Stuck (largely) in the low-170s over long period of time - focus on PTs and BR-ing or drills?

danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
in General 4181 karma
I've been steadily and consistently studying for about two years for the LSAT, and I've managed to score in the low 170s a total of about ten times (a little less than this). With this, however, come the occasional hiccups (e.g. a 164 on my most recent test), though I think these somewhat infrequent though dramatic drops in my score reflect the stupid mistakes I make more so than anything else.

This stated, I'm getting awfully tired of scoring in the low 170s for a few tests with a bad test that follows. I've fallen into a frustrating repetition despite feeling like I know more about the test than I did when I was first scoring in the 170s, which was as long as a year go.

As noted in my header, I want to see anyone's input on where I should go from here. With more 170s than not, I'm confident I have a good grasp of the material, especially of LG sections. RC sections fluctuate for me, though consistent practice seems to solve the problem nicely. My LR is usually good, though my last test was severely marred by miss after miss in LR. Has anyone been in this situation? If so, did simply PTing and BR-ing solve this for you, or did you have to go back to study material and possibly drill by question type?

Note: When I refer to BR-ing, I mean my personal process of circling questions I do not feel super confident about, though I BR the entire test anyway.

Comments

  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Alum Member Sage 🍌
    27377 karma
    I've heard lots of people say taking time away is helpful and that often there's a bump when returning. Maybe try taking two weeks off and don't even let yourself near your LSAT stuff. Read for pleasure. Drink some wine.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    Hmm. Maybe a good idea, especially since I've been missing so many questions from misreads and nonsensical errors, even under drills. Perhaps a break could synthesize my LSAT knowledge in a noticeably positive way.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    Do you know if after this break people dive right into a PT? And if so, with positive results?
  • cmelman95cmelman95 Alum Member
    edited March 2016 725 karma
    @danielznelson I agree that you might want to take a break. I'll tell you what I did and what happened. In late December, I was struggling to do logic games and I was prepping for the Feb test. I had the ridiculous plan to take a PT a day for about 5 or 6 weeks prior to the test. (Never do this.) My scores really dipped in early January as I was putting more pressure on myself and banging my head against the proverbial wall. So I stopped PTing until mid-February and used that time to exclusively work on games. No LR or RC at all. While this isn't a total hiatus from the LSAT, I did take a hiatus from a couple sections. It took me one or two tests to shake off the rust on RC, but my LR improved dramatically and after the initial bumps RC was better than ever.

    Moral of the story is: Once you have acquired the skills, maintaining a clear and rested mind becomes a large part of the battle.
  • Ron SwansonRon Swanson Alum Member Inactive ⭐
    edited March 2016 1650 karma
    I guess you could say I'm just coming back from a break in a very similar situation.

    Been studying for the LSAT for a year off and on. Usually score in the high 160s but recently surged to the low 170s, finally felt like I had broken the high 160s plateau until I had 2 straight PTs at 165. During my 170s stint, I had 4 straight PTs of -0 LG, but started getting some wrong (up to -4).

    I'm also finishing up undergrad, so I took 10 days off just to get some school work done and regroup. First PT back was yesterday and I got a 167. So not exactly 170s but felt good overall (87 raw, 90 was 170). Felt rusty in LR but had -7 overall, got -4 on LG but -0 BR, then killed it on RC which is typically tough for me.

    In all, I'd suggest taking a break, but I think 10 days was good to clear my head. Plus June will be here before you know it, so I think that taking 3 weeks off for example may cause you to over compensate after the break and hit burn out at a critical time right before the exam.

    Let me know how things go for you during/after your break, interested to hear someone else's perspective.

    Good luck!
  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Alum Member Sage 🍌
    27377 karma
    Yeah, if you’re mostly misreading and making careless mistakes, sounds like burnout to me. You got the skills, you just need to decompress. I played poker professionally for a little while and I noticed that I was always really, really sharp after a hiatus. I think an LSAT break would work in a similar way. In poker and in LSAT (and in life, really), you reach a point where you’re just kind of mechanically executing. A break removes you enough so that you go back to really thinking about things again.
  • allison.gill.sanfordallison.gill.sanford Legacy Inactive Sage
    1128 karma
    @cmelman95 said:
    Moral of the story is: Once you have acquired the skills, maintaining a clear and rested mind becomes a large part of the battle.
    Yes! I definitely echo the advice here - try a break, and trust what you know coming back, you'll just need to get back in the rhythm of things.
    One other question - how many PTs a week are you taking now? Sometimes consistency is a factor, as in how often you are exposing yourself to the material. I think for some people there is a sweet spot where they need to see 2-3 PTs a week to be at their top exposure level. Just a thought.
  • quinnxzhangquinnxzhang Legacy Member
    edited March 2016 611 karma
    I was also stuck in the low-mid 170s for a couple of months, and what pushed me over was drilling LR/RC on top of my PT schedule (2-3 PTs a week). I filtered by difficulty (4 and above) on LR/RC questions from older tests I didn't plan on taking in full and did a ton of those.

