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Kai’s LSAT Story: How I Got My 177

Today’s post comes to us from Kai, a former Blueprint student who is currently in the midst of the law school application process. He was recently admitted to a Top 5 program.

Preparing for the LSAT reminds me of a mud/obstacle race I recently ran. Any path that looks smooth is likely hiding something (there was so much gravel in that mud pit). If you don’t pace yourself early, you’ll be too exhausted for the most difficult obstacles. And, the decisions and preparation you make before race day matter more than anything you do mid-race.

If you scour the internet, you can find lots of competing advice about how to prep for the LSAT. Take two seconds to Google and you’ll find three opinions on how to think about the test, which game strategies are best, which Logical Reasoning questions to do first or consider skipping, etc.

However, discussions about managing life while studying for the LSAT are less common. At three and a half hours of testing time (not including breaks and the ridiculously long time it can take for the exam to begin), the LSAT is an endurance test. Similarly, LSAT prep is a marathon.

There may be better individuals qualified to give you advice; however, here’s what worked for me in jumping 13 points in two months to achieve a 177.

1. LSAT prep requires a new life routine…
Learning the LSAT is like learning a foreign language. Picking up and internalizing all the little test aspects (how to specifically interpret “or” in a Logic Game, for example) takes a sort of immersion.

You’ll need to find the time to get your test prep in. For me, that meant 2-3 hours a day Monday-Thursday, an hour or two on Friday, and about 5 hours each day of prep on the weekend. It meant learning which question types I needed work on and then doing focused, timed problem sets until I improved. It also meant taking every possible practice exam I could find.

It can be brutal trying to fit that much studying into your work and school schedule, so be realistic about how many hours you can study per day. (This may mean delaying your exam to get an extra couple of months for prep.) But, if you’re going to do the LSAT, it is imperative to carve out the necessary time you’ll need to improve and obtain your desired score. This is especially true since some schools average your LSAT scores or otherwise disfavor multiple LSAT scores. Best to do it right the first time.

2) … but choose your routine carefully.
Smoker? Now’s probably not the best time to quit cold turkey. Want to lose weight? Now’s probably not the time to go on a 10-week crash diet. Not a morning person? If you’re planning to get up at 3:15 AM every morning and study for three hours, it probably won’t work.

My Blueprint teacher said something to that effect on the first day of class. I tried to ignore him by dieting, increasing exercise and starting a new sleep routine at the beginning of my course/study routine. Three weeks later, I found that these choices were interfering with both my energy levels and my studies. I abandoned the diet, scaled back the exercise and came up with a more reasonable sleep routine. (After I completed the test, I resumed those other, arguably more ambitious goals… to varying levels of success.)

It’s probably ineffective to attempt to fix all your less desirable habits all at once. Since the LSAT was a temporary piece of my life, I found it best to postpone certain life changes and concentrate on improving my score in the near-term.

3. Vary your test environments and get used to non-ideal test conditions.
I like listening to music when I study. Unfortunately, like parents in 1988, those working at LSAC just don’t understand.

LSAC has a very specific list of things that cannot be brought into the test room. Not surprisingly, you can’t bring your iPod and your catalog of 10,000 mp3s. However, to many of my classmates’ surprise, earplugs are among those banned items.

Due to human error, test conditions are rarely perfect. And, without earplugs, test-takers are stuck with loud coughers, the occasional bathroom break-er, and proctors who inadvertently hit the button for the projector screen, making noise for 10 minutes (true story).

If, like me, you get distracted by what’s happening around you when you’re studying, it’s imperative to begin limiting that problem as soon as possible. For me, this meant completing timed test questions and full tests in places like coffee shops and other noisy campus areas. After a couple of weeks, I was able to focus enough to block out most of the distractions. Considering the ambient noise in my testing room, it was a necessary and helpful skill on test day.

Note: many LSAT timers, including Blueprint’s online timer, include ambient noise. Make good use of this feature.

4. Get friends and family to help support you and balance your life.
Without the help of family and friends, I don’t think my test day would have been successful.

I like hanging out with my wife, my dogs, my friends and my family. I doubt I’m alone in this regard. So, when I get invited to grab a beer or go to a movie, I have a difficult time declining. My friends and family were key in making sure I struck a balance between accepting and declining invitations. If I had studied all day, they would be careful to take me out; if I had been relaxing all day, they would threaten to shun me until I studied.

It can be hard to strike a healthy balance, and having those you love guiding you is an incredibly valuable thing. In my opinion, that balance increases the likelihood of a great score.

5. Find other LSAT prep students and make friends.
You take a prep test together then go get a beer (or several). You meet for coffee, talk about how the test is stressing you out, and decompress.

This aspect might not be the most critical, but it is nice having your own LSAT support group. Having that extra bit of encouragement and shared experience can pay dividends for your mental health, and that mutual reassurance can sustain your ability to push through the mental hurdles of LSAT prep.

6. When overwhelmed, spend 5 minutes looking at cute photos of dogs on the internet.
The value of such an activity is simply undeniable.

Anyway, this is what worked for me. But, whatever you do to pursue your ideal score and dream law school, I wish you success.