Brad used the 3 month study plan and scored a 179
By the time I had made the decision to apply to law school, I realized that I had a bit of an uphill battle. My first year in college was horrendous, and had a large impact on my GPA. The following 3.5 years were much better and I graduated with a major GPA of 3.6, but a cumulative of 3.16. With a desire to attend a T14 school, I knew that the LSAT would be an incredibly important part of my application, and would possibly make or break my admission. I decided to devote myself entirely to the LSAT. When the results came in, I knew that I had made the right decision.
With that, my first words of wisdom to anyone reading this is to sit down, think long and hard about this test, and make the decision. If you are just starting to kick around the idea of taking the test, and the next administration is in 2 months, I would advise holding out a few more months. If you are set on taking the next administration, know what grit and commitment it requires. This test may in the long run have the largest effect on your future of any test in your life.
The test is not unbeatable, but you have to show a total commitment to beating it. I recently ran into an old acquaintance who told me that he had also taken the LSAT, but shortly before the test started seeing a new lady friend, and thus didn’t devote any time to studying logic games. As you can imagine, he was not quite happy with his score.
I originally planned on taking the test in Feb. of 2010, but due to outside circumstances, work, etc. was not comfortable with the amount of studying I had achieved and put it off until June. I did some intermittent studying in the months leading up to and shortly thereafter Feb. but with about three months until the June administration, cleared everything that I could from my schedule and made the LSAT my number one priority. I felt lost, and a bit overwhelmed. I was doing early LSAT PrepTests, but my scores were erratic.
I stumbled across LSAT Unplugged, read through absolutely everything on the site that I could, and decided that his three month study plan was the best for me. Of all of the information that I found on various blogs and message boards, nothing seemed as comprehensive and structured as Steve’s LSAT study plans. I cleared off my large desk calendar and wrote down everything that I needed to do, day by day, over the 3 months. I was about a week and a half behind when I got started, so the day by day breakdown allowed me to condense Steve’s schedule a bit, and stay on track. Having a day by day guide kept my studying structured, and forced me to face when I was falling behind, and catch up.
Remember, the point of the study strategies, and of the studying in general is to find something that works for you. By the time you enter the testing center, you should recognize patterns, know there will almost undoubtedly be a question about unemployment rates, and have a good idea as to exactly what 35 minutes feels like. For those three months, I lived and breathed the LSAT.
One of the most important aspects of my studying was pinning down the variations of my mental state during each PrepTest. I’ll write a bit more about state of mind when talking about test day, but for the prep work, I cannot stress its importance. I understand that everyone has to study when they can and how they can, but try to make the environment as realistic as possible. That means turning off the tv and the stereo, getting off the couch, and pretending every time that you put pencil to paper, that you are taking a test. I took my comfortable office chair out of the office, and used a kitchen chair.
When I was studying, I didn’t smoke, didn’t eat, didn’t listen to music and turned off my phone. When doing a PrepTest, I used the online LSAT timer so that come test day I wouldn’t be surprised to hear someone interrupt my train of thought by saying “5 minutes remaining in this section.” (Sounds silly, I know, but the first time I used it I nearly jumped out of my chair I was so thrown off by a sudden interruption.)
On my two days off a week, after my morning routine, I would take a full PrepTest. I began adding on a fifth, and for endurance occasionally a sixth section. I would then take an afternoon break, and return to dissect the test. I began with writing down each problem that I answered wrong, and what type of problem it was so that I knew my weak spots. I would then go through any question that I answered wrong and any question that I answered correctly but had trouble with. For every question that I answered incorrectly I would dissect the question and explain why the right answer was right and the others not. It was through this very time consuming process that I noticed the greatest jump in my score. When I truly understood why a question was wrong, I would be much less likely to repeat a mistake.
My scores consistently hovered around 176 with two important happenings. At first, I realized I was dissecting the questions to an almost absurd degree while testing, so I needed to take a step back, and trust my gut a bit. The other was that the title of one of Steve’s articles became my mantra of sorts. “How I learned to stop worrying and love the LSAT.” I was at my absolute best when I viewed the test not as a source of frustration, but a puzzle, a code to crack, or a game. I cannot guess how many times I repeated those words to myself.
When I signed up for the testing center, being in a major city, I had my choice between a number of locations. I picked the most expensive private university in the list and am very happy I did. I ended up in a law classroom at Northwestern, a top 14 school with very comfortable amenities, as opposed to my undergrad school which was notorious for terrible classrooms with odd smells, awful fluorescent lighting, and a number of confusing noises.
So finally, leading up to test day, I took the two days before the test off of work to focus, and most importantly to relax. I did activities during the day that were not test-related, and wouldn’t tire me out, ensuring a good night’s sleep. I woke up the morning of the test, with my ziplock bag already packed, went through my normal morning routine, and headed out the door. I arrived at the testing center over an hour early, just to ensure that time would not add to my already existing nerves. I brought with me 1 Logic Game, 1 Reading Comp passage, and two pages of Logical Reasoning.
I found a secluded spot, and sat down to relax, calm my nerves, and do a few prep questions. I did not score my questions that morning, as I didn’t need to shake my confidence with a few wrong answers immediately before heading into the test. One of the other important mental games was also mentioned by Danielle in her LSAT Diary. I ignored that other people were there to take the test, I didn’t need to feel someone else’s nerves, or let their casual attitude make me feel unprepared for being so nervous. Make the test about you, and simply focus on you and the test.
Seeing as people seem to be drawn to sports analogies in things like this, what’s one more? I remembered watching basketball as a kid, specifically Reggie Miller at the free throw line, and was amazed that someone could be so intently focused with 35,000 screaming fans and millions more watching around the country. In taking the test, I tried to achieve a similar state of zen if you will. When I sat down at the table, I knew that I had done everything I could to prepare. Early mornings, late nights, 8-10 hour days of studying and test taking left me knowing every corner of that exam. When the time came, and the proctor told us to open our books, much like I imagine Reggie Miller did, I stopped thinking about the test, took a deep breath, and simply started to do the test.
Without the full support of my family, friends, and girlfriend, I would not have been able to achieve what I have. They simply had to understand that for three months, barring important obligations, I was off the grid. If that meant that on our one day off together, my girlfriend knew that I would disappear to the office for the majority of the day, that was the sacrifice I had to make, and luckily the sacrifice she was willing to make. It was a rough three months indeed, but I can say without a shred of doubt, absolutely worth it. I jumped 12 points from my first cold test to test day, and hopefully anyone reading this will realize that with the right preparation and resources, a few months of dedication can make a world of difference.