This week, we’ve been running a series of posts on what our cadre of LSAT instructors wish they knew about the LSAT before taking it. Today, we’re concluding this series with a post about what one LSAT instructor wishes she understood about test day. If you’d like to read more, check out our earlier posts on Logical Reasoning, Reading Comp, and Logic Games.
While I was studying for the LSAT, I put a lot of stock in each practice exam score and even the individual questions I was practicing. Since the practice tests are one of the best indicators of how you’ll perform on the exam, I’d grade my practice exams with enormous stress and anticipation, as if those practice versions were going to determine my future. One thing I didn’t think about enough before taking the LSAT was how the actual test day would be different from practice. This is what I wish I knew about test day:
1. Recreating Test Conditions
Like many LSAT students, I cut corners when I first started taking practice exams. I didn’t use a bubble sheet, I gave myself a few extra seconds after the 35 minutes in a section ran out, and I’d take short breaks between each one of the sections. I really wasn’t doing myself any favors by making the practice exams easier than the real exam would be. I assumed at first that using a bubble sheet to mark my answers wouldn’t take much more time (it did). I told myself the extra moments here and there I was adding onto the practice exam time or the breaks didn’t really matter — but on test day, you find that one of the biggest things you were practicing all along was endurance. Just like you wouldn’t give yourself extra time or breaks training for an endurance race, you have to make your LSAT practice as accurate as possible in order to train for the real thing.
2. Time of Day Matters
I chose the June LSAT in part because I knew I was a better test taker in the afternoon (June’s exam is at 12:30 pm) than I would be for the more common 8:30 am test dates. I still had to get used to taking practice exams and studying for the LSAT around noon, because morning and afternoon tests both have their disadvantages (studying in the morning, I always felt tired, but by the afternoon, I was feeling hungry and unfocused). I started out taking practice exams too late in the afternoon, and this just made it even more difficult to eventually get used to taking practice exams at just about the same time as my official LSAT. If, like me, you’re used to eating lunch around 12-1 pm, you can imagine how important it is to get on a different schedule before an afternoon test day.
3. So Much Waiting
Of all the eccentricities of the LSAT, the one that I went into test day completely unprepared for was the amount of waiting that I had to do at the test center. I remember checking in (after waiting in a long line), getting assigned a seat in a classroom, waiting for proctors to assign 30 other students to the classroom, and then waiting with my whole class for another 45 minutes while the whole class sat in complete silence. I still don’t know exactly why my class had to wait so long before the exam officially started, but I know now that it’s pretty common for test centers to keep students waiting for extended time while they work out the logistics of the exam. Also keep in mind that I wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom between the time I checked in to the test center and the time the exam started. You may not be able to help waiting around on test day, but you should most definitely use a restroom before this whole waiting game begins.
When it comes to preparing for your official test day, it’s all about knowing what to expect so you can incorporate those elements into your practice. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the minutiae of LSAT studying, but never forget that all of your practice is leading up to one thing, and that’s test day.