Scott: I would say that the single best thing I can think of for you to do in preparing for the LSAT is make sure you're ready before you sign up for the test. Don't create an arbitrary deadline for yourself.
J.Y.: Hello and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, we're presenting a webinar about how to deal with test anxiety. 7Sage tutor Brittney discusses strategies that can help prevent and cope with anxiety on test day. Then she and 7Sage tutor Scott take questions from the audience. Please enjoy.
Scott: Well, good evening. My name is Scott Milam, and I'm one of the managers of the 7Stage tutoring program. Tonight I'm joined by Brittney Ajaj. Brittney is one of our many talented tutors at 7Sage and is here tonight to discuss combating test anxiety on the LSAT. So without any further ado, Brittney, go ahead and take it away.
Brittney: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for coming. I'm very excited to talk to you all. Actually, I'm very calm to talk to you all about test anxiety, because it's all about keeping the calmness as we take the LSAT exam.
So today we're just going to talk about how test anxiety can impact your performance on test day and how to combat it. I personally experience test anxiety. I think everyone here probably experiences test anxiety. So this is a very important topic and I'm hoping that it'll be very helpful to you all today.
Scott: Do you want to clarify before we get any further into this topic that we are not psychiatrists. We are not psychologists. We are not therapists. We are LSAT tutors, so please don't construe anything that we're about to say as medical advice or how to treat any condition that you may or may not have. We are not here to diagnose you with any particular condition.
We're just talking about how to deal with that feeling of worry and anxiety that comes with taking tests like the LSAT, and just some strategies that we, not as medical professionals but just as other former test-takers and tutors, like to share with our clients on how they can really kind of maximize their performance.
So please, though, if you feel in the end of this talk that you might be suffering from something more than just kind of everyday average anxiety, if the LSAT is significantly harming your mental health or your life, please seek out actual professionals. And again, our tips here are merely to kind of help you maximize performance, not to ensure your mental wellbeing during this or any other test.
Brittney: Exactly. So what I'm going to do to start is I'm going to share my screen really quick. This is basically a little test that some psychiatrists came up with in 1991 to diagnose people with test anxiety. Of course, it might not be the most accurate test now that it's 2022, but nonetheless, I think it is really important to see how we all suffer from it.
So just take a moment and look through some of the common signs of test anxiety. If you want, you can count what numbers you add up to based on 1 being never, that you never get any of these issues when you're taking a test. If that is true, I'm very jealous of you. And then 5 is always, so if you always, when you take a test, have butterflies. So I'll just leave this up for a minute if anybody wants to see how they perform.
All right. So I'm going to go to the next slide. It kind of just explains how each person would measure. So I personally got a 37, which is an unhealthy level of test anxiety. I'm not sure how anybody else did, but lower scores actually indicate that you don't have much test anxiety. And if your score is extremely low, it actually symbolizes that you might need to kind of pump up your adrenaline while you're taking a test, because a little bit of adrenaline is a good thing.
Scores between 20 and 35 are usually normal, and then scores over 35, which I'm sure most people experience, are a sign of an unhealthy level of test anxiety. So I am going to now just kind of share with you all why we are talking about test anxiety and kind of defining it.
So, chances are, if you're here, you have test anxiety and you absolutely do know what it feels like. Test anxiety is just a performance-based anxiety when you feel some type of psychological distress when it comes to academic failure, and you worry about succeeding academically. And it's not always like a mental thing. You might have a stomachache or your head might hurt.
And a lot of people have this because they have a fear of failure, they don't feel prepared, they have a poor test history, they associate their grades with personal worth, and it comes from a lack of control, a fear of lack of control, because you can't control how the test is going to go for yourself unless you put in the work.
So I wanted to come on here today, and I had some debates on what I should do today for my webinar topic. But I thought that talking about test anxiety would be one of the greatest things, because the LSAT is a test that basically encourages you to have anxiety. It's a test that times you in a very short period of time, and it asks you to do some pretty hard tasks within that short period of time.
Plus, there's a lot of things that ride on the LSAT, which makes your anxiety even higher. You're worried about getting admitted to schools based on your LSAT score. You're worried about your scholarship and you're worried about your future. And when I was researching, trying to figure out why should I do test anxiety or should I do a different topic, I found that the UCLA actually recently did a study and found that 60% of test-takers do suffer from test anxiety.
So if 7Sage users are anywhere near accurate of the general population, if anything, I bet most 7Sage users are high achievers and probably do experience a little bit more test anxiety, I thought it was a very fitting topic. Plus, it can just negatively impact your performance on an exam because you might be distracted, you might be feeling miserable, you're getting slowed down by all these intrusive thoughts, you feel defeated, and your self-doubt leads to a poor performance.
So the first thing I just want to talk about is dispelling some myths about test anxiety. So you may hear some people say, oh, anxiety is good for you, it helps you do better. I've heard that so many times in my life, and I'm like, oh, okay, anxiety is great. But that just is not the case. So I'm actually going to show you guys a chart that I have pulled up here, and it is the performance curve.
So you can see here performance is on this axis and arousal is on this access, and you can see that the peak performance kind of comes at a point where you're not like dead asleep without any stress in the world, but you're not panicking. The perfect spot for performance is when you're in a creative, calm mode. So what I like to say is you just have that good amount of adrenaline. You have that push, but you don't have too much anxiety hampering you.
And you can see here how test anxiety does affect people negatively. You can see on these two exams that people took when they had the low anxiety levels, their score was higher; when they had medium, it was in the middle; and when they had high test anxiety, it was very low. And too much anxiety can make you almost feel like you're not even there, that you are disappeared from the room, and there's just a bunch of words going on in your head, and that you can't focus.
So the first myth is, absolutely, anxiety will not help you do better. A little bit of anxiety, sometimes a good thing, but it's not going to help you do better. The next thing that I wanted to dispel is that some people say doing nothing about test anxiety or ignoring it will make it go away. If that was the truth, we wouldn't be here today, and there's absolutely so many different ways to minimize it, which we will go over today.
