I came to the LSAT from a different place than most. When I first encountered the LSAT, I had already been teaching GMAT and GRE classes for a few years. My former employer sent me to a training to learn how to teach the LSAT before I had even taken a full practice test.
I’ve always been a strong standardized test taker. I never did any formal prep for the SATs and pulled off a perfect verbal score anyway. Let’s pause for a moment so you can curse me. All done? Feel better? Good. But anyway, despite my advantages I didn’t pull off a 99th percentile score the first time I took the LSAT. Hubris held me back.
After I completed my teacher training, I had to go and take the real thing before I could actually teach classes. I signed up for the June 2010 LSAT and resolved to study. The Logical Reasoning and Reading Comp sections of the LSAT are right up my alley. I can do that kind of stuff all day. But the logic games were new and different to me. I knew I had to get those down.
So a couple weeks before the LSAT, I set out to learn logic games one type of game at a time. I lasted maybe an hour before I got bored and tried a full timed section, armed with little more than a vague idea of the kinds of games and how I was supposed to teach them. I think I got maybe three questions wrong. I knew I would be fine on the other sections, so I could work with that.
I went ahead and did a bunch of games sections from practice tests, timed. Most of the time, I got two or three questions wrong. Sometimes I got more than that wrong. After correcting each section, I would go back to the rules and figure out why the wrong answer was wrong and why the wrong answer was right. But I didn’t do the hard and necessary thinking about how I would get to the answer efficiently next time. On the occasion that I really struggled with a game, I was too eager to move on, as if a better performance on the next section would erase my problems with the last one.
You can probably guess what happened: a logic game got me on test day. I hadn’t really developed my thought process. I knew how to set up games and symbolize rules, but I hadn’t really developed my problem-solving ability. I set the fourth game up wrong and wasted a few minutes that way. After realizing my mistake, I went back and started over. My rigid thinking didn’t help me as I missed a deduction, froze, and ran out of time.
I still pulled off a 171 thanks to a strong performance on the other sections, though (again out of hubris) I missed a Main Point question in LR because I hadn’t really internalized what made an answer right or wrong on that kind of question.
That was good enough to put me in front of the classroom but I knew I could do better. In the end, teaching the LSAT was the best LSAT prep for me. To help others approach the test, I had to get inside the test. It wasn’t enough to be able to tell my students about the types of games and show them how to symbolize rules. To teach logic games, I had to engage the test and figure out how to think about it.
So if you’re getting close to the 99th percentile but not quite there, talk to your LSAT classmates. Try to help them with their questions. If you can help someone else understand something on the test, you’ll probably end up understanding that concept even better.
In the end, I took the LSAT two more times. The next time, I was kept awake most of the night before by things that had nothing to do with the test. I knew what I could do by then and I knew I didn’t do my best, so I canceled. The third time, I walked out of the test center feeling great. The results confirmed that feeling when they came in the email a few weeks later.