Our free to use LSAT Discussion Forum is a tremendous resource for any student gearing up to take the LSAT and apply to law school, and while I’m sure the majority of our blog readers frequent the Forum and participate, it’s easy for helpful posts there to slip through the cracks. In an effort to help our readers here stay fully informed, we occasionally have highlights of common questions we encounter in the forum. Two things first:
- Go use the Forum! It’s free, it’s remarkably active and well-populated by students (not just ours) and instructors alike, and you’re sure to find yourself immersed in a wealth of valuable information.
- The Forum posts we duplicate here are chosen largely based on a singular truth: there’s a fantastic amount of similarity, of “same-ness,” between test takers. You may feel wholly unique (and your mother no doubt agrees), but when it comes to the LSAT you are not, and the common ground you share with so many others allows you to learn from, and contribute to, the collective experience. These posts, and the situations therein, are virtually guaranteed to resonate with you on some level, because you can relate to someone else’s position by seeing yourself in it. Embrace that fact and use it to your advantage!
Advice for When You Feel Defeated
This post is taken from a thread found here. In it, a concerned student laments that his or her–although for simplicity “her” from here on out–LR score seems to have plateaued following a move to timed testing (and possibly even regressed somewhat from early, un-timed work). This has understandably led to some frustration, a feeling of “defeat,” and uncertainty about what to do next.
Here’s what I told her:
Thanks for the question, and I’m sorry to hear about your LR difficulties.
I should probably start with some encouragement before I get too deep into your situation and a likely diagnosis, so I want you to keep a few crucial truths in mind to hopefully bolster your spirits. First, the LSAT is a remarkably challenging exam–something I’m sure you know, but it’s worth noting aloud no matter how obvious–likely the hardest you’ve ever encountered in academia, and many people, smart people, spend months and months (or longer) struggling mightily to improve to a satisfactory level.
What the people who reach that level, whatever it may be for them individually, have in common, aside from their initial struggles, is a willingness to soldier on. An unbreakable diligence. Enthusiasm no matter the toll. And an almost unnerving (occasionally annoying ) ability to celebrate small victories wherever they can be found. You’ve shown the conceptual command necessary to answer 20 questions right; don’t ignore that! Treat it as a benchmark of your potential, and let’s work to reestablish and surpass it, and to do so under timed conditions.
The LSAT is a Journey
The fact is this: you’re on a journey, and while it’s hard to predict the exact hurdles you’ll face or how long the trip will take (or even the precise destination) you’re guaranteed to stumble now and again en route to victory. Sometimes those stumbles are a stubbed toe, sometimes they’re a crevasse, a skydive, but take heart in the knowledge that on the other side of every single one is a lesson learned and, if properly understood, a greater likelihood of success the next time that particular hurdle appears.
Few things teach as well as failure. And while that sucks to hear (and to type, frankly), it’s undeniable. So again feel whatever small measure of comfort you can in knowing this is hard, but both worth it and beatable, and the more you can view bumps in the road as part of the adventure the better equipped you’ll be to navigate around them. Or straight through them, as the case may be.
Make no mistake you’re in a battle with the test makers, but it’s a fight you can win with the right tools. Just commit to giving as good as you get, yeah? Besides, and to paraphrase Tyler Durden, who wants to die without any scars?
Determine Where You’re Slipping Up
And that’s all fine and good and I’m sure, aside from the Palahniuk bit, Oprah-approved, but this isn’t a purely psychological problem. Let’s see if we can figure out what ails you. You note that untimed you reached around 20 correct, but timed that number dropped to more like 16 (similar to your original untimed performance). I find that really encouraging! It means that with the clock running you still only suffered about a 4 question decline, and managed to match your starting, timer-free numbers after only, unless I’ve misread, about a month. That’s genuine progress! Don’t be so quick to dismiss the gains.
But why the untimed drop of late? I’d need more details to answer. Is it truly untimed or are you, with the timed experience fresh, trying to move more quickly? Is there a particular question type, or question Family, that seems to be a (possibly newfound) source of trouble? I know self-diagnosis is difficult, but what would you say is different about your efforts now compared to the previous untimed 20?
Certainly you haven’t unlearned anything, so my suspicion is that (1) you’re trying to go faster (totally understandable, and ultimately required, but a cause of misses to be sure). And (2) you’ve gotten too casual with your process. Go back to the fundamentals–even if that means rereading a few early chapters and reworking content/examples therein–and focus on being exceedingly deliberate with how you work through every single question: find a conclusion (if there is one), weigh the validity, note the strength and nature of language, correctly identify the question type, consider what you know of that question type and form an effective and accurate prephrase, work hyper-critically through the answers sorting them into contenders and losers and constantly attempting to discern reasons to eliminate choices…over and over and over again to reform the good habits that can get lost or muddied as time goes on.
And finally, as for what’s next, I think the Reasoning Bible Workbook could be a great, and affordable, resource, especially as you work to rebuild a reliable process of recognition and attack. The courses are amazing as well, particularly if you feel you have points to gain in the other sections too, and unlike a book are highly adaptive, with instructors adjusting presentation and content to your unique needs. Often that’s the exact thing students need to overcome the final challenges that self-study may not entirely remedy. But consider the questions above and your mindset about moving forward, and rededicating yourself with genuine enthusiasm, before deciding your next step. It’s a big decision and you want it to be the right, and final, one.