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Improvement Tips from my 7 Month LSAT Journey

RaphaelPRaphaelP Member Sage 7Sage Tutor
edited August 2021 in General 1089 karma

Hi everyone! I recently got back a 174 on the October LSAT and some people reached out with questions about study tips, so I thought I would type up a comprehensive post about how I approached studying, as well as some section tips. Warning - I tried to be comprehensive but it ended up being super long - if any of it is unclear, definitely ask in the comments or PM me!

STUDY JOURNEY -

I began studying in March - I was home from college because of 'rona, and had a lot of time on my hands, which enabled me to study as my primary activity in addition to classes. My diagnostic was a 160 - I was solid at RC/LR (missing 2 and 5 on LR, and 5 on RC), but much weaker at LG (-10), so I had my work cut out for me. I come from a liberal arts/polisci background, so reading was my strong suit, and anything quantitative or puzzle-oriented was not.

March through May, I just worked through the core curriculum. I took careful notes on paper, and whenever I missed an LR/RC question, I added it to my "Wrong Answer Journal". This was absolutely critical for me - I wrote an in-depth analysis of each choice, why I thought I missed it, one portable takeaway, and what strategy I thought the test-writers were using to make a trap. This took forever, and was boring - but making this (and flipping through it when I was bored/before I went to bed) was incredibly important.

In May, I took my first post-CC PT, and got a 171, and then a 173 - I thought I would have this down in no time. But then my scores dipped, and settled primarily in the high 160s. I was consistently struggling with LG, rarely finishing on time or just getting blown out by hard games. This was where foolproofing came in handy - I created an excel sheet, and tracked my accuracy/time for sections. I would do a section, score it/watch the video, do it again, and then redo it the next day. Then, I'd do it one more time a week from then. I did this daily, with 2-3 sections a day. Doing this method with tests 1-35 (16-35 are CC, and 1-16 I broke into sections) helped me. I plateaued in the high 160s until June, but I eventually broke through it, and fixing LG through foolproofing was a large part of it.

A large part of the plateau was also due to isolated areas in LR/RC. I realized quickly that I was struggling on science passages in RC, and on strengthen/weaken in LR. Using the analytics functioning 7Sage was invaluable here to pinpoint areas of weakness. I then built problem sets focusing on those questions/redid portions of the CC (and, as always, used my Wrong Answer Journal religiously). I also read Loophole, which really helped me for strengthen/weaken.

By the end of June, I was in a pretty good grove - I was mostly in the low to mid 170s. But I would have off days sometimes, and occasionally revert back to high 160s, and never knew why. I signed up for the July LSAT, scored a 180 four days before the test, and assumed I was set. Then, on the first section (RC), I just completely blanked - I had tech issues with my Internet connection and then I just completely lost focus for the rest of the section - I couldn't regain it. I couldn't understand why this happened on the real day - getting flummoxed on section 1. My score came back - high 160s.

I got ready to take it in August - by now, I was PTing a solid 175 average, and figured I just had a bad day. August came and went, and it was similar - I felt jittery and nervous in section one (LG), and it threw me off for the rest of the test. Another high 160s.

I figured at this point that I had a solid grasp of the material - my PTs were high, but something was happening on the real day. What I learned to do here was to study less. I cut back the number of tests I was doing, started taking them as shorter flex tests, and began meditating daily. I also realized that on the real day, I was altering my routine in some ways (extra coffee, studying before the test, etc), and needed to just exactly replicate my practice test routine. I felt more locked in than ever - my PT scores before October were in the 175-180 range with a mode of 177, and relaxing played a key role. On the test day, I pretended it was just a practice test - I woke up, chatted with my family, listened to some Beethoven, and took it. I got a 174, up 5-7 points from my previous two takes, even with a slight test day penalty of 2-3 (sometimes, that penalty just happens on the real day - such is life).

SECTION STRATEGY

For the latter half of my studies, I was mostly in the mid to high 170s (usually around a 175-178 but hit 179/180 5-6 times). This was starkly different than the first half of my studies, which was mostly low 170s (but with some inconsistency and dips into the high 160s) - I think this was due to using a lot of material and, subsequently, creating section strategies that worked for me. What works for you might be different - but experiment! Try new approaches.

