The Last Week Before the LSAT: Last-Ditch Efforts and How To Make Them Work

    LSAT Prep

    Last-Ditch Efforts and How To Make Them Work for the LSATBefore we begin, let's get one thing out of the way: if you haven't already studied for the LSAT for at least 1-2 months, there is little you can do in the last week before the test. Yes, life can get in the way and sometimes even the best-laid plans go astray. Unfortunately, you cannot cram for the LSAT: it's a test of how you think, not how much you know.  

    Unlike most knowledge-based tests, the LSAT measures whether you possess the skill set necessary to excel in law school: close reading, critical reasoning, rule application, information synthesis, and the like. These are skills we develop over time, not in one week. So, if you've been putting off this LSAT project until the last week before the test, you may be better off taking the test in January instead. Plan your studies accordingly.

    Now, assuming you've been preparing diligently over the summer, whether with a tutor or with one of our self-study plans, online or in a classroom, there is still a lot you can do in the last week before the test. Last-ditch efforts do work, if you know exactly what to do (and what not to).
    Do THIS:
    • Take two more Practice Tests (ideally from recently released tests) this coming weekend - one on Saturday morning, one on Sunday morning. Add an "experimental" section to each test. The goal is twofold: to build stamina and identify any outstanding weaknesses that you need to address. By taking the tests in the morning, you will not only obtain a more predictive score result, but will also mentally prepare for the day of the test. Thoroughly review each test in the afternoon of each day.
    • Focus on quality, not quantity. When reviewing your practice tests, stop and take a very detailed look at what's going wrong. Don't just focus on the questions you missed: those you got right but weren't 100% confident in your response deserve a second look as well. Take the time to write down a paragraph about each of these questions - imagine you're explaining them to a student scoring in the 140's. No joke. Yes, this can take a while, but playing your own LSAT instructor is proven to be an exceptionally powerful study technique. 
    • Prioritize Logic Games. While it's unlikely that you'll completely change your approach to Reading Comprehension in one week, you can still make progress in Logic Games. This is the section that is most susceptible to rapid improvement, and a last-ditch effort can result in a breakthrough. 
      • Assuming you still have room for improvement on that section, at least 50% of your study time next week should be spent on logic games. Ideally, you will re-do every single game that has ever given you trouble. If you kept a record of your performance on previous Practice Tests, identifying which games to review should be relatively straightforward. Hopefully you've been utilizing our free LSAT Score Reports.  
    • Get some sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can profoundly affect how much you get out of your test prep, and adversely affect your performance on the test. You need 7 - 8 hours of sleep every night from now on. According to a study published in The New York Times, "Some of the most insidious effects of too little sleep involve mental processes like learning, memory, judgment and problem-solving. [...] People who are well rested are better able to learn a task and more likely to remember what they learned." Apparently, sleep disruption also stresses the brain’s metabolism. The result is the "degeneration of key neurons involved in alertness and proper cortical function, as well as a buildup of proteins associated with aging and neural degeneration." That doesn't bode well for someone taking the LSAT.
      • The effects of sleep deprivation can last for awhile, and are not easy to fix: even if you manage to sleep for 8 hours the night before the test, prolonged periods of sleep disruption can impede your ability to concentrate, to read closely, and to analyze information creatively. So, if you need to wake up at 6 AM on the day of the test, you need to be in bed by 10 PM every night from now own. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is!
    • Eat well. Forget about the Atkins or the South Beach Diet. Go Mediterranean all the way, making sure to consume sufficient amounts of complex carbohydrates, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids Published research in the Wall Street Journal shows that what you eat the week before a cognitive test can affect your performance on it. According to the WSJ article, “When 16 college students were tested on attention and thinking speed, then fed a five-day high-fat, low-carb diet heavy on meat, eggs, cheese and cream and tested again, their performance declined. The students who ate a balanced diet that included fruit and vegetables, however, held steady." Now, you know better than to attribute causation to a mere correlation, but there is some evidence that proper nutrition affects cognitive performance. For more LSAT-related nutritional information, check out one of our most popular blogs of all time: Thought for Food: Eating Your Way to a 180
    • Take a spin around the block. Physical activity is known to improve learning. Even moderate-to-low intensity cardiovascular exercise, such as walking in the park or biking around the block, can have an immensely beneficial effect on your ability to learn and retain information. Don’t take our word for it: it’s a fact. Multiple well-controlled studies have shown a significant correlation between fitness and test scores. Although exercise is unlikely to make you "smarter", the correlation is strong enough to provide some evidence that it does improve learning capacity, memory retention, and focus.
      • Try this: perform 15-20 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise before taking your next set of practice tests. Do the exact same thing the morning of the test, right after breakfast.
    • Plan to celebrate. Imagine what you will do with all of your free time after the test! No, I don't mean this rhetorically - I'm asking you to actually imagine it, and even plan it to the last detail. You don't need to sleep for 8 hours/day, eat well, or exercise. Screw all that! How about a weekend in Bermuda, a sailing trip to the Galapagos, or perhaps a private jet trip around the world? OK, maybe not that last one (let's wait till you make partner). Either way, the mere act of planning an enjoyable experience after the LSAT can help alleviate stress and boost your confidence on the day of the test. 
    • Get all your ducks in a row. Print your admission ticket and make sure you know the LSAC test-day regulations . For more information on what to do the day before the test, check out our checklist in Test Day Preparations.

    Not THIS:

    1. Don't overdo it. The LSAT, as the saying goes, is a marathon: a grueling exam that requires you to be both mentally and physically prepared. And a big part of the physical side of that requirement is that you're fresh come test time. That's the reasoning we use when we discourage people from studying hard the day before the LSAT, but it applies to the week before the test as well. You need to avoid burnout at all costs. Instead, focus on maximizing the value of the time you spend studying, and really work on your mindset. Limit the amount of time you spend studying to 4 hours a day, tops.
    2. Don't worry about minor score fluctuations. Such fluctuations are inevitable, and usually mean very little. If you've been scoring in the high-160's and suddenly get a 165, that's no big deal. Trust me: it's not a statistically significant deviation, and it's not a downward "trend." Just make sure to review your mistakes, and don't repeat them next time.
    3. Don't get into fights. True fact: when people are stressed out, they are more likely to get into fights with their spouse or significant other, over the dumbest things ever. Don't do it! Your mental sanity is of paramount importance over the next week, so take your boyfriend or girlfriend to dinner, and thank them for putting up with you these past few months. Tell them it's just one more week of hell, after which they will never ever have to hear you bitch about mauve dinosaurs.

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