And lastly, some people will say that test anxiety cannot be reduced, but obviously, it can be reduced, and we're going to show you how.
So the next part of the discussion, we're going to talk about how to deal with test anxiety, which will, in turn, improve your performance and your focus on the exam. But I want to split it into three parts. The reason why I'm doing this is because I want to talk about before the exam, during the exam, and after the exam.
It's definitely very important to keep these little distinctions in mind, because a lot of this is going to be you putting in the work before you take the exam. You can't just walk into the test, sit down at your computer, and just be like, okay, I'm not going to have anxiety today. It doesn't work like that, unfortunately. I wish it did. It's a process that you have to go through, and a lot of it will come from practicing before you take the test.
Your mind is a muscle and its concentration ability can be trained to maximize how well you do. Remember that your concentration and your anxiety levels, they're not static and you can train yourself to feel less anxious and, in turn, focus more. So today, we're just going to talk about how you can do that.
I want to give a little anecdote really quick. When I was in high school, I was always like the most anxious human ever. I don't know why. If I had a test, I would somehow have an ear infection that day. Just wouldn't be there. And my one teacher always said to me, proper planning prevents piss-poor performance, the six Ps. I'll say it again. Proper planning prevents piss-poor performance. And the reason why I'm saying that is because I want to emphasize, once again, how important it is to work on this stuff before you take the exam.
So the first thing I'm going to talk about is effective studying. So the first thing is to be extremely organized with your studying. One of the ways that you can do that is create a study schedule. So if you go on 7Sage, you can actually put in like how many weeks you have left of studying and they'll actually organize a schedule for you.
Another thing is you could just go through and look at what types of things the LSAT tests you on and make your own schedule. 7Sage also has an opportunity where you can meet with someone, one of the tutors, and talk about what they think would be a good study schedule for you based on your analytics. So know you're not alone. Talk to your peers, look at what's on the LSAT, and create an organized study schedule to just keep you on track.
Scott: So Brittney, I have a question. This is one of the questions that I get a lot in consults or from clients. About how long should people prepare for the LSAT? I know there are a lot of people coming off spring break, and they're planning on taking it here in the next few months. How long should they give themselves to be ready?
Brittney: Definitely. I always tell people that the more is usually the better. I would say that people should take at least six months to eight months to study for the LSAT. I would say six months is the minimum. I don't really know if there's a maximum, but definitely, like, you need to be studying for a good period of time.
Scott: Yeah, I'd just go ahead and second that, and of course there's a wide range. I'm on record as having only studied for 10 weeks before I made a 180 on the LSAT last year, so obviously there's a continuum here. But that said, probably the greatest single source of anxiety that I have seen in clients that I have worked with largely is kind of self-imposed. It's because they have set an unrealistic deadline for themselves for when they are going to take the LSAT, when they're going to start studying for it.
And we get almost every week some client who comes to us and says, okay, well, I'm just now starting to study and I'm taking the test in April or June, and we're looking at them, okay, so you're taking this thing in like six weeks and you are like three lessons into the core curriculum and you want to get ready?
Well, that by itself is a recipe for anxiety because, ultimately, it's an anxiety built on unpreparedness, that people legitimately aren't ready to take the test. And so when they get to the test, they feel like they're not ready, because they are able to accurately assess their own preparedness and their own performance.
I would say that, I mean, the single best thing I can think of for you to do in preparing for the LSAT is make sure you're ready before you sign up for the test. Don't create an arbitrary deadline for yourself. Be realistic in terms of your expectations, and know that if you are going to set a really close deadline, if you are just now starting studying and you are bound and determined you have to take in June, know that by setting that very quick deadline, you're obviously setting yourself up for one more stressful ride of it.
But also you're probably lowering the maximum score you're probably going to be able to get, because you haven't given yourself time to really get there. I always tell clients, let's worry about registering for a specific test date once your PT average is where it ought to be.
Brittney: Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I remember saying that I was going to take my LSAT in February and I ended up taking it in June, and that February deadline I set for myself actually just put a pit in my stomach and increased my anxiety because I was trying so hard to improve my PT score for that February deadline that I just made up in my head, and it ended up just being something that enhanced my anxiety.
So definitely give yourself plenty of time, and like Scott said, worry about the date you're going to take the test once you hit your goal score on several practice tests.
Scott: That brings up a really good point. So kind of tell everybody else, because I know within tutoring instinctively or just through repetition, know why February to June probably doesn't make that big of a difference, but tell everybody else why they shouldn't be stressing, for instance, to take an April test as opposed to June or August.
Brittney: Yeah, definitely. So I would just say don't stress about the timeline, because it's basically, I like to say the LSATs are the same fluff, or different fluff, same structure every time. The test is not going to be different in itself, and if you're rushing yourself, you're just not going to be able to hit the target that you want. I'm not sure if there's a different point that you were going for.
Scott: Yeah, no, I was going more with the, as it turns out, there's basically no difference from an admissions perspective between taking in January, February, April, or June. If you're applying for next cycle, well, it doesn't matter when you took the LSAT, it just matters what score you got. And yet, so many people tie themselves in knots getting so committed to a February test date when it's often we find ourselves having to kind of persuade clients, look, there's no reason to take in February if you're not ready. April is just good enough. You're still going to have months and months to work on all of your application materials.
So again, some deadlines are actually, if you're applying for next cycle and you haven't taken and it's the middle of December, okay, we don't have a lot of time left to take. You're going to have to take that January, or you're going to have to push back your start date of law school. But for the most part, a lot of these deadlines are kind of self-imposed and only serve to kind of drive up the anxiety of the entire thing.
Brittney: Definitely. Yeah, I've had so many people take the October exam and have all their applications in by Thanksgiving, so there's really no rush. There's no increase in your chances, depending on if you take it in January or in June, so that's not something to worry about.
