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Strategies for the Last Month Before the February LSAT

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Today marks one month—one month!—until the February LSAT. That’s a mere thirty-one days or, for those of you who are particularly obsessive, 744 hours. (Stop looking at the clock on your phone, and, no, I won’t break it into seconds for you.)

However you’re counting down, we’re getting down to the wire, and it’s time to put your game face on, turn on the afterburners, lock and load, etc. Choose whatever metaphor motivates you.

Up until now, you should’ve been slowly and methodically practicing questions and concepts without timing yourself. You are Daniel-san—Wax on wax off! Paint the floor! Sand the fence!—and you now know the techniques. The next step is to learn to use those techniques in the heat of battle. There are two main ways to accomplish that, and both of them have to do with confronting the twin beasts of time and pressure.

Time yourself. Duh.
Between today and January 24, which is two weeks from test day, you should begin to incorporate timing into your practice.  In addition to giving you a sense of the pace of the test, this will help you build the endurance necessary to be brilliant for a stretch of several hours.

This week, time yourself with individual Reading Comprehension passages, Logic Games, and strings of eight Logical Reasoning questions. Give yourself ten minutes at the beginning of the week, and work your way down to eight minutes and forty-five seconds by the end of the week. (A thirty-five minute section with four games/passages works out to eight minutes forty-five seconds per passage.) While you will bank time on easier games/passages/LR questions in order to spend more time on harder ones on test day, this is a valuable way of gauging how far you have to go.

Next week, time yourself on full sections, thirty-five minutes each.

Starting January 24, you should take a full practice exam every other day. Since LSAC does not release the experimental section of the exams, practice exams only have four sections while you will have to address five on test day. (Let’s just forget about the writing sample for now.) If you can, you should harvest a section from another practice exam and take full five section exams. Take these in a setting that most closely replicates test day. That means in a library or somewhere else that isn’t your home but has other people doing their thing mostly quietly.

On the days between practice exams, you should review your performance and think critically about what you did well and what you could’ve done better. That provides a perfect segue to the other thing you need to be doing.

Develop a personalized strategy for the exam.
The students who do the best on test day are the ones who do more than passively receive test prep advice from instructors, friends, blogs (ahem!), etc. They assess their performance then test out strategies, adopting those that work and discarding those that don’t. Below are a few tactics that may or may not help raise your score. The way to know if they do is to try them. If you use one of these (or another) tactics on a practice exam and your score goes up, keep it! If your score goes down, dump it!

  • Skip some LR questions. One second spent addressing a question you’re going to get wrong anyway is a second robbed from working on a question that is within your ability to answer. A general rule of thumb is that the questions get harder as the section progesses, but the hardest stuff is not right at the end.  If you never make it through a section in time, you might just want to try skipping, say, questions 20-23.
  • Skip question types that you usually get wrong.
  • Skip a game or a passage. If you put in your best effort on three passages/games and guess on the fourth, you might rock three and still get one or two questions right on the fourth one just by guessing. Try to figure out which is the hardest and skip it.
  • Always use the same letter when guessing.
  • Learn when to bail on a question. When you’ve dumped three minutes into a tough question, there is that very understandable urge to not walk away in defeat. WALK AWAY IN DEFEAT. A point is a point, and you are missing out on more points by bringing pride into it.
  • Bank time early in the section.
  • Keep track of time and have a system for doing so. If you haven’t done so already, get an analog timer and start practicing with it.

Add any other suggestions you have in the comments below. Good luck!

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