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Practice Exam 1? Forget About It

April just started, which means that nearly every one of the Blueprint spring classroom courses, which prepare aspiring law students for the June LSAT, has begun. Which means, if you’re one of the many Blueprint students in these classes, you have just taken LSAT Practice Test 1. Or, if you’re using Blueprint’s online course and you’re following the schedule we laid out for you, you’ve recently taken Practice Exam 1. Or — we’re an inclusive bunch — maybe you’re using a different study plan to prepare for the June LSAT, and you’re just here for a little extra advice. In that case, you should have recently taken a baseline diagnostic test before you began your studies in earnest. And hey, if you want to call that “Practice Exam 1” like all the cool Blueprint students, you do your thing.

At any rate, you should have taken a practice exam recently, before you had the time to look at any LSAT questions, or do any prep work, or perhaps even know what the LSAT entailed. And I’m going to guess it did not go as well as you hoped. I’m very confident in this guess, because I have taught hundreds of students who were once in your current position, and nearly every single one of them had the same reaction: “That sucked, my score is way lower than I thought it would be, and I’m seriously ready to panic.”

My point is not that your misery has company, however. The point I want to drive home is the same point I tell every student in your current position: Don’t worry about the score you got on Practice Exam 1. That score is in no way determinative of the score you’re going to get on the real LSAT. Yes, our students average an impressive 11-point score increase throughout the class, but that’s not determinative either. I’ve had many students earn 20 to 30 point increases throughout a single class, to say nothing of the students who take more time to improve their scores even more. But that’s still missing the point. If you’re focusing on your score right now, you’re focusing too much on your ultimate destination. And right now, you shouldn’t be focused on your destination, you should be focused on [cue the maudlin and #inspirational strings] your journey.

OK, that’s admittedly cornball, but it’s true. We don’t make you take Practice Exam 1 because we care about the score you get on it. We also don’t make you take Practice Exam 1, in case you have these concerns, for any of the following reasons: to torture you, to rank you against your fellow students, to sort the salvageable students from the hopeless, or to discourage and/or frustrate your ambitions. We make you take Practice Exam 1 because it’s an important first step in the journey that is studying for the LSAT. And because you’re perhaps a little shaken up right now, let us enumerate why exactly we made you take Practice Exam 1 and why it’s such an important first step in your LSAT prep.

1. To Show You What the LSAT Is

Most people start their LSAT studies without knowing much about the test. Ask a dozen different prospective J.D.s what they think the LSAT tests, and you’ll get a dozen different answers. “I don’t know, it’s like the bar … but easier?” “I think it’s to see if you can think like a lawyer?” “I don’t know, but I hope my four years earning a Political Science degree will help.” All of these miss the mark, significantly.

We could spend some time upfront correcting these misconceptions, and try to explain what, exactly, the LSAT is and what skills it tests. But doing that is very difficult, abstract, and, frankly, boring. The Law School Admissions Council, who write and administer this exam and should be best able to explain what the LSAT is and what skills it tests, tried to do that and the results are mostly confounding.

Instead, we at Blueprint believe in experiential learning. We’d rather throw you into the proverbial lion’s den and have you learn, in a very direct way, what the LSAT is and what skills it tests. That way, we can get straight to the important business once classes start and teach you how to master the concepts and skills that the LSAT tests.

2. To Motivate You Throughout Your Studies

OK, so you now know what the LSAT is, but you’re also intimately aware that it’s a difficult and at times frustrating exam. The difficulty of this exam is well-documented and notorious, and I could site a bunch of statistics to drive this point home. Let me use just one: On the typical LSAT, the median test taker (which, I know we’re probably not math types, let’s just say is tantamount to the “average” test taker) only answers correctly about 58 to 60 of the approximately 100 scored multiple choice questions. So, the average test taker misses almost every other question. And this is after months of preparation. And with the benefit of getting to guess without penalty on any question. You could make a reasonable case that the LSAT is not only difficult, but twisted in its sadism.

So yeah, it’s hard, and improving requires a ton of effort. Plus, you get better by continuously practicing real LSAT problems, passages, and games. In other words, you get better by continually subjecting yourself to the same torturous material that gave you panic on your first practice exam. At times, this whole experience will feel frustrating and fruitless. But, with the right preparation and sufficient perseverance, you can and will improve.

Think of Practice Exam 1 as your low point. If this were a sports movie, we could say that you are currently Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger being left off of the dress list before the big game against Georgia Tech. Or that you are Rocky Balboa, seeing former-rival-but-current-friend-and- confidant brutally killed, in front of God, the Communists, James Brown, in an exhibition boxing match. Or that you are Air Bud, being taken back by your alcoholic and potentially-abuse former owner right before the championship basketball game.

If this were a sports movie, getting past this low point would be easy. There would be a pep talk from a quasi-magical figure or a training montage set to stirring synthesizer-based 80s rock music. Unfortunately, we don’t have the former and your “training montage,” insofar as there will be one, will be months of study. You’ll instead have find the motivation to get past learning how to play the numbers on certain logic games or learn the many logical fallacies on the LSAT. So remember how it felt when you didn’t know anything on Practice Exam 1, and use that as motivation to do the extra logic game or extra handful of Logical Reasoning questions or extra Reading Comp passage, so that you don’t feel that way on the next practice exams again.

3. To Provide a Baseline to Measure Your Progress

Finally, we start with Practice Exam 1 so you can have a score and question-by-question breakdown of that score that will allow you to measure your progress throughout your studies. For your immediate purposes, you can completely ignore that Practice Exam 1 score. As long you scored the exam, you can refuse to even look at that score, a technique we refer to as the cold score-lder. That’s totally fine … for now.

It’s perfectly acceptable to put that score aside, and get to work on learning all the skills and concepts your LSAT class will teach you. To get tons of practice applying those skills to real LSAT problems. But after some time, you’ll take more practice exams. And those later practice exams provide the opportunity to determine if all your hard work is translating to progress on actual exams.

And at that point, you’ll need to check your Practice Exam 1 score again to make sure that you are making improvements on each part of the exam you’ve worked on in the intervening time. You can’t just assume that you’re improving. If make that assumption and you’re wrong … well, the consequences are obviously not great. But even if you’re correct in your assumption, it could still be bad news. You won’t know which areas your improving the most in, and you won’t be able to figure out which parts of your study plan are yielding the most success. I mean, think about Jason Bourne. He woke up one day and was a world class fighter … except he didn’t know how or when he got so good and that created trauma that took at least four films to get over. He didn’t have a baseline to measure his fighting abilities. You do, provided you took and scored Practice Exam 1.

So after taking Practice Exam 1, score it, and then take a load off. Don’t let it, or whatever score you got on it, affect how you approach your LSAT studies. By taking it and scoring it you’ve gotten everything out of the exam that we want you to get. Take you studies very seriously, but not your Practice Exam 1 score. LSAT is literally an anagram for SALT, a grain of which is the precise measurement of how seriously you should take your Practice Exam 1 score.