    I don't think this advice generalizes well, since I had a short time frame between beginning my studies and my test date (under 4 months), so I could afford to burn through practice questions in high density. But on the off chance your study schedule is like mine, maybe it's something to consider.
  • Nicole HopkinsNicole Hopkins Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4344 karma
    @danielznelson said:
    Do you know if after this break people dive right into a PT?
    Yup!
  • helenharrishelenharris Alum Member
    edited March 2016 72 karma
    Everyone seems has a consensus that a break would do a favor, but for me, study break makes my points go down all the time... and it also takes me some time come back to where I was. Wired situation. :/
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    Thank you, everyone, for the very helpful input. I think I will take a break after this week. I don't feel burnt out per say, but my mind is clearly polluted with a seemingly infinite number of LSAT thoughts bouncing erratically off one another. @allison.gill.sanford I really only take one test a week, though my initial goal upon moving into the last few months of prep for the June test was to take two a week. I took a test today to see how I did on a test closer to a previous one. If I don't do well (and I didn't do particularly well at the very least), I'll definitely take a break after finishing off this week with some moderate drilling. Aside from RC, I seem to be struggling more on the test, and it can't be because of a lack of grasping the material. I will note, however, that my most recent, dramatic drop was from a newer test (PT 73) and the test I took today was PT 74. I did manage a 170 on PT 72, but these newer tests clearly have new material that I'm not entirely familiar with.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    @kotokochan May I ask where you are in your studying process? I especially noticed issues similar to yours when I was earlier in my process of studying.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    With all due respect, none of this is in any sense meant to brag. I take no pride in my scores, aside from the fact that I've spent a very long time working to achieve them. But with less than three months away from the June LSAT, as well as several scores below even the lowest in my target range, I'm extremely worried. And I can't legitimately claim that I have any bragging rights after having spent two years to manage a few low-170s on practice tests, though I can see where your perspective is towards someone slamming a "170" in a discussion title for all to see. I obviously don't know where you are in your studying process, but I firmly believe a high score is achievable through intensive studying. I don't believe I have anything else to thank (aside of course from 7Sage and the people on it) for where I am today.
  • runiggyrunruniggyrun Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    2481 karma
    @Preferences that wasn't very helpful. There's no rule that people that score above a certain threshold are not allowed to ask for advice on how to improve, and unless someone is scoring 180 every single time there's always room for improvement.
    And no matter where your average score is, having recurring tests that violently deviate from that average on the down side is a legitimate concern.
    @danielznelson I don't have a magic solution, but I'll try to offer a couple of ideas/suggestions.

    If the majority of the misses in your "outliers" and in your tests in general come from what you call "stupid mistakes" and your BR scores are close to perfect, I don't think going back to the curriculum would help all that much. If you have lower scores on tests that overemphasize a certain kind of question/game/passage, then by all means go back and take another look at the lessons that cover those topics or drill some of those questions. For scores above 170 every question counts, so even slight "holes" in your knowledge can sway your scores by 3-4 points, if the test happens to be heavy on that particular type of question.

    If your scores are fluctuating mostly because of wild fluctuations in the games, then drill the hell out of them. As full sections, with purpose and mindfulness (I can practically see some "regulars" rolling their eyes "here she goes again with the game drilling" but I can't think of any better way to reduce variation in game performance other than making sure that you can absolutely nail the easy games in 5--7 minutes and leave yourself enough time for the time suckers).

    Making silly mistakes can be a sign of burnout. And you have been doing this for a long time, so you might be due for a break. It can also be a sign of something else in your life distracting you from concentrating on certain PT's 100%. If you're thinking "I need to finish this PT, and then I've got to write that final paper/get that laundry done/pick up the kids from school/pack for tomorrow's trip" or whatever it is, that's enough to throw off your concentration - doesn't take much. So see if the outliers happened to be on days when something was preventing you from being 100% in the test. Or the days you were hungry, or extra tired, or you didn't sleep well the night before - think about anything that might be different about those days, and make sure it's not the case on test day.

