In The LSAT Casino, we talk about the role that chance plays in the composition of each LSAT. The basis of this idea is that certain LSATs feature some concepts more than others. And, if you get an LSAT that favors your skill set, you benefit. This isn’t to say that you don’t control your LSAT fate, because you do. You can prepare for each question type and concept you will encounter on each LSAT and closely examine the style and wording they use when constructing the test. Properly preparing for the LSAT is critical to producing your best performance. That said, there are other elements of chance in play before and during the LSAT. Knowing what they are can help you better adjust to them and respond effectively should they come up. Let’s talk about some elements where luck plays a role in how your LSAT turns out.
Before Test Day
This category includes things that occur before you arrive at the test center.
- Your health. Some days, you just wake up and don’t feel well. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen on the day of the LSAT and you should do everything within your power to stay as healthy as possible in the days immediately before the test.
- Unexpected traffic/transportation issues. You may know the route to your test center like the back of your hand, but if there’s an unforeseen traffic problem such as a car accident, that can really throw a wrench into your plans. Even if you arrive on time, it’s hard to immediately shake the feeling of pressure and anxiety that being late can cause. Of course, that pales in comparison to when you have serious car troubles, like a flat tire or your car not starting. I’m not suggesting you service your car just for the LSAT, but if you have an unreliable ride, maybe have a reliable friend you can call for a ride as a backup plan.
- Weather-related problems. As we saw in 2013, winter storms can cause lots of problems. Both the February 2013 LSAT and December 2013 LSAT suffered weather postponements. In 2012, a hurricane caused problems for the October 2012 LSAT takers. The weather can be an incredibly unpredictable force.
On Test Day
- Your LSAT Proctor. Despite the fact that the digital LSAT is now automatically proctored by the tablet, proctors may still play an unpredictable role. Theoretically, the proctors should be a non-factor in your testing experience. However, far too often, they can play an active role in your LSAT performance. For example, how they enforce rules. An overly aggressive proctor can cause real problems, particularly by disallowing certain things you bring to the test, such as your pencils, watches, or even food. For example, in New York, proctors have confiscated non-digital watches that actually met test regulations simply because they looked too complicated. Always have a backup plan, and, if possible, try to keep your watch to a very obviously analog wristwatch.
- Facility problems. These come in a variety of nuisances and can have an adverse effect on your testing day. Malfunctioning heat or AC in the testing room can cause discomfort. Or, external occurrences like power failures, sound issues like a marching band practicing outside, or even fire alarms going off can disrupt your ability to focus.
- Your peers. This one may not spring to mind immediately, but your fellow test-takers can strongly affect your testing experience. We’ve all taken a test where someone was coughing repeatedly or tapping their foot or pencil throughout the test. Those are all distractions you don’t think about until you have to deal with them. On the other hand, if you have a nice group of calm, healthy people in the room with you, you won’t have to face any of those problems.
Construction of the LSAT
Although The LSAT Casino goes into detail about test composition and luck, here are some LSAT construction elements that can also impact your performance.
- The Experimental Section. The placement and type of the experimental section may be the most impactful luck-related element that affects LSAT results. The type of section alone makes a difference. Three LR sections is tough for almost anyone and a second LG section can be bad news for some people. Where it occurs can be troublesome as well. For example, if you get a tough Experimental Logic Games section right out of the gate, it can throw off the rest of your exam.
- Order of section presentation. This relates to the first point above, but the order of sections on your exam has an impact—sometimes good, sometimes not.
- The scoring scale. While this isn’t really a luck-related element because it’s tied to overall test difficulty, having a loose or tight scale and test difficulty can do a number on your results, as some combinations are better suited for certain people.
- The distribution of answer choices. The way the test distributes answers could probably generate its own article. Answer placement can affect your guessing (if you end up guessing on any questions), as well the amount of comfort you have as you progress through each question.
Napoleon once said, “Give me lucky generals.” In that vein of thinking you might get the idea that it’s better to be lucky on the LSAT than it is to be good at the LSAT. That’s not the case. Despite the lengthy list above of items outside of your control, those elements only add up to a very small portion of your LSAT result. What really influences your score the most is, by far, the preparation that you do. You need to do your best with that in order to counteract any elements of chance that might affect you on test day. At the same time, you want to be aware of all the factors that can affect your test experience, whether you can control them or not. So, when it comes to the factors above, prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and expect anything!