks ahead, there’s no better time to consider how you can keep your test stress to a moderate, mostly-helpful level.