    You might also have gotten into a pattern where you get a few nice scores in a row and then your mind feels like it's OK to relax a bit - bam, mistakes and hello 164. Or the opposite - you got 3 170's and now you think "here comes my next messed up PT" so you panic a bit (doesn't need to feel like full blown panic, just a lack of "flow"). And the fear fulfills itself. I don't know how you fix these sorts of issues, but I'm thinking being aware of the potential for them could mitigate their effect a bit.

    Other than the mental game, you might have an "optimal" amount of practice you need to get to be in top form. Looks like that's the case for some of us, as @kotokochan's experience shows. You also mention that your RC scores improve after practice - by all means keep doing that - even if you're drilling old passages you've done before. I've experienced the same thing with games - I need to do at least a couple of sections a day or I get slower, and slower on the easy stuff means no time for the hard stuff in a PT.

    You're almost there - you have the fundamentals and more, now it's time to polish the last rough corners in time for the big show in June
  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Alum Member Sage 🍌
    edited March 2016 27377 karma
    We need a webinar where they just bring in a therapist for us, lol. Actually, I say that jokingly, but I’d totally attend that. Managing the psychological stress of LSAT prep is essential to success. @"Nicole Hopkins" , get us a therapist! And drugs.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    @runiggyrun It seems to be a mixture of many of the possibilities you mentioned. I just scored my last test and missed several in a LG, because I totally forgot about a rule, missed two questions (one in LG, one in LR) because I mistranslated "unless," and I'm slower on LG, a section I normally kill. My BRs haven't been as great either, even though I spend more time doing them. Of course, I'm getting more wrong on the test overall, and I inevitably cling to my original choice more than I should. As I mentioned, I don't feel burnt out, but I definitely anticipate a lower score, even though I do everything to fight it. I'll probably review some of the areas I'm weaker in, drill, and step away for a bit. Maybe the break will knock down my obsession with the LSAT, haha.
  • allison.gill.sanfordallison.gill.sanford Legacy Inactive Sage
    1128 karma
    @danielznelson do you usually double check your rules on LG? I picked this habit up late in my prep and found it really helped to eliminate making mistakes copying the rules, and it also gave me a second pass to internalize the rules and understand them better (I would often find inferences as I went through the rules again to make sure I understood and notated them right).
  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Alum Member Sage 🍌
    27377 karma
    @danielznelson said:
    I inevitably cling to my original choice more than I should.
    You do use a clean copy for your BR though right? It seems like a really minor difference but it has a profound effect.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    No! That's a great idea. I'll do that. I've always tried to more intuitively understand translation, at the avoidable cost of recognizing fast rules (negate sufficient for "unless," for example), but this has left making some mistakes apparently.

    I actually don't use a clean copy for the newer tests, since I don't have PDFs, but I think I'll start finding a place to copy them. Especially with LG, using the same copy is a nightmare.

    Do any of you cycle through older tests, especially those you may not have done as well on? I only have 8 or 9 PTs left, and I'd like to stretch them out as far from each other as I can without sacrificing repetition.
  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Alum Member Sage 🍌
    27377 karma
    Yeah, definitely BR on a clean copy. It does a lot to remove the emotions you attach to your original answer, and that really does change the name of the game.

    I burned a lot of tests before discovering 7Sage, and I plan on retaking every test 35 and up before sitting in September. The challenge there is, of course, you just remember things. Even LR questions I worked a year ago, I remember them when I come back across them. The good news for me is, since there was no BR with my former curriculum; I never went back to closely examine anything. So, I’m hoping I won’t have significantly more insight into my retakes. I’m especially looking forward to Oct and Dec 2015 PTs, which I took for real. I very purposefully, and painfully, did not pull up the tests and check my mistakes. So, I think those two takes are going to be particularly insightful.

    With under 10 left, you need to treat those as sacred. So I’d definitely recommend some retakes. You’ll run into questions you immediately know the answers to, just from memory; but when you do, force yourself to work through them and rediscover how you originally arrived at the answer. It should reinforce your recognition of the underlying logical structures and maybe make it easier to spot the next time you see it. There’s only so much they can throw at you, and at a certain point; it’s all the same logic. You’re doing the same questions over and over again anyway, just dressed up with different English.
  • Ron SwansonRon Swanson Alum Member Inactive ⭐
    edited March 2016 1650 karma
    I've gone through retakes of tests that I took about 6 months ago, and occasionally I'll remember the topic of a passage, game, or LR questions but I'm never able to think "oh, I remember B is the answer because blah blah blah"

    Sometimes I get some wrong and check my saved answer sheets (thanks analytics) and see I got it wrong or right in the past. I feel like it's beneficial to see where/how you've improved over time.

