I don’t like standardized tests. I hated studying for the SAT, the ACT, and the slew of other exams I had to slog my way through. This comic perfectly encapsulates my feelings toward standardized testing—certain people are better suited for the way of thinking that it takes to succeed, through no fault of their own. When it came to the LSAT, I started out nearer the monkey in the comic (definitely not the bird) than the fish…or seal.
This post is dedicated to covering my path to a 99th percentile score. I don’t intend to be self-congratulatory, and hopefully my experience will provide some insight into performing well on the LSAT. My diagnostic came in around a 162, which is why I hesitate to parallel my journey with those who started out at a lower initial point. Nevertheless, there are certain aspects of my study process that I tried to impress upon my students as a teacher and which I think are generally applicable.
First, I signed up for an in-person class with Blueprint. Obviously, I prefer Blueprint’s methods and teaching techniques to other courses. I benefited from Blueprint as a student, and I saw behind the curtain as an instructor. I don’t think I would’ve had as positive an experience with another course. With that said, I stopped attending the classroom sessions relatively early and switched over to the online component so that I could go at my own pace. I don’t recommend this to everyone, but it worked relatively well for me (for the most part).
Second, I stayed on top of my homework and reviewed my errors. I would block out at least three hours every day, excluding class time, to complete the lessons, practice problems, and go back over the questions I missed. The LSAT is a highly learnable exam, and I think this part of my process was the most important part of my success. Maintaining a consistent study plan and thoroughly learning the methods is crucial to getting through the problems quickly and efficiently.
Third, I took the practice exams with my classmates. Simulating the LSAT experience before the actual day of the test was really helpful for me. It helped calm my nerves when I get to the test center, and it helped me focus through a variety of distractions.
With all that said, there were a few parts of my LSAT experience that did not benefit me at all. I over-tested and took too many practice exams. It is much easier to take practice exams than it is to actually review your mistakes and improve your approach to the sections. By the end of my three months, I wasn’t spending nearly enough time checking my mistakes; I was just plowing through tests to see if my score somehow improved. I’d have good days and feel like I was improving, and I’d have bad days where I’d get discouraged. As a result, I didn’t learn very much for the last two weeks, and I put myself through more stress than was necessary. Additionally, I stopped being attentive to the timing on my strongest sections. I never had a problem finishing on time in practice, but this hurt me on test day when I ran out of time on a section. Basically, I got sloppy and complacent when I started hitting my goals.
I benefitted greatly from starting out with a relatively high diagnostic score, but I still had a ways to go before I achieved the score I wanted. Taking a course, implementing a disciplined study routine, and simulating the LSAT experience through practice tests were all important parts of my process, and those aspects of my experience will benefit any LSAT student. I caution students not to get complacent if they hit their goals and to keep reviewing and learning from their experiences.