When you create a study plan for the LSAT, make sure to include liberal breaks in your schedule! How long of a break are we talking? Anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. At first glance, that advice may seem counterintuitive. To increase your score, plan to not study? But yes, it will help, and here’s why.
Studying for the LSAT isn’t like studying for a History or Math test. In those exams, small universal details and rote memorization play a big role. If you take time away from studying before such a test, you might forget a date or a formula, and that could cost you questions on the exam. But the LSAT is a process and concept test. Your understanding of the big picture ideas in play is crucial and the details change constantly.
For example, one test you take has a question about banks. Then the next one you take has a question about flowers. Although vastly different topics, they both address the same concept. Thus, much of LSAT preparation is about abstract concepts and techniques. To mentally absorb these ideas and apply them seamlessly, your mind needs to place these elements subconsciously and situate them properly for instant recall. This takes time and it’s one big reason that you can’t cram for the LSAT. But it also means that when you take breaks from studying the LSAT, your mind keeps processing the ideas and integrating them into your analytical structures.
While taking short breaks is always good, four specific groups of test-takers can benefit from even longer breaks.
1. Those with 9+ Months to Study
If you have a long-term study plan, you must include a few lengthy breaks in your schedule. I occasionally talk to students who have intense study plans (think 8 hours of studying a day for a year—no kidding!) and they often feel like any break will jeopardize their progress. It’s actually the opposite. Not taking breaks will lead them to join the next group on this list, the LSAT burnouts.
2. Those Experiencing LSAT Burnout
What’s LSAT burnout? It’s what happens when you study for so long and hard that you literally get sick at the thought of seeing another LSAT question. You’d rather gouge your eyes out than study any more. Ok, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but you get the point. While most people never reach burnout while studying, for those who do, it can be quite frustrating. These students benefit heavily from a long break because they can recharge and return to the LSAT refreshed. Oftentimes, they return several points better than where they left off.
3. Those on a Score Plateau
Students preparing for the LSAT often run into score plateaus. This is when, despite continued studying, their score fails to increase. While there are different causes and cures for this problem, taking a break from the test is one tool that is often overlooked. Just the break alone will often provide the push needed to break out of that plateau. Now, if you’ve only been studying for two weeks, you shouldn’t take a month off. Make sure to vary your break in relation to how much studying you’ve already put in.
4. LSAT Retakers
Consider a student who takes the October LSAT and waits for their score before deciding whether to take the LSAT again. Scores normally aren’t released until the end of October and in the interim, they decide not to study the LSAT. While this may seem like a bad strategy, this somewhat unintentional break (these students often don’t know if they will take the LSAT again and hope they won’t) often results in a slight score increase when they begin studying again. While that might not make up for the fact that they are taking the LSAT again, it is a nice bonus that helps soften the impact.
So, go ahead and take a brief vacation from the LSAT now and then. You’ll often find that when you come back, you are actually better than you were before. And when people ask why you aren’t preparing for the test, just tell them you are—subconsciously!
Ankita Talukdar says
Thank You so much! This was helpful!
Ankita Talukdar says
I have given two attempts in the span of 3 months and I have been preparing with very short breaks from December 2018. My score has been consistently on the lower edge. I have certainly reached a burn out stage and right now solving even another problem is a task. If I plan to take a third attempt, do you think I should take one in June as my college ends in April or is it okay to take a full break and start from the beginning for a later LSAT. Does a too large gap impact negatively. Should I consider the admissions of 2021 over 2022?
Dave Killoran says
Thanks for the message!
In some ways, the answer here will be dictated by your mindset. You currently note that “right now solving even another problem is a task,” and that tells me you need several months off from this test!
the thing about June is that it will require you to start studying in April, so what I’d do is wait until March or so to make a final decision here. Don’t think about the LSAT until then, and then at that point make a decision on whether you can bear to start studying again. If the answer is yes, then come back at that point and we can talk about how to reconstruct your study plan so you can get more out of what you are doing 🙂 If the answer is no, then take a longer break. Push your admissions back a year, and don’t focus on the LSAT until the summertime at the earliest.
Getting the best LSAT score not only increases your chances of admission, it also increases the financial offers you receive. So, waiting a while may actually be more than worth it to you!
I just wanted to say thank you for this post! I had contacted you previously (on Twitter and then on the message board). I was really burned out and took a few weeks off. My score hadn’t changed in months. I came back to work on it and my score was up 7 points! I am taking the exam in 2 weeks and again in January. It wasn’t well timed or intentional, but it helped a lot to take a longish break! I’ve got a long way to go, but I feel more prepared for the challenge.
Dave Killoran says
AWESOME! I’m so glad this helped, and thanks for sharing with us that it did 🙂
Joseph J Gregory says
When you take a break prior to test day, do you suggest taking a break but giving yourself enough time to do some practice tests before the LSAT or take a break and the very first test you take, back from the break, IS the LSAT? In other words, is it best to warm up after the break, or is it the break itself that guarantees the score bump for the first test immediately following the break?
Dave Killoran says
It’s more the former, but we aren’t talking about taking a lengthy break right before the LSAT, but more likely at least a month before, or more, depending on how long you study and how many breaks you take).
And the break is no guarantee of a score increase, it’s just that the time off often let’s your mind put some of the subconscious pieces together. Going from that point and then studying additional hours will help add even more points to your score 🙂 So it’s better to take that break a bit earlier, and then study on top of that to optimize your score.