Unplugged Prep

Ellen’s LSAT Success Story

Ellen ended up with a 174 and got into Harvard Law

So a little about me…


I’m a 24 year old who’s undergoing serious life revisions. I graduated from Stanford with an English degree two years ago, and interned for a big theater in San Francisco in writing and research. This was fun, but I really thought I was a playwright at this point. I had started my own theater company, and written and directed my own work a couple of times. This felt like my thing, and since I have very little patience with myself, I won’t pursue something unless I feel like I’m good at it.


I started an MFA program in playwriting at Rutgers University in fall of 2010. This was one of the biggest disasters of my life. I didn’t connect with anyone, cried all the time, hated the program, my house was broken into twice with my computer stolen both times; basically, I was just miserable. The only bright spot was teaching expository writing to undergraduates, which was a saving grace. I left after a semester to return to my boyfriend and our home in Palo Alto, CA.


Once I got back, I was hopeful about my prospects, but the market sucks for anyone with a humanities degree right now, even if it is from Stanford. So I would apply and apply and apply and get rejected and get rejected and get rejected. I even got rejected from a job at Anthropologie. The clothing store. Seriously.


My entire life I’ve been told I should be a lawyer – basically because I’m smart and can speak well. I’ve received significant pressure from my dad, but have always pushed back because “only assholes go to law school.” While that may still be the case, it’s not a 100% rule, and I eventually realized at a party that I shouldn’t limit my opportunities based on this generalization. I was talking with a public defender at this party, and she had really fun stories so I decided to study for the LSAT in my ubiquitous spare time. I know; I heard fun stories so I decided to study for the LSAT. I’m kind of crazy.


One of my favorite things to do in life is research. I have an obsessive personality so I’ll just go into a bit of a state for like five hours and learn everything I can about a subject. The day after the party I got this way about the LSAT and found Steve’s blog. This made all my researching a lot easier, as I could tell how absurdly competent Steve was immediately. I used the three month study schedule, every PrepTest after #19, SuperPrep, The Logic Games Bible, The Logical Reasoning Bible, and A Rulebook for Arguments. I only had two and a half months to go through the three month schedule so I was ready to be hardcore until the LSAT.


I didn’t take a diagnostic because I knew I didn’t know enough to do well, and I knew I would freak out and get angry with myself if I deemed my score too low. At first, I was really scared of the games because I haven’t done much quantitative-type stuff since high school, and they looked really intimidating. I was really glad my schedule started with pure sequencing games, and I quickly caught on to them. I started with Steve’s method of diagramming the pure sequencing games, but once I got into timed situations later on I found myself inexplicably getting one question wrong on the pure sequencing games so I switched to the system described in the Logic Games Bible. This worked out a lot better for me and I stopped getting questions wrong on this game type while still completing the game in 5-6 minutes. You need to get to the point where you can do pure sequencing games this fast if you’re trying to get a perfect score (or minus 1 or 2) on the logic games section. There will typically be other games in that section that need more than the 8 or so minutes you’re shooting for.


Linear games took a little longer for me to catch onto, but before I had to start timing things, I just followed the system in the Logic Games Bible, and it worked out alright. I would get pretty frustrated when Steve would assign a game type on the schedule before the schedule told me to read about how to solve the game. I would complain to my boyfriend because whenever I find myself not doing well at something I get very upset. He’d calm me down, and then the next day he’d ask me how the linear games were going and I’d say something akin to, “Bitches going down.” He’d then point out how much easier I found the games after struggling so hard the day before. This was when I realized Steve was playing with my mind, and the psychological manipulation was definitely working. I was so much more confident when I was comparing my performance to that of the day before.


It was around this point that I began to really love the LSAT. I know. Crazy, right? I’m one of the only people I know that actually loves the LSAT and misses it now that it’s over. In a way, I feel like the LSAT saved my life. I was stagnating and feeling like I had no control over my life. Rejection is really hard for me since I’m used to working hard and getting what I want. If I’m not perfect at something that I want to be perfect at, I get very upset with myself; so feeling like I’m failing at getting a job and have basically no control over how to better my situation was very unhealthy.


The LSAT was the best thing that could have happened to me. I worked hard and saw tangible results. I could measure them. I could see that I was kicking ass and taking names. I was back on track to who I wanted to be after months of feeling like I didn’t belong. I was back in Palo Alto, my mind was getting exercise, and life was getting better. The LSAT made that happen for me.


This narrative continued through grouping and combination games. Then I started timing myself. This was a bad day. It was taking me 40-45 minutes to get a game section done. I would write down how long it took me to do each game as I went through the section, and then when I would go back and score I would write unhealthy notes to myself like, “Not even close,” “What is wrong with you?” or “COME ON, ELLEN!” I went back over every wrong answer (this applies to every time I would answer any question throughout my entire prep experience) and wrote down why I got it wrong.


I sat at that coffee shop table for a good 4-5 hours doing section after section – way past what Steve had planned for that day. Because I just couldn’t stand up until I got this situation under control – I couldn’t let myself fail. So then on my 6th or so game section of the sitting, something magical happened. I got all the problems right and finished with five minutes to spare. Then I did that again. And again. I actually cried on that 6th game section after I scored it. I called my boyfriend and just cried at how happy I was that I finally figured it out.