I ended up using most of the materials available through 7Sage/LawHub. I did PTs 1-16 as individual sections, 16-35 through the CC, and then 35-89 as full PTs (I skipped around a bit but eventually got to them all). I did 3 tests a week initially (Weds Fri Sun), but cut back to 2 when I started to feel stressed and burned out. Consuming all of this material was essential for me to really gain a level of comfort and familiarity with the test that helped me build section strategies

LG - honestly, nothing fancy here for me. The games repeat over and over again, so the real secret is just doing all of them (or as many as you can). I started out -10 or worse, and got to a consistent -0/-1 just by doing games daily - you can too! In terms of specific strategies, I was always big on splitting into sub gameboards/solving as much upfront as possible. I also would not erase inferences - I would sketch a new board for each question, so I could look back at previous work. I would also begin with questions that fed new rules/conditionals, so I could have more boards available for the open-ended questions without new rules.

For timing, I would try to get game 1 in 5 minutes or less, and then get to game 3 with 22 minutes left on the clock. I always tried to get to game 4 with 13-15 minutes if possible to prevent myself from running out of time (after a few really scary game 4s in some of the 30s/40s, I never wanted to risk not having at least 13-15 minutes for a nightmare game).

LR - this was where developing a timing strategy was essential for me. I never struggled with finishing on time, but I would get stuck on hard questions and fall into a rut, not being able to figure them out. This often happened for hard strengthen/weaken questions. I watched a video on 7sage (I think by @CantGetRight) about timing strategies/post CC exercises, and he recommended a confidence drill where you go through an LR section by mostly just picking your first intuition without checking your work or second-guessing. The objective is to see how accurate you can be, and better test your confidence threshold for a right answer. I tried this, and realized that I was shockingly accurate on questions 1-10 when moving quickly/without second-guessing. I also started to realize that when I skipped a hard question and came back with a fresh perspective, I would be far more likely to get it. This was the basis for my timing strategy - I started speeding up on questions1-10 (30 seconds per question, to finish 10 within 5-6 minutes), and skipping any question once I spent over 45-1:00 on it. The result was that I would finish 14-15 minutes early, but with several (like 5-7) questions flagged that I wanted to spend more time on. I would then have ample time to approach those with a fresh perspective. This helped get me from missing 3-5 to a consistent -0 or -1 on LR by the end of my studies.

RC - This was my worst section by far at the end of my studies - I would go anywhere from -1 to -3, and it just depended on my day (vs a -0 or -1 in LG/LR). While I was a consistent -0 or -1 on LR/LG, RC was always the wild card. But I did improve a bit - I had improvement from the -4/-5 I started and, ultimately, if you want a mid-high 170, it's a game of inches. A few things helped. First, doing more sections. RC is similar to LG in that there is repetition - wrong answer choices are wrong for similar reasons across sections. Wrong answers will often lack textual support and trade on your assumption about a topic, while right answers may pull something from a fragment of a sentence you totally glossed over. Second, pay attention to whether the question is most strongly supported or explicitly stated - if it's the latter, you need to find a line that very, very clearly says the thing - there is not really room for inferences. Third, I spent more time with the passage upfront. I realized that I could breeze through the questions when I really got the passage, so I started reading it twice - first time through I would take notes (summarizing each paragraph and an overall summary of the piece), and the second time through I would just read it without notes to understand tone and the big picture. This would take me around 3 minutes total, but saved time with the questions.

MISC TIPS

1] Don't burn out. I genuinely enjoyed studying for the LSAT, and treated it like a game - LG was a set of fun puzzles, RC was a chance to learn cool new topics, and LR was brain-twister exercises. If I hadn't had fun, I never could have made it through 89 tests worth of material. Yet, I burned out too sometimes - if you find yourself burning out, cut down the number of tests you're doing weekly. Watch a movie, take a day off, etc.

2] Find a study friend! I was fortunate that my best friend was studying for the test alongside me - we took every PT concurrently, and would review together that night - it made the journey so much more fun.

