Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Tackling the Break: A Dance Dance Revolution-Inspired Approach

Jonathan WangJonathan Wang Yearly Sage
edited May 2015 in Sage Advice 6828 karma
***I love to write, and I also happen to have a little knowledge about the LSAT and law school admissions generally. With JY’s blessing, I have decided that I will scratch my writing itch on a semi-regular basis by posting long-form blog-style pieces on the forums. If you have a topic that you’d like to see me write about, feel free to PM me. And please, discuss the piece freely in the comments below, especially if you disagree – I love to hear other viewpoints and am happy to engage in respectful and reasoned discourse.

Not a lot of people know this about me, but once upon a time, I was a Dance Dance Revolution fiend.

I picked it up around the year 2000 or so, when DDR was just starting to make a splash in the US market. At first, I was obviously awful at it, but I was enamored so I stuck with it. Eventually, I managed to become a pretty good player, though I never quite made it into the top tier.

When I was still developing my skills, there was a song called “MAX 300” that I made it my mission to beat. At that time, it was one of the two ‘boss’ songs in the game - songs that even the best players could barely beat, never mind score well on. Nowadays it’s a joke, but back then nobody had ever seen anything like it. For reference, a video of the song being played (not me, in case that wasn’t clear):

Pay particular attention about 1:15 into the video as the song approaches its midpoint, starting with the appearance of green ‘freeze’ arrows (which require you to hold down the arrows in question). After 366 steps in about 45 seconds, the song seems to be giving you a reprieve – an 8-count to catch your breath and rest a bit before launching into the second half of the song. How nice of them, right?


For most people, it’s much easier to stay in “the zone” once you’re already there, as opposed to having to find it from scratch. When you’re in a state of full concentration, it’s easier to maintain your thought process as you make your way through the task at hand. In DDR, once you get in the rhythm of parsing the arrows and stomping the appropriate arrows, you can essentially go on autopilot and play almost unconsciously, just reading and reacting. MAX 300, as hard as it was, was essentially just a stamina test – no weird rhythms, no tricky step patterns, just a straight up challenge to see if you could keep up. And indeed, many fairly average players were able to do so, at least for a while.

But, when they gave you those precious seconds to rest, all of a sudden you had time to realize that your lungs and thighs are burning and you can’t quite stand up straight or see clearly anymore. And when the steps started up again, you simply didn’t have the energy to keep up anymore. So, while it superficially looked like a gift from above, that break was actually one of the harder parts of the song – not just for the actual physical difficulty of going from full speed to a full stop and immediately back to full speed again, but also for the sheer psychological toll it took on the player in doing so.

That’s what the break in the LSAT does to you. If you’re not careful, you will spend the entire 15 minutes dwelling on things that you did wrong in the first half of the test. You’ll suddenly remember that you didn’t get much sleep the night before, or remember that you’re actually incredibly nervous because this is your third attempt and you REALLY don’t want to wait another year for another bite at the apple. You’ll spot that despondent test-taker (there’s always at least one) who’s already contemplating canceling his score due to bombing the first half of the test, and that’ll start you questioning how well you’re doing. You’ll hear some guy talking about how he got two RC sections, and panic because you could have SWORN that your experimental was that unusually difficult LR section. No matter which one of these happens to you, you’re sunk. Your mental game is torpedoed, and there’s only one thing that happens from there.

What DDR players took to doing during this break was doing something – anything – to stay active and maintain the beat and not allow themselves to be psyched out by the structure of the song. Take a look at this video for an example, around 1:04:

He could take a break, and it would likely be well-deserved, but instead he’s making additional work for himself in order to avoid taking that break. This allows him to continue on after the pause without a hitch, because he never actually stops what he’s doing – he’s “in the zone” even when he’s not explicitly required to be.

Treat the LSAT the same way. Test day is one monolithic entity, from the moment you wake up to the moment you exit that testing room, and you must maintain your focus at all times. The break is not a time for you to relax – it is a test of your ability to remain focused. During your practice, make sure to simulate your breaks, because they are not optional and they have the potential to completely derail you if you’re not used to taking them. Eventually, you’ll get used to maintaining your focus through the break, or at the very least quickly picking back up where you left off once the break is over.

My suggestion for the break is to maintain a low-level state of readiness. What I mean by that is that you should focus on some concepts that you know like the back of your hand, and keep yourself LSAT-engaged by using those concepts to occupy your mind. Recite all of the LR questions types, or play with some conditional translations and make sure you can go between all four groups fluently, or go over your strategy for tackling a particular section you haven’t seen yet, or even just run your personal highlight reel (we’ll talk about this some other time) through your head over and over again. The name of the game is to make sure that you’re not headed into section 4 cold – that you “hit the ground walking”, as I like to say.

Oh, and make sure to seek out a local DDR machine and pump some quarters into it during one of your study breaks. 15 years and many mixes later, it’s still a ton of fun.


  • JustDoItJustDoIt Alum Member
    3112 karma
    This is my favorite post ever. Not only because I am an avid (to put it lightly) DDR fan, but also because getting back up to speed after the breaks is something I struggle with. Thanks Jon!
  • Jonathan WangJonathan Wang Yearly Sage
    6828 karma
    @JustDoIt Glad you found it helpful! If I may ask, how good are you at the good ol' arrow stomp? AAAing everything in sight? I'm always happy to talk DDR, even if it sounds like gobbledygook to most people.
  • JustDoItJustDoIt Alum Member
    edited April 2015 3112 karma
    @"Jonathan Wang" Haha I mean...I don't wanna toot my own horn or anything but...I could AA a majority of the songs on heavy. Max 300 really wasn't that hard (for me at least), I could consistently get As but the pacing on the stop really threw me off. I didn't really like DDRMax that much with the exception of Healing Vision Angelic Mix. I played a TON of DDR Extreme though, that one was my favorite. 321 Stars is my jam hahaha
  • jihyun.leejihyun.lee Alum Member
    71 karma
    Thanks for your tip, Jon! I always love reading your posts. They are super helpful :))
  • AlejandroAlejandro Member Inactive ⭐
    2424 karma
    ??????? ;)
  • Jonathan WangJonathan Wang Yearly Sage
    6828 karma
    @justdoit yeah that's basically where i ended up as well. my best 300 run ended up being like 40-something greats with a few pad misses, fairly upset about that. fun times :D
  • inactiveinactive Alum Member
    12637 karma
    Ohhhh my God. You're making me want to break out my PS2 and play Supernova again. These were my favorite songs:

  • JustDoItJustDoIt Alum Member
    3112 karma
    @"Jonathan Wang" @"Dillon A. Wright" Ahhh yes. What great memories. I do apologize if I took any academic value away from this post by talking about DDR haha
  • JuliaZLSATJuliaZLSAT Member
    77 karma
    Thank you very much for the post @"Jonathan Wang" ! I have never realized that a break can be a problem until I read it. I will pay more attention to it from now on.
  • pritisharmapritisharma Alum Member
    477 karma
    I always find the 1st game in the LG section hard due to this issue , particularly if it is the first section . It takes some time for me to "get in the zone" ... I will try constant mental stomping :-) before I sit down to test.
Sign In or Register to comment.