The next thing I'll touch upon, and I think this goes along with organization, is I always kept a studying diary, which may sound a little dumb, but I always had this self-doubt in my head, wondering if I studied enough. Even though the practice test scores showed that I did study enough, I always had this issue going on in my head, but what if I didn't study this enough? What if I didn't do this enough?
So I always used this diary to prove to myself that I was ready. So I would take notes on what my plans were, what my scores were, my successes, my failures, and how I was feeling during the studying process, just to look back at it and feel better about myself. I think that actually improved my anxiety, just knowing, hey, look at this diary for reassurance. You did everything you can, and you're going to do great on this exam.
The next thing is, and I think Scott explains this very well, so maybe you could do the analogy. I love how you explain this. But always study where you take your exam. Your practice tests are a thermometer, and I'm going to let Scott take over for this because the way he explains it is just great.
Scott: Okay. Yeah, so this analogy that we end up using a lot, but essentially, so many people seem to think that taking PTs, and just taking lots of PTs, is somehow some sort of magical way to improve your LSAT score, that they just take them two times a week, three times a week, four times a week, and they just think that if I just take enough PTs, somehow my score improves. And that's simply not the case.
The PTs are a valuable tool, but they don't by themselves raise your actual score. And the analogy I like today is that a PT is essentially like a thermometer, your cooking thermometer when you're making a roast. You can stick the thermometer in as many times as you want, but it actually isn't going to raise the temperature of the meat. The only thing it does is it tells you what else you need to do in order to get the roast to the desired temperature, to get it where you want it to go.
In the same way, PTs are a diagnostic tool. They tell you where your score is currently at. What raises your score is what you do with the information from the PT. It's the blind reviewing. It's the reviewing your wrong answers. It's the foolproofing Logic Games that comes out of that. And if you're not using the full PT in review, if you're not taking the time to go over all of that, actually taking the PT probably does nothing other than to exhaust a limited resource, namely the number of fresh PTs that you have.
As a result, we always recommend clients never take more PTs in a given time period than you have time to adequately review, because the review's what really is going to raise your score.
Brittney: Definitely. The next thing I'll say about effective studying is practicing under mild stress. As we said a million times, the LSAT is a test that enhances your anxiety. There's deadlines in terms of when you want to take the test, there's deadlines in terms of how long you have for the section. It is an anxiety-provoking test.
The way that you can practice under mild stress may sound a little bit funny, but what I always did is I would look through my test, and I would put a quarter in a jar every time I missed a Logic Game section, or maybe I was just feeling really lazy that day. And when I would miss a Logical Reasoning section, I'd have to do five pushups. Just doing these little trivial things, even though it's so silly, I kind of was like, okay, my performance on this does have consequences, which is exactly what I will feel on the actual test day.
So that mild stress that I exposed myself to while taking the test made the actual test day feel like nothing, because the five pushups and the anxiety from the actual getting the score, it just kind of evened out for me because I was used to performing under some sort of stress.
Scott: The other thing I'll throw out there is probably the single best thing you can do in terms of using PTs or how you take PTs to help not only your actual performance but also dealing with anxiety is to take the practice test under the exact same conditions you plan on taking the real test. Take tests that are four sections long, because you're going to be taking a four-section test. Take them with the same time conditions, take them at the same table on the same computer.
If you can arrange it, do it at the same time of day and have the same breakfast in your stomach as you're going to take on the actual day. Part of that is just because, one, again analogy of PT as a thermometer, the thermometer does its best work, it gives you the most reliable results, when you actually put it in the right place. Taking a PT under something other than test condition, giving yourself extra time, it's like trying to measure the temperature of the roast by laying the thermometer on the counter. I mean, it might give some sort of indication, but it's not going to give you a really accurate read.
But more than that, with regard to the topic we're talking about today, the goal with taking the practice test under the same conditions you'll take the real test is that with any luck, you'll actually habituate yourself to knowing, okay, I've done this same routine over and over and over again to the point where it simply becomes routine. I have my same pad of paper and my same pencils, and it feels like just another practice test.
And hopefully then on the day that you take the real test in the same place, in the same chair, with the same pencils, on the same computer, then hopefully the real test will feel a little bit more like a practice test, and that just the sheer muscle memory of it will hopefully kind of keep your anxiety at bay.
Brittney: Definitely. And this is interesting. I'm not sure if this explains it. I actually took the LSAT twice. I took once in a June sitting and then once in an August. In the June one, I decided to sit in a new spot different from where I was actually taking my test. It was upstairs instead of downstairs, and on my June test, I actually underperformed compared to my practice test average.
But when I took it in August, I actually was slightly over my average. And I got a 178 in August and I took it in my normal studying spot. So what Scott is saying does have very good merit and it really does work, just practicing under the same conditions.
The last thing we'll say about effective studying is having goals, writing down, today, I'm going to master X. Today, I'm going to master sequencing games that have conditionals. Today, I'm going to master games that are circular, something like that. Really understanding what your goal is for that day or that week or that period of time and mastering it is a really good way to study effectively.
The next thing I'll say very quickly is, another way to get your anxiety lower before you're taking the exam is just self-care. So you want to have meals that are made as performance meals. So like Scott said, the same thing that you're going to have on the day of the LSAT you kind of want to have when you are taking practice tests, but you want to have high protein, low carbs. You want to have proper sleep. You want to minimize your alcohol intake and your caffeine intake.
You want to do some relaxation exercises, which I will touch on in a few minutes, and you always want to do positive affirmations. Your expectations impact your actual performance, so always tell yourself that you're doing great and that you're going to do great.
The next point, I will say, going off of that, is visualizing your success. So I used to dance growing up, and the judges used to always tell us, close your eyes and imagine yourself doing your dance on stage perfectly. It'll help you the day of. And I always thought that was interesting, and for this webinar, I did some research on it. And visualization is actually a clinical technique to assist athletes and performers with overcoming anxiety.
