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Total Eclipse of Your Study Plan


Maybe you’ve heard, but I think there’s going to be an eclipse today? Total eclipse, in fact, first one in 38 years (and first one to traverse the entire continent in 99 years). The eclipse will start on the Oregon coast and move eastward across the plains and down to South Carolina, like The Oregon Trail played in reverse.

If you’re studying for the LSAT, you probably want to go outside to gaze upon the eclipse (or at least spend some time with NASA’s live stream), but maybe you feel a little guilty about it? Like, you’re thinking that the hour spent outdoors (or in the digital outdoors) with others gazing the sublime beauty conjured by happenstance configurations of celestial bodies could be better spent brushing up on the common fallacies or grouping games?

C’mon. Don’t be ridiculous. You can spare that hour. Your LSAT study materials will still be there. The alignment of sun and moon will not.

In fact, this brings up a more general point. Even with the test an alarmingly low number of days away, you still want to maintain the semblance of your normal life, as much as you can. In other words, you shouldn’t let the LSAT …

… really bad pun coming …

… we warned you …

… eclipse your personal life and well-being.

Don’t get us wrong–you should be studying hard in these last 26 days. There almost certainly a lot you have left to do, but still plenty of time to make huge progress.

Yet I see people, far too often, put way too much pressure on themselves and the LSAT. They pull eight-hour study days, day in and day out. Or do practice exam after practice exam–sometimes twice daily. Or return from work, only to spend the rest of their night doing reading comprehension passages into the wee hours of the morning.

I admire these individuals’ industriousness, but focusing your entire life around studying for this exam is misguided for a few reasons.

The first is that the LSAT, it bears repeating, is a skills test. The whole point of studying for the LSAT is develop a reliable set of strategies and tools that you’ll be able to use on the real exam. These skills can’t be gained through sheer will and brute force. Building them requires a sharp mind. So studying for the LSAT past the point of exhaustion, at best, is time not productively spent. At worst, it’s actually counter-productive, because that’s when bad habits, frustration, and discouragement are most likely to sink in.

The second is that people who over-do it for the LSAT are the ones who end up placing the most pressure on the themselves. After investing six or more hours, every day, for several months, these students build up the LSAT in their minds so it starts to seem like the most important, and hugely terrifying, threat to their existence and well-being. But it’s not. The Night King is. The amount of pressure these people put themselves under the exam leads to unnecessary stress when studying and a whole lot of test anxiety during the exam. There’s no benefit to put this much pressure on the exam. You can always postpone, cancel your score, or simply take it again. Save this catastrophic thinking for the bar.

Finally, overdoing it can strain other parts of your life. Don’t let the LSAT make your health or relationships suffer. In fact, you’re going to need those both to do well on the exam. You’ll need a healthy mind and body to develop the skills you’ll need to do well on the LSAT, and you’ll need a support group of friends and family to help you when times get stressful (also to help you party your face off when the exam is over). So make sure your taking the time to invest into your own self-care while studying.

So what does the best study plan look like? Ideally, four hours a day (because that’s how long the test takes). You’d start around 8:30 or 9 am, just like the real exam. You’d put in two solid hours (that means no checking your phone), take a 15 min break (just like they do on the real exam), and then back to the proverbial grindstone for another hour and forty-five minutes. You’d finish around 1 pm, giving you the rest of your day to chill and decompress. If you can’t maintain this schedule due to work, school, or other life responsibilities, that’s cool too. A consistent two to four hours every night, productively spent, is sufficient to make the progress you need to crush the LSAT.

So yes, take a look at the eclipse today. And all the metaphorical eclipses between now and September 16. Just don’t go blind looking at it. The deadline for accommodations requests has already passed.