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How March Madness is Like the LSAT

We’re nearing the time when March Madness bleeds into April. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has reached the Final Four; games this Saturday and next Monday will narrow it down from Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and Kansas to one champion.

Meanwhile, many future law students are gearing up for some April and May madness of their own, studying for the June LSAT. Whereas one of these events is a team sport in which highly trained athletes try to send a round ball through the net, the other is an individual intellectual endeavor in which the only round things are the bubbles on the answer sheet.

Nonetheless, there are more similarities between the NCAA tournament and the LSAT than you might think:

The right kind of preparation is key. The teams in the Final Four have been practicing since before the season started and it’s highly unlikely that their practices have consisted of just playing 5-on-5. Instead, they’ve broken the game down into its constituent parts and worked on honing their plays and their responses to various situations. LSAT test takers would be wise to heed their example. Don’t just do LSAT prep test after LSAT prep test in the hope that brute force will boost your LSAT score. Instead, make sure that you know how to deal with anything the LSAT might throw at you. Make sure you know your game plan for each kind of LSAT question. Practice at a slower pace until you know what you’re doing, and then work on applying your new expertise to game situations (full LSAT prep tests).

Buzzer-beaters feel great. There’s no feeling quite like seeing that 3-pointer bring your favorite team from a 2-point deficit to a 1-point lead with less than a second left — if any time’s left at all. Being the one who makes the shot must be an even greater feeling. Buzzer-beaters can also send a dagger through your heart if your team is on the losing end. On the LSAT, however, buzzer-beaters can only feel good. When you knock down in that last bubble a split second before time is called, you’re a winner. One difference from the NCAA Tournament: your LSAT proctors and I would recommend that you refrain from excessive jubilation.

Upsets can happen. Just ask 2-seeded Duke, which fell this year to No. 15 seed Lehigh in the first round — excuse me, second round (this 68-team business is just weird). Likewise, some LSAT test takers will go in and score below what they know they can do. The answer? More preparation. In addition to practicing as I discussed above, make sure you have game experience. Especially toward the end of your LSAT prep, make sure that you take diagnostic LSAT tests in realistic conditions: 5 sections, timed, in one sitting with only one break, with a bubble sheet. If you can take them in a room with other LSAT test takers and a proctor, that’s even better. You want to know what game day feels like so that nerves won’t get the better of you. You want to get into Duke. Not be Duke.