You’ve got the LSAT in your sights. You’ve bought the books. You’ve made a study plan. You’ve blocked off your calendar. You’ve booked a test date and a back-up. You have a good handle on what you need to do.
But what should you make sure not to do?
Here are six LSAT prep pitfalls that snag many law school applicants each year:
— Practicing only when conditions are perfect
— Relying on memorization
— Ceaseless drilling
— Obsessing about practice test scores
— Neglecting timed or untimed practice
— Spending practice time not practicing
Practicing Only When Conditions Are Perfect
If you run only when the weather is good, you won’t be qualifying for a race any time soon. Likewise, if you practice for the LSAT only when you feel like it, you won’t practice enough.
It’s more important to practice consistently than to practice with ideal conditions. If you get too fussy about practicing only when you have time and energy and quiet and focus — and your favorite coffee mug — then you are making excuses rather than progress.
Even with new, remotely proctored LSAT-Flex, you can’t control your test environment or how you feel on test day. You will likely be jittery with nervous energy. One of the best ways to manage test anxiety is to practice on good days and bad days, so it won’t matter how you feel on test day.
Relying on Memorization
I sometimes ask LSAT students who have been studying for weeks to write down everything they’ve learned about LSAT strategy on a big poster board. Often they struggle to fill up the whole paper.
The LSAT tests skills rather than content. Students may benefit from memorizing some things: common logical fallacies, the formula for contrapositives or the indicators of conditional reasoning. But there is little material to learn.
On the bright side, this means no stacks of flashcards. But on the downside, cramming won’t get you far. The only way to get better at the LSAT is to practice taking the LSAT. However, even practice has limits.
On law school internet forums, often some troll will claim to take daily practice tests for several months. All this proves is that the kind of person who devotes hundreds of hours to practice tests is also the kind of person who would brag about it to strangers on the internet.
In reality, the key to LSAT practice is not quantity but quality. Practice matters only if it is useful. The only scientifically proven way to better your skills is through deliberate practice. Practice should be purposeful and combined with review and reflection. It’s not enough to mark wrong answers — you need to learn why you got those questions wrong and how to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Obsessing About Practice Test Scores
The only way to improve your skills is to grow, experiment and take risks. If you struggle to complete a whole section of reading comprehension on the LSAT, don’t just try to work faster. Try new techniques to see what helps.
Practicing new techniques will take more time and energy at first. But once you master them and add them to your repertoire, they will become automatic. By drawing on a wide range of skills, you can accomplish feats that once seemed impossible — like that whole reading comprehension section.
But early on, when the learning curve is steep, you will make mistakes. Learn from them. If you focus on your LSAT score before you have built up your techniques, you won’t take the risks needed to grow.
Neglecting Timed or Untimed Practice
The LSAT is fiendishly designed so that most people will not finish in time. Both speed and accuracy are key.
Accuracy depends on proper technique. There are a range of prep methods to study technique, but untimed practice is the best way to develop it. If you have plenty of time and still get a question wrong, clearly you have more to learn, on your own or with help.
Once you are confident in your skills, introduce timed section practice. The element of time pressure help you perform faster and stay focused.
Spending Practice Time Not Practicing
Athletes stretch before a challenging run. And before a practice LSAT, a logic puzzle or brain teaser can keep your brain limber. But don’t confuse warm-ups for actual practice.
Almost all of your practice time should consist of doing questions, reviewing questions, and studying techniques. If you want to give your brain a break, pick up a good book, work on a puzzle or play with clay. Such tasks build mental habits of sustained attention, analysis and nonlinear thinking.
Browsing the internet has the opposite effect, so limit your screen time, even if that means less time for reading more LSAT prep tips on Law Admissions Lowdown!
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