So this does apply to test anxiety. And by going through that mental rehearsal of your performance, it will sharpen your focus and restore your confidence in your ability to follow through. So if you're ever like awake at night and you can't sleep, close your eyes and visualize yourself doing amazing on the LSAT, and then hopefully on the day of, it'll just sharpen your focus and restore your confidence.
And the next thing I'll say, and this is before you take the LSAT, is to prepare some sort of mindfulness plan. So you want to anticipate the problems that might happen and make a specific plan for what you will do if those happen.
So what am I going to do if the first game takes me 12 minutes and I'm behind on my target time? What am I going to do if my proctor unmutes herself during the exam and speaks a different language, which is what happened to me? What am I going to do if blah, blah, blah. You want to have those plans in place because then, if they happen, you have the plan and you're going to feel great about it. You're going to have the plan, you're going to execute it, and you're not going to have as much anxiety as you would if this was just random and you didn't prepare for it.
Scott: Those are, by the way, great questions. What were your answers for them when you took the test? What was Brittney's plan for proctor problems? I'm sure people would be interested in that.
Brittney: My plan for proctor problems, and again, I had proctor problems in June, so I went into August knowing that I had to have a plan for this. What I said to my proctor, very politely, before we began, is I said, if you need something from me, please pause the test and then unmute yourself and say whatever you need to say. And you almost, everybody here wants to be lawyers, that's why you're taking the LSAT, so you have to learn how to be an advocate for yourself.
So you need to know how to stick up for yourself. You're paying like $200 to take this exam. You should have this exam in the best setting possible with the best-case scenario possible. You don't want your proctor interrupting you. So just being a good advocate right from the start is a great way. That was my plan.
Another thing, if I was behind on games, if I spent 12 minutes on my first game and I felt myself getting anxious, I'd tell myself, you know what? Maybe they just somehow gave me a hard game to begin with. I'll make it up on the rest. Or maybe I missed an inference in this game. Let me be smarter for the next game and catch that inference.
Another thing I would say to myself, because I'm somebody that gets very, very anxious, I'd say, okay, I'm still going to care a lot, but maybe that game was experimental, just because that would lower my anxiety so much. And that's actually what happened on my August test. I had a very, very hard experimental section, my first section, and I rely on the games to be my perfect score, and I was like, all right, I'm screwed. And it ended up being the experimental. Just have a plan to tell yourself, to make yourself relax, and these plans should help you. I don't know if Scott had any little plans in your head.
Scott: Mainly the one for the proctor, and I had a very similar situation to what you did. I only took the test the one time. I had heard from other people on Reddit and on the 7Sage forums about the proctor problems and had told the proctor essentially the same thing. Like, look, I understand if you need to interrupt me, I'm completely okay with that, but please pause the time because, you know, I know in some of these sections, I can just barely make all the questions in time.
And sure enough, I got interrupted, they didn't stop the time. But then I was able to just remind them, hey, well, hold on, I'll do whatever you want, I'll do a room scan, but I need you to stop the time. And sure enough, they actually did. I think you'll generally find all sorts of problems with proctors every time test day rolls around. We see slews of them in the forum and on Reddit.
That said, you know, you'd be amazed the results you can get from just telling the proctor, hey, this is what I need you to do. Because I, at least from my observations, it seems like they've got quite a few things going on at the same time, so sometimes they just need to be reminded of how the rules and the systems are supposed to work.
Brittney: Definitely. The next thing I'm just going to go over really quick is there's a couple of different exercises that you can do to make yourself a mindfulness plan. So one of the first ones that I really like is called a body scan. So basically what it is is you just try to relax your body, sit in a chair, you lay in your bed, whatever it is. And the first thing you want to do is just relax and focus on your breathing. Then you can start with whatever body part. I always start with like my feet and then go to my head.
You'll just feel like you'll just relax your feet and just focus on that, and you'll go through your whole body just doing that, taking one body part, focusing on it, and then letting go. What I always did was if I wanted to do a body scan, I would like scrunch that body part and then let it go. So I'd like point my feet really, really hard, get out all the anxiety, and then just let it go. And it actually just feels like you're just losing so much tension. So that's definitely something I did.
And you can have a modified version of that on the LSAT. For me, mine was always my toes, because I didn't want my proctor to be like, what is this weird girl doing? So I would scrunch my toes really, really hard for like three seconds and then just let them go, and just got all my anxiety out.
Another thing is the five senses drill. So it's about noticing five things you see in the room. So like I have a mouse, I have a water bottle, I have AirPods, I have other things. Then you notice four things you feel, then you notice three things you hear, you notice two things you smell, and you notice one thing you taste.
On the LSAT, for me, I didn't have time to go through the whole drill, which nobody really would. If there's one thing that you find lowers your anxiety the most, for me, it was just feeling something in my environment and focusing on that for two seconds instead of the exam, just two little seconds, that really helped me. So if you have a modified plan for how you're going to relax yourself, using either a body scan, or some type of mantra in your head, or one of the five senses drills, that's definitely a great way to lower your anxiety.
Scott: And I would encourage you, by the way, if you're going to try anything on the LSAT, practice them before you actually take the test. LSAT's a relatively expensive way to experiment on anxiety-lowering techniques, so use other tests. Use other situations in your life that might be causes for anxiety and see which ones of these work. Because I significantly doubt that these are "one size fits all" solutions.
Brittney: Definitely. And then one of my major last points for before the exam is just know when to recharge, in general. When you're studying, recognize that you are feeling burnt out and tell yourself, okay, I need to step away from studying for a minute. And then just some other brief, little random things for before you take your exam.
Learn how to actively read. So you kind of want to visualize what you're reading. What I always say to my clients is pretend what you read you're going to go teach a class on. You don't really need to know those little, little details in Reading Comprehension. You need to understand the structure and the main ideas. So that's what I always tell my clients for active reading and Reading Comprehension.
Another thing is just keeping your paper in a really organized fashion. If anyone here has ever worked with me before, you know I am crazy when it comes to game board setup. You need to set up your board in an effective way because clutter leads to anxiety, which leads to scattered thoughts.
