So Your LSAT Diagnostic Score Sucks

As winter becomes spring, many of you will soon be sitting down to take your first practice LSAT. This is the universal first step, and more often than not, it’s a fairly painful one.

Not to be a big downer, but taking an LSAT with little or no preparation is a humbling experience, not unlike stepping into a boxing ring for the first time. Going in, you might feel confident, even excited. After all, you’ve seen plenty of boxing in the movies, so you know the drill – jab, hook, etc. And then the bell rings and someone starts hitting you really hard, and you’re like, “Wait… hang on… ow!… Oh, I see. I suck.”

After that, maybe you quit boxing and try something lower impact. It’s kind of barbaric anyway, you think. You try swimming. Apparently it’s good for your joints.

But prospective law students don’t have the luxury of not taking the LSAT. There’s no way to get past it except by going through it. So what do you do after you finish your first practice test, bruised and sweaty, with a score well below your target? What comes next when the only thing your test seems to tell you is that you’re terrible?

First of all, know that you’re right where you’re supposed to be. Everyone sucks when they start studying for the LSAT. It’s a really hard test, and it requires you to think in a way that you’re not accustomed to. Whatever that initial score is, don’t despair. The good news is that the LSAT is learnable. You are at the very beginning of a long road to mastery. So no matter how your first test goes, the next step is to start studying.

But then why take a diagnostic test at all? It may seem like a waste of time, masochistic, even. It’s not. Your first practice test gives you a baseline from which to measure your progress as you study. You also get a “diving into the deep-end” understanding of what’s on the LSAT. There is no better (or faster) way to get a real sense of what you’re up against.

More importantly, feeling overwhelmed as you slog through it and the “I suck” takeaway at the end can actually help you. If you’re able to conjure up the right mindset, a bad diagnostic test can motivate you to put in the time and effort to make sure that your experience on test day ends up being very different.

Let’s go back to boxing – specifically the epic fight between Rocky Balboa and Clubber Lang for the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. For those of you not familiar with the Rocky films, this particular fight takes place mid-way through the saga. Rocky has been champion for a few years now. He’s the favorite every time he fights, and it’s been a while since he went up against someone who could really make him hurt. Enter Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T of The A-Team and “I pity the fool!” fame), who takes Rocky down in two rounds.

The loss is embarrassing, and Rocky considers throwing in the towel on his career. Luckily, his best friend and old rival Apollo Creed talks some sense into him. Creed helps Rocky understand that he’s lost his edge. He doesn’t have “the eye of the tiger” anymore. But he can get it back.

What he has to do is take the pain and humiliation of his loss and use it to motivate a super-cool training montage. And that’s just what he does! When Rocky faces Clubber Lang for a rematch, he’s a different man. Not just stronger and faster, but hungrier; his will to win is sharpened on the stone of defeat.

So when you bomb your diagnostic test, do what Rocky did. Remember how unpleasant it feels to hear the timer go off while you’re still on the second Logic Game; how demoralizing it is to flip through the test booklet and lose count of your wrong answers. Keep that memory alive. It will come in handy six weeks down the line when you’re getting sick of the LSAT and need to push yourself to get through another lesson.

You may also want to download some inspirational Rocky music. That could help, too.

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