Are You Scoring in the 170s? Here Are Tips to Score Higher.
- Feb 25, 2016
- General LSAT Advice, LSAT
I scored a 180 on the LSAT. It’s only okay to brag about this publicly when you teach the LSAT; otherwise you might as well just come out and admit you smell funny. It wasn’t the first time I took the LSAT — that time my score was 171, thanks mostly to a less than stellar games section. Let’s talk about some tips for breaking into the highest reaches of the score distribution if you’re already hitting 170-ish.
Make the easy questions easy.
If you’re scoring pretty high already, you’re probably missing hard questions more often than easy ones. Easy questions still matter. Games were always my weakest section; the first time I took the LSAT I got stuck on a hard game and ran out of time.
When I got a perfect score, I was better at games in general. I was better at figuring out tough games, but I think it’s just as important that I was more confident with the easy stuff. Give me a standard, predictable game and I knew I could knock it out. I finished the first game in four or five minutes, no sweat. That afforded me more time and energy to deal with the hard stuff, which in turn made the hard stuff less stressful. The same goes for the other sections, of course — if you can get the easy stuff done, well, easily, it makes the hard stuff that much less daunting.
A corollary of this is that it’s important to know the LSAT’s standards for what’s right and wrong even for question types you find easy. The first time I took the LSAT, I missed a Main Point question. I hadn’t really studied them because I didn’t get them wrong. On test day, I let outside biases talk me out of the right answer. Had I been really clear about what’s required for the right answer, I doubt I would have made that mistake.
Know what makes things right and what makes them wrong.
Logical Reasoning is my strongest section. I very seldom get anything wrong. I’m not above making mistakes, but most of my mistakes don’t result in a wrong answer. Since I evaluate every answer from both sides, I have to make two mistakes to get a question wrong: I have to think a wrong answer is right, and I have to think the right answer is wrong.
Maybe answer (A) is right, but I miss it on first glance. Nothing looks right. No big deal. Four answers are wrong. Even if they’re tempting, I can see the details that make some of them wrong. I know I missed something, so I circle back and find why one of the answers is right.
Or maybe answer (B) looks good, but then I read on and (D) looks good, too. No big deal. One of them is wrong. I haven’t noticed the wrong thing yet, but it’s there and I just have to find it. Or maybe one answer is a solid maybe, but I can eliminate the other four.
The best way to develop this skill is to review your practice tests the right way. If you got a question right, but you were only 90% sure in the right answer, or you just knew the answer was right but didn’t know why something else was wrong, now’s your chance to figure it out: what exactly would the test writers say if you asked them why the wrong answer is wrong? It’s not just inferior but wrong; that’s how they wrote the LSAT. Why would it never be right? Similarly, if you get a question right by elimination, your job is to figure out why the right answer works.
Don’t let the quest for a 180 ruin your 175.
A 178 puts you in the 99.9th percentile of test takers. That’s one in a thousand. Not going to happen for most people. Yale’s 75th percentile score is a 176. Realistically, how much will those few points have on your admission chances?
If you’re shooting for a 180 on test day, every question becomes super important. It’s hard to let go of a question that’s giving you trouble, because you need every point. Let go. If you have time, you can come back to it. If you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. But if you get stuck on one question, or you let it distract you, that can be a way to really mess up your LSAT score.
This approach can even help you get a 180. The day I got mine, I’ll admit it: I was going for a 180 and nothing less — I knew I could do it on practice tests so I was going to do it on the real thing. Probably not the best approach, but at least I was confident. Still, I skipped the third game at first. Why? I looked at it and I didn’t like it. I went on to the fourth game and then came back to the third. When I hit the third game for real, I knew that I had plenty of time left and nothing but that game to conquer. Having my mind clear helped me get it done.
If you have any questions or 180 stories of your own, share away in the comments!
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