Another thing I found helped me was, in order to improve my focus and lessen my anxiety, I would give myself a task. So for games, I'm going to play a fun game and try to find all of the hidden inferences. That was my task. For Logical Reasoning, I'm going to analyze an argument and pick it apart, and I'm going to engage with the stimulus, act like it matters to me. And for Reading Comprehension, I'm going to read a passage and look for what I just say MAVOT to shorten it: main idea, author's perspective, viewpoints, organization, and tone.
And the last thing I will say is just focus on what you can control when you're studying. Do these things now, don't do them during the test, like Scott just said. Don't go try to do a body scan in the middle of the LSAT. You want to focus on doing these before you take the test, because these are the things you can control. And briefly, during the test, just always have that modified mindfulness exercise, so for me, again, it was like feeling some things in the room.
Remember the beauty of flagging. If you feel anxious and you can't get through a question, flag it and move on and come back. Another thing is to accept what is given. Determine if it's worth skipping or powering through based on what you know, and move on. And remember, it's okay to get a question wrong. Even if you're shooting for a 180, you can get a question wrong. So just relax and know that it's okay if you miss a question.
And then lastly, this one is definitely harder to come up with ideas for, because it's very different. But after your exam is a time where a lot of people have anxiety. Scott, I think you said this was the one that really bugged you, right?
Scott: I've never really had really strong test anxiety. I've had anxiety for public speaking and other areas of my life, but with the LSAT, got blessed in the fact that when I actually sat down to take the test, I was calm as anything and was able to really just kind of focus on my performance. But the anxiety hit pretty much the next morning and for the next three weeks, as I waited for the score, and I had numerous sleepless nights and had myself convinced that I made crazy scores that were way off of my score average.
And almost further I went from the actual day of the test, just, I don't know, I had kind of a cognitive distortion of thinking that my test went differently than it did, and all of these sorts of bizarre things that were kind of intrusive thoughts leading up to the actual score release day. I remember actually my wife and I took a vacation, we went to Hawaii during that time, and like, it was, I actually had to resist one week out, like checking have they released the score yet?
No, they haven't released the score yet. So, I mean, this is actually where I would say it actually had life-impacting ability for a short period of time, anxiety for me right after the test.
Brittney: Yeah, I definitely understand that. I had that in my June, so when I had my August one, I knew I had to come up with a strategy to combat that. What I did is I literally just took my phone, opened up like the notes app, and took notes on how I thought I did right after the exam. Logical Reasoning, oh, I felt really, really good. Maybe I missed like two questions. Just notes about how I felt. I screenshot the notes. I had time receipt and everything.
And then when I had one of those intrusive thoughts, like, oh, what about this? What about this? I would pull up that screenshot, look at it, and be like, okay, this is how I felt exactly after the exam, and that's when I had the test the most fresh in my mind, so that is the most accurate reading of how I think I did. Don't let your anxiety control your thoughts.
I definitely think that's a really good strategy because it kind of just reminds you like, hey, you knew what you were doing in that moment, so read how you actually did. Don't make up all these scenarios in your head. Another thing, I feel like you going to Hawaii was a good thing because keeping busy is definitely a good thing to do.
And then the last thing I'll say, and it's kind of silly and everybody's probably heard it before, is that you can't control the past. So when you try to control the past, you actually lose control of the past because you lose control of your own mind, you lose control of your own thoughts. Don't try to control it. Whatever will be, will be. That's definitely the toughie, though, after the exam.
Scott: All right, do you have anything else?
Brittney: No, I think I'm good unless you do.
Scott: All right. Well, let's go ahead and turn it over for questions. I know this is kind of a different topic than we normally cover, but we'd certainly be happy to answer any questions that we are qualified to answer. This is where I will again remind you of my caveat from the beginning that we are not therapists, we are not psychologists or psychiatrists. We are not capable of dealing with actual medical issues.
But if you have any questions specific to the LSAT, and things, just tips that might be able to help you on the actual exam itself, we'd be happy to answer them. So here's how this works. If you have a question, hit the "raise hand" button. I will try to get to you in more or less the order that you raise your hands, and then I will unmute you, and then you'll be able to ask your question and then we'll give an answer. So for instance, I just saw Hannah. So Hannah, what is your question?
New Speaker: So this is my being in anxiety during the workshop. Let's just talk about that. I was just going to ask, like for, if you guys can give us some tips about how to avoid anxiety and stress for during the study for the LSAT, not during the test, because it's just like, as much as we get closer to the test date, I'm just realizing I'm getting more like panic attacks here and there and just like thinking that I'm not, maybe I'm not ready enough, or still, like I have three, four months to go, but it's just too much stress to deal with. If you guys have any tip or again, during preparation for the test.
Brittney: Yeah, definitely. If you're worrying if you don't feel prepared enough, look at your practice test scores. See how you are doing on your average practice tests. Would you feel comfortable getting that score on test day? Like we were saying in the beginning of the session, don't sign up for the exam if you don't feel ready yet. Don't rush yourself into doing anything.
And then another thing is, as we discussed with effective studying, one of the big things I'll say is keeping that studying diary I think would be really good for you because it sounds like you're having a lot of self-doubt if you studied enough, which is totally something that I experienced too.
So use that diary to write down, this is what I did today to get closer to my goal score. These are my scores right now. These are how I'm doing. These are my successes, these are my failures, and this is how I feel. I think you being able to look back at that will definitely be good for you. And I'm sure Scott might have some ideas too.
Scott: The one thing I'd throw out there is I have probably more experience of this, having spent the past eight years coaching competitive high school debate, as anything else, but one thing I've often remarked on in being in that competitive environment is that students' ability to self-assess their own performance is basically nonexistent. And I've noticed that with a lot of our clients too.
