Pro basketball players all have little routines that they do before taking their free throw shots. Dribble front, dribble side, spin the ball, kiss the ball, shoot, swish.
Rituals like this have many justifications: it helps you feel in-control, it takes your mind off the stressful situation you’re in, it keeps you from doing anything distracting or destructive during the time when you’re doing your ritual. There’s even some science saying that these rituals work to improve athlete’s self-confidence.
You should develop a little set of rituals for yourself that you do during every one of your timed practice tests, and then again on test day. Since the LSAT is a timed test, it rewards confidence: on logic games, for example, you often need to feel comfortably just choosing the right answer without taking the time to disprove the wrong answers. And having a special little way of arranging your watch can help you feel enough in the zone to do that. In a test where a couple of points are a big difference, you want to make sure you perform to the best of your abilities.
Here’s a roadmap of places where you could consider developing habits. Rituals and superstitions are an ongoing process, and you may find that sticking a pencil up your nose before each section isn’t so good at sparking confidence after all. Experiment, but have solid habits by test day:
Make Inanimate Friends: Choose a watch, pencils, sharpener, and tissue packet that you like. These should feel trusty and friendly on test day. Don’t use unproven pencils! True, I’ve never had a pencil dissolve into smoke upon first use, but you don’t want to make that alchemical discovery on test day.
Occupy Your Space: You’re most likely going to be sitting in a room you’ve never seen before on test day, but you want to make it feel like home. Decide how you’re going to arrange your best friends (pencil, watch, etc.) on your desk.
Say a Prayer: After settling in, you’ll want to say some things to yourself that make you feel cool and smart. For me, I realized that an important mantra was “focus”; towards the end of my studying for the test I started getting bored with taking the LSAT and during practice tests my mind would drift off into the wrong answer. So before the start of the test and then again after break I would stare at my fingertips and tell myself “I will focus.”
Take Micro-breaks: Figure out how to relax yourself while test-taking and remind yourself of your prayer. Deep breath between reading comp passages? Quick full-body relaxation after each logic game? Cracking your knuckles?
Rejuvenate in 15 Minutes: Develop a comforting routine. Stretch, do rotations, pace back and forth while eating a banana. Most importantly, develop a plan for not thinking about what just happened. You can’t go back and change your answers, so you need to develop a routine to focus on instead of that devilish Parallel Flaw question that your probably actually did get right.
These rituals will only work if you believe in them, but there’s plenty of reason to come up with something you believe in. Despite its pains, the LSAT is a special time: high-stakes, time-pressured, intellectually demanding. Use your rituals to shape all that into a cool, intense mental space that you get to hang out in for a few hours.