Maintaining Your Study Plan as the October LSAT Looms

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In the wild and crazy life of an LSAT instructor, the month of September is the wildest and craziest time of all. You are probably picturing raging all-night parties filled with voluptuous video vixens and Crystal flying everywhere. (For the most part, you’re right, except substitute freaked out LSAT students and dry erase markers.)

With three weeks to go until the October LSAT, it’s important that students utilize the remaining time the best way possible. However, there always seems to be a lot of different theories about what defines the best way possible.

After working with thousands of LSAT students over the last decade, I think I have gotten a pretty good idea of what works.

Before we get to the good stuff, let me outline the study plan that you should attempt to avoid. You lay out an impossibly rigorous study schedule between now and October 1 that involves between seven and ten practice exams every week. After three days of trying to keep to this schedule, you start to fall behind and get more stressed. Then you figure that you should just get rid of the stress by taking a practice exam. Shockingly, that test doesn’t go well. What’s the solution? Take another one. Crap, that one went even worse. What to do? Picture your score continuing to drop and the negative correlation this will have on your future children and the automobiles that you use to take them to their snooty private schools. Then take another practice exam, freak out more, and repeat until you can’t even look at an LSAT question without breaking into tears.

Here are some of the problems with this strategy: (1) the very fact that you are preparing for law school means that you are the type of person who should strive to reduce stress levels rather than do the opposite, (2) you learn next to nothing from taking a practice exam so repeating that exercise and expecting different results is one of the most insane things that a person can do, and (3) where’s the review?

Over the next few weeks, a much better study plan will involve two distinct types of study days.

First, you will, of course, have days that involve timed practice. But these days should not always be filled with full practice exams. By the time you finish a grueling, four-hour logical duel with the LSAT, you are much more likely to grab the bottle of Jack than review your mistakes in any meaningful way. That means very little learning will take place. Taking a full test certainly builds stamina. (Students often miscalculate the severity of this problem. When you are practicing on a Wednesday night on your couch, you will get tired. When you are taking the most important test of your life on a Saturday morning, you will not be dozing off.) A much more helpful way to practice for test day is to do lots of timed sections. When you do a 35-minute section, you still get lots of practice with timing. You can set goals, and you can review the section immediately afterward when the questions are fresh in your mind. Shoot, you can even do the four scored sections from one test spaced out during one day and get a score.

Second, and equally important, you must devote days to review. When you are practicing, problems will inevitably pop up. Miss a few Sufficient questions? Blow a tiered ordering game? Don’t shrug it off and try to power on. Go back through the lessons and do some directed practice. This process will be much less stressful than your testing days, but it will help enforce the concepts upon which your score is based. Here’s a list of some things that are crucial to review.

• Flow chart pages for all LR Question Types
• Diagramming (for Blueprint students, this is Lessons 1 and 2)
• Logical Force (Lesson 2)
• Ordering Games Introduction (Lesson 2)
• Quantifiers (Lesson 3)
• Reading Comp Structures (Lesson 3)
• Playing the Numbers (Lesson 4)
• Tiered Ordering Setups (Lesson 5)
• Common Fallacies (Lesson 6)
• Antithesis Passages (Lesson 6)
• Grouping Game Relationships (Lesson 7)
• Two-Group Games (Lesson 8 )
• Synthesis Passages (Lesson 8 )
• Cause and Effect (Lesson 10)
• Comparative Reading (Lesson 11)
• Sufficient and Necessary Assumptions (Lesson 12)
• RC Question Types (Lesson 12)

It can also be helpful to flip through old homework questions and review questions that you missed the first time around.

Lots of improvement can be made in 22 days. Just make sure to use your time wisely.

6 Responses

  1. Daniel says:

    So Damn True! I have stressed less and my accuracy is crazy strong. I was the guy who took exam after exam; once I let it go and just told myself to do the best I could, something clicked! I am doing much better and I have just said screw it! I have studied so much. Either blueprint sucks and I fail, or it worked and I’ll do great. By the way, I am doing great!

    Daniel

  2. Nick says:

    Matt, level with me. I’m in a bit of a bind, and this post seems like the perfect place to get a little feed back! First of all, I tried to squeeze blueprint the movie into 6 weeks.. but, then I took an extended weekend and now I’m down to 5. 8 lessons in 2 weeks? yes, I’ve been busy.. Anyway I’ve got 3 weeks until the test and I’m only through half of the course.. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish even using the abridged homework list. I got a 153 on the first test, and a 158 on the exam I took this morning. (I know, out of order…) My questions to you are, would you chance it and take it in 3 weeks? Or finish the course over the next couple months, thoroughly, and take it in December? Does applying earlier affect an application as much as a couple points on the lsat?… why I do these things to myself…

    btw.. excellent course. i’ve never learned so much so quickly. definitely worth the money. thanks in advance for any feedback!

    Nick

  3. Riley says:

    Don’t feel alone – I had a class full of 60 students who were all dealing with the same conundrum last night.

    Basically, there’s no problem pushing for the October test. Your scores are pretty good, and real improvement is still possible. I would focus on finishing up all of the new material (through Lesson 13) asap. After that, you need to spend a good week really stressing timing strategies for each section. The decision to take it in October doesn’t need to be made until a couple days before the test. At that point, if your score continues to go up and you are within striking distance (3 points) of your target score, give it a shot. If not, cancel the October test and push it back.

    If you end up taking it in December, your apps don’t have to be late. You just have to prepare all of your stuff before you take the test (apps, letters, essays). That way, your LSAT score is the last part of your application.

    Glad you are enjoying the course.

  4. Sharon says:

    Hi Matt,

    I planned on taking the October LSAT but i bombed my 3rd practice tests (that i took on my own, and i will admit that the testing conditions were not idea).basically, i did 4 points worse than my 2nd practice exam… (i also rushed, and forgot about accuracy)… =( i have been completing almost ALL the hw though…

    would you recommend that i postpone to december. or is it OKAY to take BOTH the october and december tests?

  5. Riley says:

    No, no, no, don’t postpone. You should keep pushing for the October test.

    You got a bad score on a test where you had bad testing conditions and a bad (hopefully momentary) lack of strategy.

    If you have to take it again in December, that’s not the end of the world. But it sounds to me like October could still go very well.

  6. Sharon C. says:

    I’m loving this course. Matt Riley, you’ve been marvelous! And to Nick and [the other] Sharon, if you feel like you are not ready to dominate the LSAT, why not take the test on October 1st so that you can experience the real process (since you’ve already paid for it and won’t get a refund when you withdrawal your registration)? Later you can then cancel your score. So when everyone else is having a meltdown in the testing center on December 3rd you’ll be as cool as a cucumber. After all, it ain’t your first rodeo (I’m obviously a Texan) since you have already been there done that.

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