In debate, students come out, they will have one of two reactions about the debate round. Either they will know that they did fantastic and they did awesome, and if they lost that round, then it was obviously the judge, the judge was crooked or there was some cheating or something going on. Or they have the exact opposite where they just can focus only on their own mistakes and all the things that they did wrong, and oh my goodness, we definitely lost, and if we didn't lose, it was just sheer luck.
And what I came to realize after about a year of doing debate is that neither of those reactions has really anything to do with reality. People's own self-assessments guided by a lot of other things but rarely an attention to detail and the facts. So I would encourage you, don't rely too much on your self-assessment of your readiness.
Have someone in your life who hopefully knows something about the LSAT and who can kind of be that second pair of eyes who can tell you, well, no, look, based on the data, you are ready, you should be able to do this and excel at it, because often our own self-assessments are just, are so caught up in our own self-image and all of our background and everything else that they can rarely be relied upon as kind of an accurate and objective measure. Does that help, Hannah?
New Speaker: It did. Thank you so much.
Scott: All right. Now, Alison.
New Speaker: So I know like, and also I have tried before, so I tried to take prep tests in the exact location I'm going to take the actual test, but just like, according to my current schedule, I may need to move our apartments or find a hotel to take the test due to like wi-fi connection and everything. So I'd like to know, do you have any advice to people like me who, like, who can't really take prep test, or can't really always take prep test in the exact location they're going to take the actual test?
Brittney: Definitely. I think this is good life advice, but focus on the things that you can control. Like Scott said, if you're going to take a practice test, eat the meal that you're going to eat on the day of the LSAT before you take the practice test.
Another thing like we talked about, I don't know if you remember, but I was saying always practice under mild stress. So like, if you miss a Logic Game question, you're going to put a quarter in a jar or do two pushups. Those are things that you can control and that you're going to experience regardless of where you take your test. So I think focusing on those things is definitely going to help you. I don't know, Scott, do you have any others to add?
Scott: Sure. Here's what I would say. In an ideal world, you'd be sitting in the same chair at the same desk and using the same wi-fi. Obviously, that's not going to be possible for everyone. So set it up as close as you can. Try to not give yourself a huge, expansive table if that's not what you're going to have on the day of the test.
Something I did, because Logic Games was the thing I really struggled with, it sounds really simple, but I had just a pad of paper and I had a set of pencils that I kept sharpened, and I used the same stupid pencil every single time, I bought like in bulk, I bought like 300 of the things.
Brittney: I got to say, that's a good point. When I change my pen color, it throws me off. Definitely focus on like things like that. Yeah.
Scott: I mean, even if you can't control every single detail, control the details that you can, and certainly, I would say, if you are going to be taking it in a relatively unfamiliar environment on the actual day of the test, for instance, if you're going to be taking it in a hotel room, make sure, check in the day before, and then that evening, make sure the wi-fi is working. Make sure that you've set out the "do not disturb" sign.
Just, in other words, kind of try to anticipate the different ways that that situation can go wrong and try to do something about it, because, one, actually doing something about it will hopefully prevent the things going wrong, but also I think it'll just give you some peace of mind that, okay, well, I've checked all the boxes and I've thought through the different possibilities, and it just kind of gives a sense of calm that, okay, yeah, I have this. I'm ready for this because I've thought through the different things that can go wrong and I have a plan for what's going to happen.
Often in life, and of course, in the LSAT, we can't prevent the things that are going to go wrong, but if we can anticipate them and make a plan for them, often that'll help a lot with our anxiety.
All right, next up, Dale.
New Speaker: Hi, thank you so much for holding this chat. It's been really helpful so far and I've been taking a lot of notes. I have two questions. My first is about not being able to sleep the night before. I've taken the test before, I took it actually in June of 2020, and I couldn't sleep. I couldn't get to bed the whole night, and lately, kind of, it's been, the anxiety's all, it's kind of creeping, it's not just the night before. Like, I'm taking the test again in June and I've had a lot of sleep issues because of it. So I was just wondering if you have any suggestions about that.
And then my second question has to do with the point that Brittany made about, or the suggestion of like putting a quarter in the jar, like doing push-ups if you miss something on the test. I just had a question because, when taking practice tests, I already have kind of test anxiety, so I don't know. Do you think it's still helpful to introduce that extra element of stress when you're already stressed about taking the test? Yeah, so those are my two questions. Thank you both so much.
Scott: As someone who's suffered from insomnia, I'll jump in on that first one. Here's the big thing I would say. I think there are some really good tools that can help for that, but I'd be remiss for me or Brittney to recommend them. I would really encourage you to talk to your general practitioner, talk to a doctor, because often there are things that they can prescribe or recommend, over the counter or otherwise, that can really help with that.
And one thing I will say without naming medications or anything like that, I would encourage you if you use any of those, and I have in the past, make sure you don't try them out for the first time the night before the test. You don't want to take something that's going to make you excessively groggy the next morning. Make sure that you know how you're going to handle any medicine that your doctor gives you. Test day is a poor day for experimentation. But, you know, please feel free, go talk to your doctor about these things, because they really do have quite a few tools that can help you.
Brittney: Yeah, definitely. I go off of everything Scott said. Definitely go to your doctor for that. Little things that I found helped me before I go to sleep is I will play a game in my head. My thing is Tetris. I don't know why. I close my eyes and I picture like all the blocks lining up on top of each other. I'm not sure why that's my thing.
Another thing is, like I said, you can visualize your success and that will help you do better. So if you rest and you just start closing your eyes and thinking about how great you're going to do and how you're going to excel on test day, that might be something that almost helps you look forward to the exam the next day.
And then touching on your next point, the whole point of people taking a quarter in the jar, doing a pushup, is just so they learn how to operate under stress. So if you're already feeling like you're operating under a level of stress that's so high, I would definitely focus on other ways that you can lower it. As we talked about, self-care techniques, improving your way of studying to be a little bit more effective.
