Speed up!

BPPalex-lsat-blog-speed-up

There is a lot to learn for the LSAT, from diagramming conditionals, to memorizing flaw categories, to wrangling with combo games. The December LSAT is fast approaching, and hopefully students taking the test next month will be familiar with most of the material at this point.

Now that you know all that stuff, you have to be to apply it. Under a lot of pressure. Very quickly.

Right now, you probably know how to do everything; you just need another hour and a half to do it all. Time, or lack thereof, is most everyone’s biggest issue at this point. So, with less than three weeks left before the test, how can you improve your speed?

First, and most obviously, you should time everything from here on out. You might not be used to the added pressure of the ticking clock. It causes a lot of anxiety, which slows you down, leading to more anxiety, etc. But that anxiety will naturally abate as you get used to the time pressure, so do all of your practice going forward “on the clock.”

Second, you should increase the amount of time you spend reviewing your practice material. Going over a practice test is as valuable as taking one. Your goal is to get a better understanding of the test’s patterns. For example, you might notice that there are a few stock-phrases that are always used to describe causation fallacies, or that Could Be True questions tend to involve the least-constrained players of a game. Recognizing these patterns will let you anticipate the right answer, allowing you to identify it more quickly. Overall, it will streamline your process.

Third, start noticing where your time is going. Carefully review the analytics for each practice test to see which question types are taking up the most time. If Weaken questions are taking three minutes each, review the corresponding concepts and do some targeted drills.

Don’t stop there. Do a few practice sections in which you time everything: the amount of time you spend reading each passage and setting each game; the amount of time you spend on the stimulus of a Logical Reasoning question vs. the answer choices; the amount of time you spend waffling between A and C once you’ve eliminated everything else; etc. If you know where your time is going, you can identify where you need to speed up.

By that I really mean: “where you need to cut corners.” You can’t just read and think faster. I wish you could. But if you try, you’ll likely end up rushing and skipping important steps. Rather, you have to figure out what you can do less of without significantly impacting your accuracy. If you’re spending six minutes reading each passage, try re-reading and underlining less, giving yourself more time for the questions. Your initial comprehension might suffer, but you may avoid wasting time on details of the passage that don’t end up being tested. Meanwhile, if you’re spending a significant amount of time eliminating wrong answers even though you’re pretty sure you’ve identified the right answer, get more reckless. Sometimes, we check those other answers for just for the sake of peace of mind, but that’s a luxury you can’t afford on the LSAT.

Along with the art of cutting corners, you also have to practice the art of letting go. When my pride is at stake, I sometimes find myself spending four or five minutes on a single question, just to prove to the LSAT that I can do it. I waste a ton of time on a hard question that is worth exactly as many points as each of the three easy questions I now don’t have time for. Sometimes you have to let go of a question after two minutes and guess if solving it is going to take more time than you have.

Finally, remember that skipping questions is okay. In fact, it’s encouraged. Try to skip the hardest, most time-consuming questions and return to them if you have time to spare. You might find that passing over two Parallel questions saves you enough time for to do the rest of the section.

Parting thought: as with pretty much everything LSAT-related, you can also watch Rocky for inspiration:

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