A question I often receive is, “Should I do a set of warm up questions the morning of the LSAT to get into the right frame of mind?" The idea is that by doing questions prior to the start of the LSAT you will be ready to hit the ground running once the test begins, and that will produce the best possible score. In theory it sounds like a good idea, but does it really work, and should you try it?
The answers are sometimes and maybe. Some people are naturally slow starters, and after taking several practice tests they notice that in the first section of each exam their performance is lower than on the remainder of the LSAT. This type of student is a perfect candidate to use the warm-up strategy. However, not everyone is a slow starter, and because mental energy is so precious during the LSAT, you want to conserve it all for the questions that count if at all possible. Thus, only implement this approach if you find that practice proves that you need it or that it helps in some demonstrable manner.
When first implementing this strategy, don't start with a large number of questions. Doing a full game, a full passage, and 5-10 LR questions expends a significant amount mental energy. So, we recommend starting small: 2-3 LR questions and maybe one game (or passage if that's your weakness). See if that is enough to get your mental engine started. If not, then add a few more questions in until you reach a point where you can start the test at full throttle. Use your practice tests as a proving ground for whether you need to use this tool, and if so, how many questions are required to get on track.
Warming up sounds pretty beneficial, and we know it is a integral component of athletic performances, so why isn't it that everyone needs to warm-up before the LSAT? Well, most obviously is that your mental muscles are different than your physical muscles. But, the real reason is that many people already walk into the LSAT jacked up and ready to go, and warming up then burns off useful energy. Pressure-packed events tends to get the mental juices flowing for many people, and by the time they arrive at the test center they are already prepared to hit the ground running. Which leads to a final point: if you find that you arrive at the event too jacked up, then doing a few practice questions can actually help calm you down and get you in the flow.
So, warming up is helpful for some test takers, but not others. If you are a slow starter, or if you are prone to high excitement, maybe try a few warm up questions and see if it helps stabilize your performance. And if you do find it helps, practice a few times with it to find the right number of pre-test questions to take.
Have a question? Please post it in the comments below.
Photo: "Warm Up" courtesy of Ben Sutherland.