Getting the Most Out of Your Thanksgiving Break
- Nov 22, 2017
- General LSAT Advice, LSAT
Thanksgiving is upon us. A holiday in which we commemorate an event that may or may not have happened and may or may not have been an actual Thanksgiving ceremony, in which of a bunch of Pilgrims and Puritans and Wampanoag tribe members (who had just been devastated by disease and who just got hoodwinked into giving up 12,000 acres of their land) allegedly sat down for a feast. We do this while blithely ignoring Wampanoag descendants’ insistence that this was probably a less chill endeavor than your little brother’s second grade play suggests.
Anyway, we celebrate this perhaps apocryphal account by eating foods that we deem too bland, time consuming, or insalubrious to eat on any other day. We do this while engaging in repetitive small talk with tertiary family members as the Detroit Lions play uninspired football in the background. We hope that no one brings up
Bush Obama Trump. Then, after hearing the same debunked musings on soporific effects of tryptophan, we slink off to an early sleep so we can rise early to dutifully feed the capitalist machine.
So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Thanksgiving is not that great of a holiday. But if you’re studying for the LSAT, you’re in luck. You have an out. So if your uncle, who’s on his third Wild Turkey and knows you have an interest in the law, decides to give you his hot take on judicial overreach and the travel ban, you’ll know what to say. “Sorry, I gotta study, Uncle Franky.” Or if your grandma inquires about that “nice boy” you dated six years ago in high school. “Sorry nana, I really should hit the books.” Or if your mom requests that you clean up your aunt’s casserole dish. “Ahh wish I could but these logical fallacies aren’t going to study themselves.”
In this last weekend before the big test, you may come to appreciate the LSAT more than ever. It will your way to shirk familial responsibilities, skirt political discussions with your grandparents, and avoid being trampled to death at some godforsaken Best Buy on Friday.
But once you’re sequestered from your family, then what? How are you going to make the most of your time? Follow this advice, and the last weekend of studying will be (ahem) gravy.
Nail down the strategies for each section
Ideally, you’ve been hard at work the last few months mastering the approaches for each LR question type, logic game, and RC passage, and now you’re extremely accurate on those without any time pressure. If you’re not there yet, well, you have to start by acquiring that accuracy. For Logical Reasoning, especially, you should know every step in the strategy for every question type. Period. You should have practiced this approach so much that going step by step through these is second nature to you at this point. If you don’t have the strategies down, then that’s where you should start in your review.
Additionally, you should have a pretty good idea about which LR question types you’re solid on and which you can still improve on. If you’re still having trouble with any of the really common questions — such as Soft Must Be True, Flaw, Strengthen, Weaken, or Necessary questions — or with the big, fundamental concepts — like diagramming and the logical fallacies — then go back get some review and untimed practice.
For Reading Comprehension, try to determine which kinds of questions you miss most often. Do they tend to be questions that ask you about the big picture stuff in the passage, like the main point, the primary purpose, the author’s attitude, or the organization? Or do they tend be more specific questions that ask for what the passage “states” or “indicates” or what can be “inferred” from the passage? If the former, that means you could do a better job of understanding the structure of the passage. Practice identifying how many viewpoints are presented in the passage, and marking where in the passage the conclusions to those viewpoints are. If the latter, practice tagging — making annotations in the margins of the passage — and using those to find the support to answer those questions.
At this point for logic games, it’s really important that you have all the basics absolutely nailed down. You should know how to symbolize every ordering rule and how to “read” an ordering chain to make deductions. You should know which games you should play the numbers on and how to do so. You should know every grouping rule backwards and forwards. You should know which rules are always good for scenarios on ordering games and grouping games. If you feel shaky on any of these, review. It can even be helpful to go back and re-do old games, to reinforce good habits.
So start by making sure you have the strategies down for each section. Hopefully at this point there are only a few things you still have to do review, because it’s important to get this review early, leaving plenty of time for timed practice.
Get a lot of timed practice, but take the review seriously
The bulk of your review this weekend should come in the form of timed practice. I recommend doing at least two practice exams this weekend, but if you can do more, by all means. If your schedule doesn’t give you time to do this many exams, just do one 35-minute section at a time. It’s also a good idea to focus on the more recent, more representative exams at this point — the post-2015 exams, preferably.
Also, treat these exams as an opportunity to experiment with how you distribute your timing for each section. A lot of times, a big score increase comes from figuring out how to dedicate your precious 35 minutes to the questions you have the best chances of answering correctly. For LR especially, it’s important to practice cutting ties with a question, guessing something, and moving on, without wasting too much time on that question. If you read a question and you have no idea what’s going on, just guess and move on. If you read a question, and you’re having trouble anticipating the deduction or fallacy or anything, go to the answer choices. If you can only eliminate one or two, just guess and move on. Don’t waste time on these questions. Save that time for other questions you’ll be much more likely to answer correctly. Only if you can eliminate all but two should re-read the stimulus and try to figure out which one is right.
After taking and scoring an exam, it’s helpful to do blind review of the LR questions you missed and the games and passages you didn’t do super well on. Do those questions/games/passages again, without seeing the right answer(s) or the answer(s) you selected. If you’re able to nail it untimed, that’s a good sign. You know how to do that type of question/game/passage. It was just timing/test nerves getting to you on that exam. Fixing that will entail more timed practice, so you’ll want to do another test/timed section. On the other hand, if you can’t nail that question/game/passage on the second try, then that’s a sign that you should review your notes on that question/game/passage type and get some untimed review to work on your accuracy on that.
But take some time to yourself
It’s important to work hard this last week and a half, but don’t overdo it. Be reasonable with how hard you’re pushing yourself. Don’t do anything crazy like taking a practice exam at midnight after a day of studying. Anything past 6 hours a day is kind of pushing it. You want to be well rested and sharp, both for the practice exams you take and for the actual exam. Make sure you’re eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and keeping active.
Also, if you take a practice exam next Tuesday or Wednesday and it goes really well and you felt really good while taking it, there’s nothing wrong with making that your last practice exam. End on a high note. And definitely don’t do anything on the Friday before the exam. Just relax and recharge on that day. Whatever marginal improvements you could make that last day would be outweighed by the burn-out and fatigue you’ll feel on test day. Instead, engage in some self-care, exercise, meditation, power poses, daily affirmations incantations, or just eat something tasty.
And get some of the practical day-of-test-stuff out of the way
Finally, use this last week and a half to review the mostly ridiculous rules regarding the day of the test, which can be found here. Make sure to get your Ziplock bag together with No. 2 wooden pencils, erasers, your admission ticket, ID, a snack, a beverage, and anything else you might need that they allow. It’s also a good idea to do a run through to your testing center before the day of the exam, just so you know how to get there, where to park, where to check in, and all that stuff.
And that’s it. From Most Strongly Supported and Blueprint LSAT, we want to wish you the best of luck in your studies and happiest of Thanksgivings.
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