I don't think you necessarily need to go for the 80 pushup realm because you're already definitely operating under stress. So I would just take it easy on yourself and just see if this amount of stress that you're having while you're taking the practice test, just make sure that's the same amount that you kind of have on the real thing. I know you said you've taken it before. If it's a lot less than on the real thing, maybe throw a pushup in there, but don't do anything too crazy.
New Speaker: Thank you both so much.
Scott: Of course. And then Aroshi?
New Speaker: Hi. Awesome. Thanks so much. And yes, you pronounced it correctly. It's Aroshi. My question is about anxiety regarding taking fresh PTs, because, so I've been at the LSAT for a couple of years now. I took it once last summer and once in the winter, and I have about 13 or 14 absolutely fresh PTs left, and they're all from the late seventies and eighties, and meaning like PT number 80, et cetera.
And I have had a really hard time just kind of biting the bullet and starting to take them, because I don't feel like I'm ready to take them yet, because I have this thought that, okay, well, I need to be performing at a certain level to, like, be able to deserve to take the last PTs almost. And I'm wondering if you have any advice about that, aside from, I guess, just, you know, going back and cycling through old PTs, which is probably, you know, the intuitive thing to do. But, yeah.
Scott: So one thing that I do with clients who are really short on PTs and don't have very many left is we actually kind of create a PT budget for, are we going to use these remaining PTs in the days leading up to the test? Because, again, they are a scarce resource, and luckily, you haven't run them all the way down, 13, I think you said 13 or 14, which is, you can do a lot with that many.
But I would definitely space out your use of those and make sure that you're getting the full use of it. And I guess really, in terms of, you know, dealing with the anxiety of that, I would just say, make a plan. For me, at least, when dealing with a scarce resource, whether money or practice tests, coming up with a plan for how I'm going to spend it is often helpful.
Then when I know that I'm following the plan, I'm not just splurging, I'm not just spending whatever makes sense to my gut. Well, it eases the anxiety because, okay, well, I know I've set aside that I have this many PTs and I am taking the exam here, and even if I need to take a second exam, I would only need this many. And, okay, so I'm taking them according to schedule and it makes sense to use them.
And of course there's a lot of different ways you can make the most out of previously used PTs. So I would certainly be drilling off of those. If there's anything you haven't foolproofed off of those, make sure you're using it. Oftentimes, if people studied for earlier tests during the time of the Flex, there are entire LG sections or LR sections, for instance, that they had just never looked at, so those are an invaluable resource, especially if that's an area of the test that you struggle with.
So make sure you go back through all of the stuff that you've seen before and make the most out of that. Missed questions can be fantastic for drill sets and for review. So go back through and make sure you've used the, all of the previous material and make a plan for how you can use the new stuff. Do you have anything to throw in there, Brittney?
Brittney: No, I think you hit it. I think the idea of going back to old questions too that you missed is definitely a good idea, so definitely keep a wrong answer journal and be updating that because I think that's a very good point too.
Scott: All right. We've got a couple of questions. Feel free, by the way, if anyone else wants to raise their hand, we'd be glad to take more of your questions. But then I also have a couple that apparently they don't have access to audio and so they've asked in chat. So we have one person who asked, how many months did you study for the test and how do you balance/fit in studying for school and the LSAT? So Brittney, you go ahead and tackle this one since I think I partially answered it already.
Brittney: Yeah, no worries. I think we kind of hit on it in the beginning. To be honest, I studied about six months for the LSAT exam, which is probably not the best amount of time. I'm a, I was a philosophy major in college, so I definitely had a preexisting idea of logic and things like that. My studying process might not be the same as others.
But as we discussed before, really take as much time as you can to study, and don't worry about signing up for the LSAT on X day. It doesn't really matter when you take the LSAT. Don't sign up for the LSAT until you feel like your studying is adequate, and until you're scoring the scores that you want on your practice exams. The answer is like TBD, to be determined, on how many months that you need to study. I'd say it's probably more than six months, but don't rush yourself through it.
Scott: Yeah, let me jump in there with one other point on that, and that is that the length of time that you're going to need to study for the LSAT is going to depend a lot on how much time you can study per day for the LSAT. So there are people who, for various life situations, are able to make studying for the LSAT their full-time gig. They can apply, you know, four, six, eight hours a day to that. They're going to progress through the material a lot faster than someone who can only give 30 minutes or an hour a day.
And to be clear, both of those people have the potential to do fantastic on the LSAT and to get to their goal score. The difference is the person who only has 30 minutes or an hour, they're going to need more months because they're spending less time per day, but that's okay. So just make sure that you plan accordingly.
I would say that six months is a good general average, but if you're, as you kind of pointed out, if you're having to balance fitting in studying with the school, or in my case, I had a full-time teaching job while I was studying for the LSAT, many people that we tutor are kind of in a similar situation where they have just a lot of other things happening in their life. That's okay.
Study, devote as much time as you can, and just be comfortable with the fact, or be flexible with the idea of, well, it might take me, if I can only study 30 minutes a day, it might take me nine months instead of six months, and let that be okay.
I'll also throw out that finding an expert who can help you, whether that be a tutor with our program or someone who's in your life who's just knowledgeable with the LSAT, can also save you a lot of time in studying. I think that's one of the biggest values of you getting some expert help. I think people studying on their own can do wonders in getting their goal score, but often having an expert who can advise you can really kind of help you to avoid a lot of dead ends and a lot of wasted time studying for the LSAT.
In my case, I studied for six hours a day for 10 weeks. Looking back on it, I realize that a lot of the stuff that I did in the six hours a day was absolutely worthless. It did nothing to improve my score in any way. And I get that from a lot of our clients as well, that they realize when they start working, it's, oh, well, now that I see the drills and the study habits that actually improve my LSAT score, I realize that, my goodness, I could have done this with half the effort if I would've just actually had good advisors who could have told me, do these things and don't worry about these other unnecessary things.
Brittney: Yeah, and then the second part of that question is how do you balance/fit in studying for school and the LSAT? I'll say that when I was studying for the LSAT, I was an undergrad, so it definitely is something challenging to do. What I always did is my thing is PowerPoint slides. You don't have to do PowerPoint slides, but always planning out your day in a visual way.