3] Take care of yourself. I was averaging a 174 before my first take, and a 175 before my second take, yet I scored 5-7 points lower on each test. It's because I was stressed out and worried about failing, which resulted in some serious test day penalties - I really recommend meditation, not studying much the week of your test, and treating your real day just like a practice test (don't change your routine at all!)

4] Shake off your off-days/lower PTs. I once got a 180 one test, and a 166 the next. Progress isn't linear, and everyone makes mistakes or has weaker days - getting high scores (and, subsequently, consistent high scores) is really hard, and it won't happen overnight. Give yourself months and a lot of tests to iron out aberrations and find a consistent pattern.

For those of you who got a disappointing score - I was there too. I thought I would never hit my PT average, and that I wasted my time studying. But don't give up - if you got it in practice, you CAN get it on the real day. Just be ruthlessly analytical in figuring out what went wrong, and work to fix it - if you do, it will work out. You're going to be a great lawyer someday, and this test won't stop you. You're going to kill it.

Comments

  • Well there you goWell there you go Alum Member
    109 karma

    Thanks for this. Well done.

  • EmmmmmzEmmmmmz Monthly Member
    72 karma

    Thanks this give me hope! I am currently scoring in the low 160's and praying/studying to get what you got!!!!

  • consistencyiskeyconsistencyiskey Monthly Member
    131 karma

    Thank you for sharing these tips!!

  • Focusnow21Focusnow21 Alum Member
    40 karma

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your tip to be "ruthlessly analytical in figuring out what went wrong" is spot on. Congrats and best wishes!

  • whatlikeitshardwhatlikeitshard Monthly Member
    174 karma

    Wow, this is great, thank you so much!! Congratulations!!

  • chaplin___chaplin___ Monthly Member
    570 karma

    Thanks for this! My first take was also several points below my PT average so this was definitely encouraging to read

  • cshuck98cshuck98 Monthly Member
    26 karma

    Needed to hear this wisdom right now. Nothing like studying for 6+ months and having two brutal PT scores back to back to get you down. Thanks for the wisdom.

  • Hopeful9812Hopeful9812 Legacy Member
    872 karma

    Congrats & thanks for sharing these tips!

  • goforbrokegoforbroke Alum Member
    318 karma

    Congratulations!!! You've reached a good end to your LSAT journey. Definitely appreciate your advice as I'm going through some very similar things.

  • Dan The ManDan The Man Alum Member
    12 karma

    Thanks for coming back to write this, it truly is inspiring!

  • canihazJDcanihazJD Alum Member Sage
    8009 karma

    @goforbroke said:
    Congratulations!!! You've reached a good end to your LSAT journey. Definitely appreciate your advice as I'm going through some very similar things.

    Not relevant to rip's achievement, but re: username, are you in Hawaii?

  • goforbrokegoforbroke Alum Member
    318 karma

    @canihazJD said:

    @goforbroke said:
    Congratulations!!! You've reached a good end to your LSAT journey. Definitely appreciate your advice as I'm going through some very similar things.

    Not relevant to rip's achievement, but re: username, are you in Hawaii?

    Hawaii? I wish I was! Nope just in the cold Northeast.

  • canihazJDcanihazJD Alum Member Sage
    8009 karma

    @goforbroke said:

    @canihazJD said:

    @goforbroke said:
    Congratulations!!! You've reached a good end to your LSAT journey. Definitely appreciate your advice as I'm going through some very similar things.

    Not relevant to rip's achievement, but re: username, are you in Hawaii?

    Hawaii? I wish I was! Nope just in the cold Northeast.

    @goforbroke said:

    @canihazJD said:

    @goforbroke said:
    Congratulations!!! You've reached a good end to your LSAT journey. Definitely appreciate your advice as I'm going through some very similar things.

    Not relevant to rip's achievement, but re: username, are you in Hawaii?

    Hawaii? I wish I was! Nope just in the cold Northeast.

    Ah ok. Your username is the motto of the 442nd infantry based here in Hawaii.

  • gluckmachnich10gluckmachnich10 Alum Member
    115 karma

    This is terrific advice, thoroughly appreciated!

