The most important word in “practice exam” is “practice.”

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Getting LSAT questions right feels good. Getting them wrong feels bad. Getting a whole bunch right on a practice exam and seeing your score skyrocket feels amazing. Seeing your score stagnate — or worse — feels really crummy.

For many Blueprint students, here comes Practice Exam 2. Just about everyone expects to see a substantial score increase between their first and second practice exam. It only makes sense, at least for those who’ve been to all the classes and done all the homework. Five points, right? Not too much to ask. Really, maybe ten or more points, who knows? Time for the sweet, sweet payoff for all that hard work right? Wrong. Many students — probably the majority — see no increase or a rounding error like a point or two. And a whole bunch of students actually see their scores drop.

And that’s all perfectly fine.

Really, I promise it is. So first, here’s the explanation of why this stagnating score situation is perfectly consistent with the idea that you’ve made substantial progress toward your ultimate goal of raising the LSAT roof on test day:

The methods that you learn early on will slow you down in the short term. On Practice Exam 1, plenty of students, and especially those with no LSAT experience, barrel through the questions or just give up on some of them, all because they have no method to execute. While this is not a recipe for getting questions right, it is a recipe for finishing a section on time.

Now you have a partially filled arsenal, but you’re not yet comfortable using the weapons in that arsenal. Whereas the first time around you might’ve read a Must Be True question and just picked the answer that seemed good (and maybe even gotten it right) now you are painstakingly executing the steps in your question-specific method, and, even though it leads you to the right answer, you’re now behind the eight ball because it took you three minutes to finish that question, putting later questions that might be gimmes out of reach.

Now that we know why a score might go down, let’s agree upon a more nuanced method of gauging your performance on Practice Exam 2. What you’re looking for is increased accuracy on the question types and concepts that have already been covered in class. If you see that you’re getting a higher percentage of such questions right, then you’re actually improving, even if your score goes down. Note that this only applies to questions that you actually attempted. If you answered the three Flaw questions you attempted correctly but guessed wrong on four others, then, by this measure, you have done extraordinarily well, even if you got four out of seven on Practice Exam 1. Your accuracy has risen from about 60% to 100%. Not too shabby.

You should use the results of Practice Exam 2 to get more comfortable with the timing and endurance components of the test and to catalogue your strengths and weaknesses for review later. In the later practice exams, you will be trying out various test taking strategies to see what works for you, and it’s then that you should focus on score increases. For now, just take a deep breath and understand that the only score that actually matters is the one you get on test day.

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