Over in the PowerScore LSAT Discussion Forum, I've been talking with one of our students about confidence. I often write about the necessity of a positive mental outlook and of believing in yourself, and this student was concerned about a few recent practice test scores that were a few points below average. As I've discussed elsewhere, there's an element of randomness to the composition of each LSAT, and that variation affects your results so you shouldn't be too concerned if you see a score dip or two while taking practice tests. There's also a positive to be gained from a poor practice test, and it's one that I mentioned to our student on the forum. But what possible benefit could there be to getting blown up on the test?
As depressing as a lower-than-expected practice LSAT score can be, failure on practice LSATs can be the best possible thing that happens to you. Why? Because each time you miss a question, you learn about what you need to get better at. Those failures—both individual and collectively—provide a map for your improvement and can help guide you in avoiding those same problems next time. The LSAT is made up of an assemblage of concepts that are expressed consistently across time, and so if you can identify where you are going wrong, it gets easier to improve the next time out. So, don't look at a low score on a practice test as a bad thing. Look at it for the opportunity that it is, and then capitalize on it.
In my reply to our student, I mentioned a quote from Michael Jordan that is one of my favorites:
"I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." —Michael Jordan
This is exactly the right attitude: failure is not a big deal, and I can learn from it. And that quote reminded me of another that is even more specific about how you should treat a bad result:
"Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end." —Denis Waitley
So, in this last month before the October LSAT, you may run into a few bumps in the road. How you handle those setbacks will play a big role in how well you do come test day. But for every question you miss, your goal should be to learn something from that error. What can you learn to get better, and what can you do next time to avoid the same mistake? If you can learn from every question, I guarantee you'll improve every day.
Questions or comments? Please post them below.
Photo: "XX-34 BADGER Atmospheric Nuclear Test - April 1953" courtesy of The Official CTBTO Photostream.