Note: PowerScore student Marvin Dike is blogging about his comprehensive and detailed study methodology so that our readers can learn from his experience. Make sure you read Make sure you read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
For my last breakdown of my study regimen I will take you into what I do every single day, along with some tips about how I handle the pressure and anxiety and my mindset.
The job I have allows for more flexibility than most. So I'm normally only working like 4-5 hours a day if I feel like it. Normally 4pm-8pm.
So as you know from my first 3 blogs, I have a set of logic games that I do every single day. These are logic games that I have already done. I'm a morning person and have been my entire life, so I wake up at around 6am every day. I eat breakfast, brush my teeth, and take a shot of apple cider vinegar. I'm not a coffee drinker and apple cider vinegar helps with my energy and focus. I'm sure there are some other benefits of it, but that's my main reason. I then grab that stack of 8-10 logic games that are slated to be done that day and I do each one. I time myself each time I take one, check my answers, log the time, and then put a date on a clean copy of the same game for when I will do that game again. Like I said, I almost never miss questions because I've been doing this so long, and I finish the game in the time I want.
I like doing logic games first because they are fun and get my brain going in the morning. It's the stimulation I enjoy to get my mind in the mode necessary.
The process of doing the 10 games, checking the answers, and logging the time normally takes about 90 minutes. Then I grab an entire logical reasoning section. This process will take you more than 90 minutes if you just started doing it, especially if you're doing 10 games. Because you're going to miss, and you're going to have to do the same game on the same day. Those are the breaks.
Like I said in my last blog, I'm doing every single LSAT question ever released. So after doing my stack of logic games, I do the entire LR sections of 1 or 2 LSAT's. So on day one I do both LR sections for LSAT 1 and both LR sections for LSAT 2. That comes out to about 100 questions. Sometimes I time myself doing a LR section in the 35 minute window. Other times I will do it untimed and take my good sweet time. Whenever I come to a question I got wrong or even if I got it right but wasn't confident, I log it. After looking up the explanations of course.
I highly recommend that you do most of your studying in LR as an entire section from an LSAT, and not just as random problems. The reason is when you do random problem sets, it's harder to find the explanations because they're random problems from different LSAT's. My overall feel for how an LR section ebbs and flows is so much better because all my studying has consisted of doing LR questions as entire sections. I plug in my answers into a grader and see the difficulty of each question. This process usually takes about 2 and a half to 3 hours at the high end. When I first started doing this, it took longer than that because so many questions were over my head and I was logging so many because I wasn't confident. Now I'm only logging like 2-3 questions per section, if any at all.
Then I will go work out.
I usually get home at around noon after my workout. I shower, eat, wind down a little for like an hour after I eat. Then I get back to work. I do anywhere from 4 to 8 reading comp passages and questions. I mix up implementing the memory method and doing a section the same way I would do on a LSAT (which would be looking back at the passage when necessary, unlike the memory method drill). Now I still do my reading comprehension passages as entire sections. I don't just pick and choose random passages, for the same reason I only do LR drilling as entire sections. I have a better feel for how the sections ebb and flow.
On rare occasions I won't even time myself on reading comp, I will just take all the time in the world reading and answering questions. I do this so I can pinpoint on my own each right and wrong answer. In Reading Comprehension, every answer is either explicitly stated or strongly implied. This process takes about 2 hours, depending on how many passages I do.
Then I will go to work.
I will come home and eat and wind down and then I will do 4-6 logic games that I have not seen before. This will never be from an LSAT 36 to 81 because all of those are being used as full timed proctored tests. It must be from something between LSAT 1-35 that I haven't seen.
On test days, I eat the exact same breakfast, and I take the test at a time that I will be taking it in September, which will be at 8:30 AM or so. I usually start the test between 8:45am and 9am because who knows when you can actually begin taking the test. I use a timed proctor (PowerScore offers a simulated proctor here). And I always always always take the 15 minute break after 3 sections. Because on the real LSAT you will have to take that break, you need to condition your mind to be able to go for 3 sections, then stop, and then go back to work. I also eat the same snack during that 15 minute break, trying to gauge what does and doesn't upset my stomach. Same thing with breakfast, I know what my body does and doesn't react to well so I eat the same breakfast almost every day and definitely on the morning of practice test days.