  • Climb_to_170Climb_to_170 Alum Member
    426 karma

    Amazing score and great advice! My own experiences echoes exactly what you are saying: I took the test three times, scoring several points below my average PTs on the first two takes. For the third test, I decided to study only on weekends and spent more time reading. On the third take, I scored a few points above my average PTs. Just goes to show, this test is more than just about knowing the material, it's about the mental and physical battle of performing well when you need to.

  • CorgiCanLSATCorgiCanLSAT Alum Member
    60 karma

    Thanks for writing this, Raphael! I have two questions about your approach to fool-proofing and completing the CC:

    (1) You said that you would fool proof LG by doing 2-3 sections per day. To clarify, you would do a whole LG section and then watch the videos. So would your fool proofing approach consist of say, PT 18 Games 1-4, and then watch the videos for all four games and redo? Then PT 19 Games 1-4 and then watch videos for all four of those games then redo?

    (2) I have just completed the LG section of the CC. Would you first complete the RC section then comeback to fool proofing LG 1-35? Or start fool proofing in tandem with learning RC? Thanks again!

  • RaphaelPRaphaelP Member Sage 7Sage Tutor
    1089 karma

    @CorgiCanLSAT said:
    Thanks for writing this, Raphael! I have two questions about your approach to fool-proofing and completing the CC:

    (1) You said that you would fool proof LG by doing 2-3 sections per day. To clarify, you would do a whole LG section and then watch the videos. So would your fool proofing approach consist of say, PT 18 Games 1-4, and then watch the videos for all four games and redo? Then PT 19 Games 1-4 and then watch videos for all four of those games then redo?

    (2) I have just completed the LG section of the CC. Would you first complete the RC section then comeback to fool proofing LG 1-35? Or start fool proofing in tandem with learning RC? Thanks again!

    Of course!
    (1) I'd try to do the whole section together, yeah. I'd do the section, then I'd watch the videos (all of them) and then I'd do the section again.
    (2) I'd try to do both concurrently. I'd work through the RC CC but foolproof a couple sections a day from 16-35 (the CC games). Those are the really important ones to start with, because they're a reasonable subset of typical sequencing/grouping/etc. games. This should then take you a few weeks, if you're doing around 2 sections a day. Once you finish that, you should have also finished RC CC; at that point, you'll be ready to start taking PTs. I'd then foolproof your PT games and start interspersing games from 1-16, which are a little trickier and less conventional (but still good practice, if only for getting you to think on your feet and think outside the box).

  • Nadzter19Nadzter19 Monthly Member
    123 karma

    Last paragraph made me shed a tear. Thank you for your recommendations :smile:

  • CorgiCanLSATCorgiCanLSAT Alum Member
    60 karma

    @RaphaelP said:

    @CorgiCanLSAT said:
    Thanks for writing this, Raphael! I have two questions about your approach to fool-proofing and completing the CC:

    (1) You said that you would fool proof LG by doing 2-3 sections per day. To clarify, you would do a whole LG section and then watch the videos. So would your fool proofing approach consist of say, PT 18 Games 1-4, and then watch the videos for all four games and redo? Then PT 19 Games 1-4 and then watch videos for all four of those games then redo?

    (2) I have just completed the LG section of the CC. Would you first complete the RC section then comeback to fool proofing LG 1-35? Or start fool proofing in tandem with learning RC? Thanks again!

    Of course!
    (1) I'd try to do the whole section together, yeah. I'd do the section, then I'd watch the videos (all of them) and then I'd do the section again.
    (2) I'd try to do both concurrently. I'd work through the RC CC but foolproof a couple sections a day from 16-35 (the CC games). Those are the really important ones to start with, because they're a reasonable subset of typical sequencing/grouping/etc. games. This should then take you a few weeks, if you're doing around 2 sections a day. Once you finish that, you should have also finished RC CC; at that point, you'll be ready to start taking PTs. I'd then foolproof your PT games and start interspersing games from 1-16, which are a little trickier and less conventional (but still good practice, if only for getting you to think on your feet and think outside the box).

    Thanks for your answers! Those approaches seem to make the most sense. Additionally, did you finish all problem sets for LR and RC before you moved to the PT phase of your prep? Specifically, I had saved a few LR problem sets for each question type and plan to complete 1-2/day while finish the RC CC and fool proof 16-35 as you suggested. Would this be advisable?

