Over the years, we've written a number of blog posts on how to take the perfect practice test, so if you haven't read them, now is probably a good time to do so:
There is no question about it: taking a bunch of practice tests is a critical component of any half-decent test prep strategy. If you're studying to take the June 2016 LSAT, chances are you've already taken at least a few tests over the past month, and you're planning to take a dozen (or so) more. That's a good thing, for sure.
But you've been doing it all wrong.
There is no such thing as a "perfect" test-taking experience. The real thing will be a sh*tshow - it will be messy, stressful, and exhausting, with absurd rules and regulations that make a TSA checklist seem strangely quotidian. I bet you never thought that a grumpy old lady can make you feel like a deer caught in the headlights, but wait until she whispers, "You may begin now."
Look, I get it: The LSAT is hard enough without the added aggravation of unavoidable distractions, so it's understandable to take each practice test under ideal testing conditions: you turn off your cell, close the office door, and hope no one decides to test the fire alarm system in your building for the next four hours. In fact, according to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab, interruptions make us 20 percent dumber. To put that in (LSAT) perspective, a 20-point decrease in your raw score could mean getting 155 instead of 165! Obviously, you don't want that.
Unfortunately, you will be interrupted during your test. Even if the conditions at your test center are absolutely perfect (they won’t be), that 5-minute warning at the end of each section counts as an interruption (and perhaps another deer-caught-in-the-headlights moment). The real thing will probably be nothing like practice tests you've taken in the comfort of your home, at a time of your choosing, on your own terms. The fact of the matter is, you are used to being in full control of the test-taking experience. Now, suddenly, it seems like the grumpy old lady is.
So, what can you do?
Thankfully, the researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that, over time, people can get used to interruptions and learn how to deal with them. You can do that too, by taking your practice tests under suboptimal testing conditions - in a school auditorium, a library, or a quiet coffee shop. What you're looking for is a purposefully stressful, potentially distracting experience that is outside your comfort zone. (The grumpy old lady is optional). Here are a few suggestions:
- If you're still in school, check to see if you can use a classroom or a lecture hall to take your tests.
- If you have access to a conference room, book it (or stay there after hours).
- If you're unemployed (or perhaps don't want to let Meg in accounting know that you're headed to law school), try a public library. For instance, the New York Public Library has 92 locations, many of which are quite popular as test-taking venues.
- Pay people to proctor your tests. Yes, you can use our virtual proctor, but unfortunately you can always choose to pause it. You can't pause a grumpy old lady: it's her finger on the button, not yours.
So, tell us: How do YOU take your practice tests? Feel free to use the Comments section below and share your messiest, craziest test-taking experiences. Real or not - we won't judge! :)