This next part is probably the single most important thing that I do, and if you've read nothing else, this is one thing you must keep with you.
When you take a practice LSAT and immediately go put it in a grader to check your score, you have fundamentally wasted that test. You haven't given yourself an opportunity truly learn from it. What you should do is what I've learned called Blind Review. Whenever you come across a problem during the test that you're unsure about, you circle that question. If you're 100 percent, then you leave it blank. Now to be 100 percent you have to know the right answer is right and the 4 wrong answers are wrong. If you can't do either of those things then you circle the question. You are doing this while taking the test, it takes no time at all so don't think you're wasting time doing this.
After you take the test, you should take a break and then come back to the test. All the questions you circled, you do those questions again untimed, and you take as long as you need to find the right answer. This is where true learning happens. You then plug in your old and new answers. Your first score is your actual score and your second score is your theoretical high score.
And here's how you analyze.
- You keep a question not circled and you get it right. Awesome, you were rightly confident in that answer and don't need to review it.
- You did not circle an answer and got it wrong. This is a massive red flag. You were so smug about this that you didn't even realize it. Only thing worse than not knowing is not knowing that you don't know. That's true danger. You either fell for a trap or just didn't understand, and that's a question you must log and get the expiation for.
- You circle an answer and on your second try you keep your answer the same and got it right. This is good, because your intuition while taking the test was right. But there was something missing that didn't allow you to have the utmost confidence. What was it? It's much easier to see why when you give yourself a chance to answer those questions untimed.
- You circle an answer that was right and change it to the wrong answer/circle an answer and your original answer was wrong and your new answer was also wrong. I mean, either way this isn't good, but at least you knew from the jump you didn't know. At least you knew that this was something you were unsure about. This question definitely needs to be logged and you need look up that explanation.
This has been one of the biggest keys for allowing me to make my jump. On average my original score is between 165-169 and my blind review theoretical score that's untimed should ideally be in the mid 170's.
Let's just say that was LSAT 55 I just took. That night or the next day I will re-do the entire LR sections from that LSAT. I clearly have already gotten my score, I've gone over my wrong answers...so why am I doing it again so soon? Well, I want to better embed that information in my head. This process takes like 30-40 minutes for both sections. Some of the answers I barely even need to analyze because I have them from memory. But it's become a habit. I will also print out 3-4 copies of the entire logic games section from that test and put them in a stack to be done a week later. I will then time myself and log my times just like I do all my other games.
As of the end of July I've been done with LSAT 1-35 for a while. And I have full practice tests 60-81 to go. I've done all the questions, all the games, and all the reading passages for 1-35. So now on non testing days I will take 1 or 2 LSAT's from tests I've already done, and do the LR sections from both, which is 50-100 questions. So on my first day after finishing all the drill work from LSAT 1-35 I took LSAT 36 and 37 and printed out the LR sections for both and I did them. Again, I mixed up doing them timed and untimed. My decision for that was arbitrary. But ideally I should get them all correct because I've already done that test, and I've already reviewed it in the past. But I still get a couple wrong because this stuff is still hard.
Any question I get wrong I have to print out that one question 3 times and do that one question every morning for the next three days and physically write out and break down the arguments, explain the stimulus, and an explanation for why the 4 wrong answers are wrong and the one right answer is right. This is essentially my own form of punishment and learning for getting questions wrong that I've already seen. This may seem drastic but as long as I've been studying, I have to challenge myself because it's not like I'm getting 180's all the time. I've still only gotten a 170 or higher twice.
Then I will do one or 2 pages from my log sheet, the log sheet that I've been keeping with since day one. Each PowerScore Logical reasoning log page has about 31 slots for questions. This process sort of takes longer because the questions here are random, they aren't all from the same practice test so its not fun looking for the questions that I've logged, but its the one obstacle I can live with.