  • RaphaelPRaphaelP Member Sage 7Sage Tutor
    1089 karma

    @CorgiCanLSAT said:

    @RaphaelP said:

    @CorgiCanLSAT said:
    Thanks for writing this, Raphael! I have two questions about your approach to fool-proofing and completing the CC:

    (1) You said that you would fool proof LG by doing 2-3 sections per day. To clarify, you would do a whole LG section and then watch the videos. So would your fool proofing approach consist of say, PT 18 Games 1-4, and then watch the videos for all four games and redo? Then PT 19 Games 1-4 and then watch videos for all four of those games then redo?

    (2) I have just completed the LG section of the CC. Would you first complete the RC section then comeback to fool proofing LG 1-35? Or start fool proofing in tandem with learning RC? Thanks again!

    Of course!
    (1) I'd try to do the whole section together, yeah. I'd do the section, then I'd watch the videos (all of them) and then I'd do the section again.
    (2) I'd try to do both concurrently. I'd work through the RC CC but foolproof a couple sections a day from 16-35 (the CC games). Those are the really important ones to start with, because they're a reasonable subset of typical sequencing/grouping/etc. games. This should then take you a few weeks, if you're doing around 2 sections a day. Once you finish that, you should have also finished RC CC; at that point, you'll be ready to start taking PTs. I'd then foolproof your PT games and start interspersing games from 1-16, which are a little trickier and less conventional (but still good practice, if only for getting you to think on your feet and think outside the box).

    Thanks for your answers! Those approaches seem to make the most sense. Additionally, did you finish all problem sets for LR and RC before you moved to the PT phase of your prep? Specifically, I had saved a few LR problem sets for each question type and plan to complete 1-2/day while finish the RC CC and fool proof 16-35 as you suggested. Would this be advisable?

    Good question! I finished 100% of LR CC. I finished maybe 75% of RC CC before I started to feel ready for PTs; I then interspersed the remainder while doing PTs.

  • gabes900-1gabes900-1 Alum Member
    855 karma

    Thanks for posting this!!

  • CorgiCanLSATCorgiCanLSAT Alum Member
    60 karma

    @RaphaelP said:

    @CorgiCanLSAT said:

    @RaphaelP said:

    @CorgiCanLSAT said:
    Thanks for writing this, Raphael! I have two questions about your approach to fool-proofing and completing the CC:

    (1) You said that you would fool proof LG by doing 2-3 sections per day. To clarify, you would do a whole LG section and then watch the videos. So would your fool proofing approach consist of say, PT 18 Games 1-4, and then watch the videos for all four games and redo? Then PT 19 Games 1-4 and then watch videos for all four of those games then redo?

    (2) I have just completed the LG section of the CC. Would you first complete the RC section then comeback to fool proofing LG 1-35? Or start fool proofing in tandem with learning RC? Thanks again!

    Of course!
    (1) I'd try to do the whole section together, yeah. I'd do the section, then I'd watch the videos (all of them) and then I'd do the section again.
    (2) I'd try to do both concurrently. I'd work through the RC CC but foolproof a couple sections a day from 16-35 (the CC games). Those are the really important ones to start with, because they're a reasonable subset of typical sequencing/grouping/etc. games. This should then take you a few weeks, if you're doing around 2 sections a day. Once you finish that, you should have also finished RC CC; at that point, you'll be ready to start taking PTs. I'd then foolproof your PT games and start interspersing games from 1-16, which are a little trickier and less conventional (but still good practice, if only for getting you to think on your feet and think outside the box).

    Thanks for your answers! Those approaches seem to make the most sense. Additionally, did you finish all problem sets for LR and RC before you moved to the PT phase of your prep? Specifically, I had saved a few LR problem sets for each question type and plan to complete 1-2/day while finish the RC CC and fool proof 16-35 as you suggested. Would this be advisable?

    Good question! I finished 100% of LR CC. I finished maybe 75% of RC CC before I started to feel ready for PTs; I then interspersed the remainder while doing PTs.

    Great, thank you! This is really helpful.

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