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Minimizing Your LSAT Anxiety, Explained Through Four Scenarios

Anxiety affects virtually every LSAT student in one way or another. After all, it’s a test that could impact your entire career. The good news is that you can prepare yourself to handle some of the most stressful situations students deal with on the LSAT and learn how to minimize that anxiety on exam day. Let’s look at some of the most high-pressure LSAT scenarios students face, so you’ll be ready for them on your exam.

Scenario 1: You’re eleven minutes into your first practice exam and it’s clear that the LSAT is not the thing you were secretly a genius in.

Solution: You just started on your LSAT journey, so don’t hang all of your expectations on one question, or even this one test. At the same time, choosing all of the “C” answers and calling it a day won’t give you very much to learn from. Scan the questions and start with those that make the most sense to you. Even if you aren’t wildly confident that you can find the correct answer, you can probably eliminate some answer choices. Your comfort with the questions will likely build from one to the other, but the most important thing is that you’re learning to lean on a methodical approach when you feel that test anxiety creeping up.

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Scenario 2: You’re chugging along through a section of logical reasoning when you get hit with a really long question, and on first read, it sounds like the ramblings of a philosopher waking up from dental surgery. After you’ve narrowed your answer down to two options, you glance at the timer. Immediately, your mind goes into a frenzy because you realize you’ve sunk way too much time into this question and there’s no way you’re going to finish the test.

Solution: Remind yourself that, if this is a practice test, you can use this experience to train yourself to manage your time, so you’ll be ready to handle the stress of the actual LSAT exam. Take a few moments to breathe, and then make the most of the remaining time. With just minutes left, you can guess on the remaining questions. Then you can give your attention to the questions you feel most comfortable with, leaving your most difficult questions for the end. Since every question is weighted equally, you can decide which ones are most worthy of your time.

Scenario 3: Your mom talked to Phyllis from her book club and learned that Phyllis’s son scored a 179 on the LSAT and got a nice scholarship from Fancy Shmancy School of Law. Your mom thinks it would be a good idea if you got an LSAT score like Phyllis’s son and maybe called him to talk about how he did that. Now you can’t open an LSAT textbook without comparing your performance to someone you literally only know as “Son of Phyllis,” and so you watch 5 hours of Netflix, attempting vainly to burry your LSAT anxiety in re-runs of The Office.

Solution: Comparing yourself to others can make every practice exam feel like a test of your self-worth, so focus instead on defining yourself by the habits within your immediate control, like your persistence and your discipline—then pause to appreciate when those habits pay off. You should celebrate each of your personal victories, like a new personal best on the Reading Comprehension section.

Scenario 4: You’ve made it to your official exam day and everything is going well—until you get the second test section. It feels like the most difficult section of any LSAT you’ve ever worked on. You’re sure that your score just took a nosedive and a feeling of defeat overwhelms you. How can you muddle through another 75 questions about clowns and weight loss studies when it feels like your law school dreams have already been shattered?

Solution: The good news is [if you’re reading this] you are most definitely not taking your official LSAT exam at this moment. The best thing you can do to combat anxiety on your official exam is to mentally prepare for all possible situations ahead of time. On the one hand, you’re going to take the LSAT seriously, like you’re competing in your own Olympic event. But at the same time, you should prepare for the unexpected to occur. You should remember that: (1) any particular section of the test could be the un-scored experimental section, and (2) if the worst comes to pass, even the official exam is an opportunity to learn something you can bring to an LSAT retake as an even stronger student.