I have no new drilling material for reading comprehension (because all the passages I have not read are part of the full practice LSAT's I'll be taking), and I have already done LSAT 1-35. So I basically I just stared over and grabbed from LSAT 1 and did those reading comprehension passages and worked my way back up to 35. I don't have much of a choice. At least I will be re-doing RC passages that are furthest from my memory.
Someone asked me recently about how long I study each day and whether I take a day off. Breaks are important, so here's what I do...
I'll probably study 2 hours straight and then watch a couple random things on YouTube, or dribble my basketball around the house or something. I take random breaks. So my studies aren't 8-10 hours of nonstop. Not at all. In fact I was originally doing that and it was counter productive. But I have one light day a week. Normally on Sunday. Saturday is almost always a test day. But I took like a week-long break a few weeks ago where everyday was a light day and it's helped refresh me so much. This test isn't just a test of facts and memory or something you can "figure out." It's a test that needs you to develop a way of thinking, a way to approach things that are different than our everyday interactions and assumptions. For this to cultivate it needs time and practice but you also need time away. You need time for this stuff to marinate and become second nature.
Honestly sometimes when I close my eyes all I see is conditional logic arrows and contrapositives and bad arguments and logic game rules. Even when I hear people talk I'm like "wow that's a terrible method of reasoning, you'd be quickly shown the door if you came into the law world with that logic." I'm constantly making analogies or abstracting everyday things I see and hear because I've developed that frame of mind and habit. To me, that's a big part of why I've been able to have success because this material isn't just material, it's a philosophical way to critically think and analyze. So I absolutely recommend time off. This varies of course because if you're only giving yourself 5 months, your window for off time is smaller than someone like me who's been studying for 10. But like I said in the first blog, you have to listen to your mind when it's telling you it's had enough or when you're not able to focus.
For the people that have heavier obligations during the week, I've told them that Saturday had to be the heavy day of the week. 10-12 hours of prep. And let Sunday be your light day of maybe 2 hours. Just do a stack of 5 logic games and an LR section and call it a day.
So folks, there you have it, that's what I do every single day. You have what I did during my class, and what I did to drill after the class. You know how I take practice LSAT's, and how I properly review them. You know what I do now that I've basically run out of drilling material.
We all know the implications that this test has and how big of a factor it is. This 3 digit score is the difference between your dream school and just not wanting to go to law school at all. Factors like scholarship opportunities are there for the taking. So yes, tens of thousands of dollars are on the line with this test. I don't see that as a burden, I see it as an opportunity.
Just so you guys know, there is nothing inherently special about me (except my dashing looks) in regards to any conditioned skills coming into this prep. I wasn't a habitual reader growing up, I didn't spend all my time doing puzzles as a kid, I didn't take any philosophy courses or anything. In fact, I never even considered law until 2 years after I graduated from college. Point I'm making is I didn't walk into this LSAT with anything beyond your typical college graduate. I was a health science major in college looking to get into hospital administration or pharmaceutical sales. So please don't think there's some kind of golden blood in my veins that has allowed me to make this jump. It was just diligence, patience, and finally grasping what the hell was going on.
The one skill I do have is that I do not feel anxiety. I know that's an issue for many. I've played high level sports my whole life and at the college level, I've been robbed at gun point with a pistol pointed at my head thinking I was going to die. I've been fired from almost every job I've ever had. Wondering where your next meal is coming from is *real* pressure, this LSAT is just a pencil and paper test. No one has your family hostage while you're doing logic games.
While this test does matter, don't make it bigger than it is. I know when I walk into that test on September 16th I will have done everything I could. All I can do is trust my training and do my best and that's good enough for me. Find ways to protect your peace at all costs.
Thank you all for reading. Some of you may come across these posts weeks or months or maybe even years from now. You can still contact me if you need anything or have any questions.
I'm not wishing any of you good luck because we don't want luck to be a factor in our success on this test, we want our hard earned skills to be on display. (I mean, I will take luck if it comes my way though, haha!)
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.