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8 Things I Wish I'd Known

Burt ReynoldsBurt Reynolds Alum Member Sage
edited July 2021 in General 952 karma

These types of posts were really helpful for me while studying, so I felt like I owed this post to the forum. I’ve tried to boil it down to 8 things that I wish I could tell an earlier version of myself that was studying for the LSAT.

Timelines are Man-Made
At one point, I was so convinced that I needed to be a KJD. After an unsuccessful first LSAT take, a few awesome people challenged my thinking and I’m glad they did. It afforded me more time to study for this test and get some great work experience before school. This has been said 1,000x, but don’t take the LSAT before you’re really ready. Like PTing-above-your-target-range ready - based on my experience, the test day penalty is real. Please learn from my mistakes :)

If you want to hit your full potential, take JY’s post about how studying can take over a year seriously. Unless you’re an LSAT unicorn, that’s just how it is. This isn’t another college exam where you’re being tested on knowledge, instead the LSAT tests skills. Skills take time to develop and finetune. Accept that the timeline will likely be long, exhausting, and even slightly annoying. It’ll make your life easier.

And btw, when people say things like “you’ve been studying for HOW long?” or other snide bs, just don’t listen to them. If you want to perform at your best, it may take a while. I started studying in the spring of ‘19 and received my 170 in June ‘21. I didn’t study that entire time, but collectively it took over a year.

“The difference between a 165 and 170 is strategy”
I received a 166 on the January exam. Based on my last 5 PTs, this was a fat underperformance. I knew why my score dipped: I panicked during LR and RC. The harder question to answer -- why did I panic?

Then I heard this quote about strategy. I think @Sami or @canihazJD said it (thanks!) on the podcast. Unlike LG, I didn’t have any real strategy for LR and RC. Once I started implementing skipping rules in LR and started standardizing my approach to RC, I became far less likely to panic and saw less volatility in my scores.

Strategy builds confidence and you’ll need confidence when shit hits the fan on test day.

Logic games can be slain
I was NOT good at LGs ( -10 or so a section) and it took me a long time to get to -0/-1. I would get frustrated when I’d read about how “learnable” they are -- really, just a bruised ego on my end. Here’s a quick overview of what worked for me.

I did games over and over and over again. I foolproofed games 1-35 and would foolproof games after each full PT I took. Eventually, I’d dedicate full study days just to foolproofing a gametype. Sequencing. Grouping. In/Out. Etc. By the end of these days, my brain was mush. That being said, I started to see inferences far more quickly. It also helped me anticipate splits/SGBs and the right ACs.

Also I adopted a section strategy - here’s a high level overview: during timed sections I would read the first two games before deciding which game I’d tackle first. I’d do the same for the third and fourth games. This approach helped me build confidence under timed conditions. Having a strategy can really help you feel under control and forget about nerves.

I’d also put my finger on the screen to make sure I didn’t misread a rule - weird, I know. But I found that at a certain point, if I was struggling with a game it was because I misread a rule. Back when the LSAT was made of paper, JY recommended touching every word with your pencil. This is kinda my adaptation to the times. Everyone functions differently, but I had a tendency to jump the gun while reading rules. Touching each word forced me to slow down and understand the game.

If possible, use your most productive hours on study
Try to study for the LSAT before other activities burn you out. Work and classes, for example, can eat up a lot of mental energy. Personally, this meant studying before work. I didn’t enjoy waking up at 5 but it was well worth it. ALSO - don’t compensate for a lack of sleep by drinking a ton of caffeine. Coffee is great...but in moderation.

Meditate
Do it. I would usually do a mix of guided and unguided. I used the Waking Up app for guided meditation. In general, mindfulness is the best - not only for your studies but in your personal life as well. If the LSAT is a real source of anxiety for you, I’d recommend trying out worry scripting. A Google search will point you in the right direction!

Your PT Scores Don’t Matter! Focus on Improvement
Sorry if that comes off as blunt, but it’s true. I used to care a LOT about my PT scores, but they’re just practice. If you hit 100 free throws in practice, it doesn’t really matter, does it? But if you actually work on your mechanics, that can really pay off come game 6. (sorry for the metaphor, I love Giannis)

PTs are a tool for learning, so don’t focus on scores. Leave that for the Reddit users. All that matters: you learn from your mistakes, you maintain your strengths, and you execute on the real thing.

Unplugging is essential
For a while, I tried studying 7 days a week. This was a terrible, terrible idea. It led to constant burn out and, frankly, poor mental health. You can’t replace rest. You can’t replace socialization. You should view these elements of your life as necessary conditions for getting your best score. (they’re also important in their own right, obviously)

A few things that worked for me:
- taking off at least one day a week from both work and studying (while trying to limit screen time).
- Setting a hard cutoff time each night to stop looking at work and LSAT materials
- Finding a new hobby. For me, it was baking cookies - truly a therapeutic exercise

Finally, be kind to yourself
Seriously. If you’re reading this post, you’re likely highly motivated - I know this because you’re reading some dude with a weird username’s LSAT ramblings. I’m willing to bet you put plenty of pressure on yourself. Remember that this is a learning process. Like I’ve said, the LSAT is a skills test. So work your ass off but remember that patience is a virtue. Trust that good things take time.

Best of luck on the test and beyond!

Comments

  • jmarin5jmarin5 Alum Member
    162 karma

    Great insight!

  • rsridgleyrsridgley Alum Member
    33 karma

    Great advice, thanks for the heads up!

  • LogicianLogician Alum Member Sage
    2453 karma

    Great pointers and insight, and congrats on a superb finish to the test!

  • lukaxu0515lukaxu0515 Monthly Member
    14 karma

    This is helpful, thank you!!

