Questionable LSAT Addendum
Last summer, I was diagnosed with inattentive ADD and prescribed a daily dose of fifteen milligrams of Adderall. I decided to postpone taking Adderall until after I had taken the LSAT for the first time because I was afraid of potential side effects. While the score I earned in September 2014 accurately reflects my abilities at the time, I felt confident that I could score higher. When I retook the LSAT in December, I had been taking Adderall for two months. However, my body was not fully adjusted to the medication, and I felt both psychological and physical side effects. On test day, I felt increased apprehension and anxiety as well as an increased heart rate. During the first section of the exam, I suffered a panic attack and did not answer six questions. After starting the next section, I was able to regain control of my emotions and I felt confident from that point on. Since there was a fifty percent chance that the first section was experimental, I made the decision not to cancel my score.
Living in Turkey where Adderall is unavailable, I have found other ways of dealing with my ADD. By practicing daily meditation and developing more effective study habits, I have increased my productivity and focus. I still struggle with ADD, but this has incentivized me to learn more about my own physiology and to develop better study habits.
This is an interesting case. When the author was trying to explain a drop in her LSAT scores, I advised her not to send this essay. Later, she took the LSAT a third time and her scores shot up; at that point, I advised her to send it.
Same essay, different contexts, and different advice. What’s going on?
Here’s why I advised her not to send it the first time:
- It sounded as if she were asking to be let off the hook both because she wasn’t taking Adderall (on the first test) and because she was (on the second). In the last paragraph, the author says she figured out how to study without Adderall, which might undermine her point about not having Adderall for the first test. I might be distorting the author’s argument slightly, but you should assume that the adcom will read low-LSAT addenda cynically.
- The adcom might have looked at the author’s panic attack as a normal case of nerves. Leaving six questions unanswered is not unusual.
- The adcom might have reasoned that, if the author had really had a panic attack, she should have just cancelled the test. The author admits that she knew the risk of not cancelling.
- The upside of this addendum was fairly small. Even if an admissions officer assumed that the author didn’t get to six questions because of a preventable medical issue, as opposed to time pressure, the admissions officer wouldn’t have assumed the author would have answered all six questions correctly. In other words, the admissions officer wouldn’t tell herself that the score should have been five or six points higher. She’d just put a little less emphasis on the author’s score, a little more emphasis on the rest of the author’s application—and that’s the best case scenario. On the other hand, she might have said to herself, “Yeah, yeah. You think you could have done better. Get in line.”
In summary, this looked like an excuse when the author was trying to explain a drop in her score. When she retook the test and her score went up, however, it looked more like an explanation. The proof was in the pudding: her new score demonstrated that she had learned to deal with her medical issue.
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