So like maybe you take a piece of paper and divide it into seven rows and kind of time out, okay, this is when I'm going to study for school, and this is when I'm going to study for LSAT. For me, it just happened to be slide shows because I thought it was more visually fun for me. The second part that I was going to say is make sure that you kind of separate where you're doing your LSAT and where you're doing your school stuff, just so you kind of have a break when you're doing each thing and that you're not combining both of them.
And then as Scott said, remember, if you're not studying, like Scott was studying six hours a week, you must have been on your summer break. Is that what it was, from school or something?
Scott: No, I just wasn't sleeping very much.
Brittney: Oh, okay. So Scott was not sleeping very much.
Scott: I'm not recommending that as a healthy study strategy. I want to be clear on that point.
Brittney: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But just remember, if you're trying to study while you're in school, maybe you can only do two hours a day, you might just need a longer period of time to study. So just remember all that and it will all work out.
Scott: Right. I noticed that there are several more questions. We're actually at the end of our time, but here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give just a quick little talk on, let anyone who doesn't have a question go ahead and go, and then we will answer questions from anyone who remains for as long as there are people who do that.
So first, if you heard this and thought it was brilliant, and you would like to spend more time with us and with people like us, please see the link that I just posted. That's a link to our tutoring page. You can essentially hire people just like Brittney or, in fact, literally Britteny, if you would like to, and she would be glad to help you with your LSAT study.
And if you're curious about our tutoring program, and you're just not sure if it's the right thing for you, the second link I just posted is a link that you can use to schedule a consult with several of our tutors. Essentially, you get 30 minutes where you can ask any questions about our program, they can explain to you how the process actually works, and we'll even glance over your analytics and kind of tell you whether we think that tutoring would be a good fit for you.
So please avail yourself of those resources. If you guys would like to hang around for at least a few more minutes while we answer these last few questions, also feel free to do that. With that in mind, we have one from Yehune, hope I said that right, basically asking, how do you make the best out of the week of the LSAT?
So a couple of things I would say on that one is know that the week before the LSAT, you are not going to dramatically improve your score. You're not suddenly going to learn how to do Logic Games in the seven days before you take the LSAT. But what you can absolutely do by studying improperly is really tank your score in that last week. So I would encourage you, the week before the LSAT, lower your study time down pretty dramatically.
I didn't take any practice tests the week before the LSAT. I took timed sections, but it was on a much reduced schedule. I went from studying six hours to studying no more than an hour a day leading into the day of the test. I also encourage you, if you get a chance, if about a week before you take and get a really good practice test score, let that be your last practice test. Kind of end on a good note, because I think that will kind of carry through your confidence into the day of the test.
An analogy I make often, if you were a marathon runner and you were constantly training for the day of the big race, I mean, you might be doing some really long runs leading up to that, but the week before, you're going to let your body and your muscles recharge and heal before you really go make that big epic run at the very end of it.
Same is true with the LSAT. There's a period of training where you're working yourself incredibly hard and you're exhausting yourself getting there, and then the week before, you really need to kind of let you and your body and your mind unwind a little bit, because that's really what's going to help you get your perfect score. Don't wear yourself out in that last week. Do you have something to add there, Brittney?
Brittney: Really briefly, I will say that one of the big things is keeping your confidence up in the last week. As Scott said, if you get that really, really good practice score a week out, don't take another one. It's all about improving your confidence and also just keeping your mind sharp.
Scott: All right. And looks like we have one more question here from Janet. She asks, this is my question. What if you messed up in your first exam so much that you constantly worry if you're not going to achieve a better score next time?
Brittney: Yeah, definitely. I feel like I can kind of sympathize with that because I felt similarly. I think the good thing is, though, you made mistakes in the past, and now you kind of know what those mistakes are. At least try to figure out what those mistakes are and have a plan for how to combat those mistakes on your next exam and how to avoid having those mistakes again.
In a way, just look at it as a trial run. You noticed all the little errors, like if it's a car driving down the road, at least you've figured out what was wrong with your engine before you drove across the country or something like that. Look at it as a positive thing. Again, I'm an optimist, so some of my stuff may be too positive, but look at it as a positive thing, notice the issues, write them down, and have plans on how you're going to fix those issues and not have them be an issue in the future.
Scott: All right. And one last thing I'll kind of throw in on that is remember that the past performance does not necessarily indicate how you're going to do next time. It's easy for us to think that. There's entire fallacies devoted to that. But really, just the fact that you did badly next time, all that means is that you did bad last time just means that you did bad last time. It doesn't make any predictions about your future performance. The best thing that you can do is learn from it.
I see this with people taking PTs a lot as well, that they're worried about taking hard PTs because they don't want to see a low score, when the reality is, no, you want to take the really hard PTs. If there's a PT out there that is going to cause your average score to tank, you need to take that so that you can figure out what about it makes your score tank so that on the day of the exam, that's not going to happen again.
Don't be afraid to screw up on this thing. Everyone screws up on this thing. Everybody has bad tests. But the difference between people who truly master the LSAT and people who just muddle along are the people who master it get good at recognizing those mistakes, diagnosing those mistakes, and fixing those mistakes.
Everyone has bad test days, but the true masters learn to turn those bad test days into long-term success. And I think that's probably as good a place as we're going to find to end this. Thank you guys so much for showing up today. Again, please feel free to book a consult or to purchase some tutoring time if you're interested in that. And otherwise, I'll be seeing you on the forums. Good luck and good luck in your studying and on your future LSATs. Take care.
Brittney: Bye, everyone.
J.Y.: Hey, it's J.Y. again. Thanks for listening, and I hope you got some good advice that you can implement in your own studies. If you are thinking about working with a tutor, get in touch. We'll do a free consultation. You can reach us on 7Sage.com.
That's it for this episode. Take care of yourself, and see you next time.