  • BigStickDiplomacyBigStickDiplomacy Monthly Member
    36 karma

    Great post! You mentioned standardizing strategies for LR and RC after your first take; for LR, other than implementing skipping rules, did you use other strategies/methods that helped?

  • Burt ReynoldsBurt Reynolds Alum Member Sage
    edited July 2021 952 karma

    @jmarin5 @rsridgley @lukaxu - glad you guys found it helpful!

    @Logician - thanks! Best of luck with your upcoming cycle. Excited to see where you land

  • Burt ReynoldsBurt Reynolds Alum Member Sage
    952 karma

    @BigStickDiplomacy - for LR, my strategy was all about skipping. I had some triggers that let me automatically skip. For example, any argument-based question (Str/Wkn/Flaw/Eval/PF/SA/NA) that I couldn't reasonably predict the correct AC for, I'd skip on round 1. At least for me personally, I figured that I should always have at least one assumption in mind going into the ACs. The same applies for labeling argument questions - Conclusion, AP, and MOR. RRE, Principle, and MSS are a little different, as they're more difficult to anticipate.

    Long story short: I would try to predict the right AC before diving into A-E. It saved a lot of time.

    As far as prep went for LR, besides taking PTs and BRing, I think translation drills really helped. Take a new LR section (preferably one between PTs 1-35) and don't look at the ACs. Ever. Read through each stimulus once, then write down everything you can remember (conclusion, premises, details). Return to the stimulus and compare to what you've written down. Did you get the "big picture"? were you able to pick up on smaller details? After doing this for a week or so, it definitely improved my ability to recall information.

    Hopefully that helps a bit!

  • teechj117teechj117 Monthly Member
    279 karma

    I love this!

    Could you touch a bit more on what you mean by standardizing a strategy for RC? The strategies here (low res to high res, voices, etc) really helped with finding a guideline for my approach, but we know when time factors in, some of the method isn't practical.

    Also, did you find that some strategies (say approach to LG grouping and conditional stimuli in LR) are related across the sections?

  • Burt ReynoldsBurt Reynolds Alum Member Sage
    952 karma

    @teechj117 - glad to hear it. I think having a strong ability to translate conditional rules helps in LR specifically. There's some in/out games in PTs 1-35 that definitely help on MSS, MBT, SA, etc.

    Also, this was my strategy for RC:
    + I would highlight any details that I found important - for example, language that indicated tone, conditional logic, anything put in quotes
    + After each paragraph, I would make a mental note of the low-res
    + I'd actively hunt for the main point/conclusion - usually there's a sentence or two that cuts to the point of the passage. If I found it, I would underline it.
    + After the passage, I would run through each paragraph (quickly) focusing on low-res, structure, and the main point/conclusion .
    + Finally, when I was in the questions I'd pay special attention to the strength of the language. "According to the passage" stems are very different than "most strongly supports" because they call for a different strength of evidence.

  • Confidence150Confidence150 Alum Member
    edited July 2021 1416 karma

    Thank you @"Burt Reynolds" . Did you ever try a skipping strategy for RC and you did the passages in order?

  • 296 karma

    Congrats on your score! Well deserved. Can you share your skipping strategy for RC and LR? @"Burt Reynolds" Reynolds

  • Burt ReynoldsBurt Reynolds Alum Member Sage
    952 karma

    @Confidence123 - I did the passages in order. I used to skip to the comparative passage first, but after looking at my PT data I found that I was spending too much time on it. I would rarely skip a question on RC unless I was completely lost after looking at the ACs. I would also use the JY round 1 & round 2 approach on the comparative.

    @mpereira962D - I wrote out my LR and RC strategy in a few of the previous comments higher up on this thread :smile:

  • Confidence150Confidence150 Alum Member
    1416 karma

    @"Burt Reynolds" Did you drill full RC sections in between practice tests? What would you say really worked for you to improve RC? How did you pace yourself on RC especially having enough time on the last passage?

    I have been trying to drill LR sections in between practice tests. It’s been helpful for LR but RC is a bit volatile.

    Thanks for your time and help!!

  • lethal_baconlethal_bacon Alum Member
    107 karma

    I couldn't agree more with every bit of advice on this list. Going on 2+ years of studying for this beast of a test and registered for August. Everything here is spot on from my personal experience and from the tips I've gotten from everyone I've ran in to that has 'succeeded' (whatever that means to you :) ) on the LSAT. Thanks so much for this post!

  • MattLaP323MattLaP323 Monthly Member
    32 karma

    Extremely helpful and down to earth, real insight! Thanks @"Burt Reynolds" !!

  • Burt ReynoldsBurt Reynolds Alum Member Sage
    952 karma

    thanks @MattLaP323 and @lethal_bacon !

    I didn't work on full sections of RC between PTs @Confidence123 -- instead I would take individual passages timed from PTs 1-35. I personally found RC the most difficult to improve on (i.e. decrease volatility in scores) but I think using the older passages for working on timing & strategy helps on the full 35 minute sections.

  • KarlygashKarlygash Alum Member
    55 karma

    I needed this. Thank you

  • Confidence150Confidence150 Alum Member
    1416 karma

    Thank you @"Burt Reynolds" !! Congratulations again :)

  • Confidence150Confidence150 Alum Member
    1416 karma

    @"Burt Reynolds" Sorry one more question. Did you warm up before practice tests? If yes, was it a section or short drills before PTs? :)

  • Burt ReynoldsBurt Reynolds Alum Member Sage
    952 karma

    @Confidence123 - no problem! I always used warm-up. Usually one basic logic game and then 5-6 LR questions.

  • deva-middletondeva-middleton Monthly Member
    9 karma

    Thanks so much for sharing that advice!

  • Confidence150Confidence150 Alum Member
    1416 karma

    @"Burt Reynolds" Thanks again for your time and sharing! :)

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