    I wouldn't sweat retakes unless you took the PT within the past month or 2
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    Great advice. Thanks to you both. I think retakes will be especially helpful should I take a break. I wouldn't want to waste fresh PTs on getting back into a rhythm.
  • Elle2015Elle2015 Alum Member
    198 karma
    I think everyone here has given good advice, so I would recommend following theirs first...
    but I experienced something similar. I was making stupid LR mistakes due to lapses in concentration/misreading. What immediately fixed it for me was reading the stimulus (not the question) first. BRing was no help.

    I also made LG mistakes, but I never got to a point with that where I was consistently missing 0. With LG, I just didn't have enough to time foolproof things. If I had, I think I would have gotten there.

    If you take a break and then come back to what you're doing, I think you'll be fine.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    That's interesting. I actually just started doing it for some questions and partly for that purpose. I know a lot of people don't recommend this, but for maybe one or two of the earlier questions that have lengthier and wordier passages, I quickly skim the question itself to see what exactly I'm supposed to be doing. In that case, it's often a MC question, far easier than I was expecting.

    On another fairly random note, I've thought about doing something like this for comparative passages. After reading passage "A," I may try scanning the questions quickly to see if anything is exclusively related to the passage and that passage only before moving on.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    Whatever the case, a quick rehash of the basics is very much needed. Refocusing on Strengthening questions has helped tremendously and reworking the translations will help ensure that I don't MIS-translate again. Up until my last test, I had no problem with translation, as I think intuitively understood what the sentence actually meant. What the heck happened?? It's a good thing I caught it now. I'm not sure if anyone else in a similar situation is reading this, but no matter your score, don't expect that you won't ever need to go back. @allison.gill.sanford I am definitely using your habit to keep translations fresh in my mind.
  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Alum Member Sage 🍌
    27377 karma
    I intuitively understand conditionals as well, but I went ahead and memorized it so I could just do it mechanically. It was tedious and boring, but I’ve got to say, ever since I did it, my error rate is next to nothing. More importantly, it’s much faster. Normally I would advocate for deeper understanding on something like this, but under the time pressure it has been really nice to just hammer out conditionals without having to think about it.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    Yeah, I expect speed will be faster for me as well, especially for the tougher translations.
  • westcoastbestcoastwestcoastbestcoast Alum Member
    3788 karma
    Hey Daniel, I actually studied for 2 years as well but I found myself PT-ing around the mid to high 160s. How have you been able to push into the 170s?
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    @westcoastbestcoast Is it cool if I PM you?
  • westcoastbestcoastwestcoastbestcoast Alum Member
    3788 karma
    Yeah. Thanks
  • allison.gill.sanfordallison.gill.sanford Legacy Inactive Sage
    1128 karma
    @danielznelson glad you are finding it helpful! I think double checking it only takes an extra few seconds and can be well worth it. Also, I had a similar experience where formerly intuitive translations became harder and more confusing to me very late in my prep - I think it was fatigue, but I went back to check my memorization with flashcards and remind myself (without the timed pressure) why a particular translation made sense. The refresher helped and then I was able to rely more on intuition again (which I think is not truly 'intuition' but rather very fast comprehension that feels like intuition). It seems normal to have this happen.
  • stepharizonastepharizona Alum Member
    3197 karma

    I know this is an old thread but wanted to bump. I'm stuck in the same issue. Constantly in the 170-173 range with a few 169/8s popping up.

    What did you find helped @danielznelson

    I know I need to BR RC more and that should help to stabilize but what other tips do you have?

  • lsatplaylistlsatplaylist Alum Member
    5244 karma

    A webinar on this and related topics would be awesome if time allows.

  • goingfor99thgoingfor99th Member
    3072 karma

    @stepharizona said:
    I know this is an old thread but wanted to bump. I'm stuck in the same issue. Constantly in the 170-173 range with a few 169/8s popping up.

    What did you find helped @danielznelson

    I know I need to BR RC more and that should help to stabilize but what other tips do you have?

    When's the last time you took a break? I took two weeks off before my official LSAT and that was exactly what I needed. This test can burn you out very easily when you're scoring high.

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