September 6, 2016 at 8:09 am #2684Mike KimKeymaster
Hi everyone —
I originally posted this before the June exam — figured some of you studying for the Sept exam might find it useful so I thought I’d repost —
14 Quick Tips For Your Final Practice Exams
Here are some tips to help you maximize what you gain from the final practice exams you take before test day. As I often say, you know yourself best and these tips may not apply to you — feel free to pick and use whatever you think might be helpful — (note – I’ll also be posting these tips on Lsatters & TLS) —
The first two recommendations are general and obvious —
1. Make sure to take each exam as realistically as possible
Part of the reason you are taking these exams is to build up your stamina and prepare your mind for the rigors of test day — you can best do so if you are strict about not allowing yourself extra breaks and so on.
2. Make sure to review each exam as thoroughly as possible
You want to use your review to assess your understanding and strategies, and you want to try to address any issues that arise. As you get closer and closer to test day, you also want to focus more and more on reviewing each exam in terms of your own performance, and the strengths and weaknesses you recognize in yourself. You are likely going to have lots of tough decisions on test day about where to allocate your time and energy, and the better you know yourself, the easier it will be to make the right decisions.
The next two are suggestions for what to do before taking your PT’s —
3. Create four note cards: one with reminders about LR, one with reminders about LG, one with reminders about RC, and one with reminders about general mindset.
On each note card, write out, as simply as you can, the two or three most important reminders you can think of for yourself. Maybe on your LR card you write just two phrases: “empathy,” and “word-for-word,” to remind yourself to read stimuli with the goal of understanding the author’s intent and to combat a bad habit you’ve noticed where you pick an answer without double-checking that all of its terminology matches that in the stimulus. Maybe on your LG note card you write “look for frames” and “make sure to double-check diagram.” You can do similar things on the other cards.
On test day, you may feel your head spinning with a thousand concerns — taking a look at these note cards beforehand can help center you, and I recommend you get in the habit of using them for that purpose on your PT’s.
4. Set flexible timing goals
For example, depending on your goal score, you may want to be around the 7 minute mark when you finish the first RC passage, the 15 minute mark after the second, and so on —
No one is going to go through an entire exam hitting these marks exactly and you shouldn’t expect yourself to either — a lot of it has to do with issues outside of your control — perhaps the second RC passage is the toughest of the section and also happens to have the most questions, or maybe the first two passages turn out to be relatively simple and the final two brutal.
So, getting a bit ahead or behind your goal timing is nothing to be alarmed about — at the same time, it can be useful to have these markers as gauges, so that you can keep track of your pace and you can make sure that you aren’t rushing too much or slowing down too much.
If you’d like, you can write these timing goals on the same note cards mentioned above.
The next four suggestions have to do with having an optimal mindset.
5. Be aggressive
Obviously, optimal mindset will be different from person to person, but, for most of us, it’s best to go into the exam with a pragmatic but aggressive attitude —
It’s very much like the experience of running into an ocean wave — the harder you go, the more easily you can dictate the action; the more timid you are, the more you open yourself up to getting overwhelmed —
Similarly, going into an LR stimulus aggressively seeking to find the point, find the support, and so on puts you in a much better position than does going into an LR stimulus unsure of what you are supposed to look for and scared of what you might find.
6. Expect and embrace challenges
There will be difficult games, and difficult reading passages, and difficult Logical Reasoning problems. I think you put yourself at a disadvantage if go in hoping there won’t be — hoping you won’t run into a tough game or a tough passage, etc. —
Rather, you want to go in with realistic expectations — that you most certainly will run into a tough game or two, and so on, and also with the understanding that how you handle these challenges — how smart you are about extracting as many points as possible while wasting as little time as possible — is what will determine your success.
7. Expect to miss problems and allow yourself a certain number of misses
Think about the range of scores that are realistic for you, and set goals for how many you need to get right in each section in order to get to a score at the upper end of that range.
For most students, it is true that you can miss at least several problems per section and still do well. You want to keep this in mind when you run into the problems that cause you the most difficulty — of course you want to try your best to figure them out, but you don’t want to overinvest your time and energy on the hardest problems when they aren’t worth any more points than the easiest ones — speaking of —
8. Work to efficiently earn points
Because of the design of the LSAT — because each problem, no matter how difficult, is worth exactly the same number of points, in order to perform at our best, most of us have to work very hard to train ourselves to mitigate a natural and understandable instinct that has developed throughout our entire educational lives — our instinct to spend more time and energy on the hardest of questions.
This is an instinct that is very hard to control, and it’s an instinct that puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to the LSAT.
Of course you want to try to give yourself a chance to get every single problem right, but it’s essential to be mindful of the big picture, and to know that your real end goal is not to get the most difficult problems right, but rather to get as many problems right in the allotted time as you possibly can — for almost all students, this involves cutting time on problems that they find most difficult and investing that time into the problems they should and need to get right.
So again, to summarize all of the mindset tips, be aggressive, but make sure to try and channel your aggression wisely — not toward obsessively trying to get every problem right no matter how long it takes, but rather toward trying to grab as many points as you possibly can in the limited time that you have —
Finally, here are just a couple of tips for each section —
9. Think in Five-Problem Sets
Think of each Logical Reasoning section as a series of five-question mini-quizzes. You can use these five-question sections to plan your timing (for example, you may set a goal of being under a certain time by question five, being under a certain time by question ten, and so on) and accuracy goals (perhaps you expect, per your personal expectations, to miss one question in one of the first two groups of five, you are okay missing one question in the next group of five, and so on).
It can also be nice to use these five-minute blocks to allow yourself to hit the refresh button and carry forward less of the stress of previous problems than you might otherwise.
10. Learn to recognize the signs of trouble
Some questions are more difficult and will require more time to solve (and provide less certainty that the time spent will pay off with a right answer) — you want to get better and better at recognizing the signs of trouble so that you can make more informed time-allocation decisions.
There are three main points at which you might sense that a problem will be more trouble than it’s worth:
1) When you read the question stem — There are certain problem types, such as Match the Flaw and Match the Reasoning, that, on average, take longer and are also of above average difficulty. There may be other question types that you find less success with personally as well. It’s good to know all this so that, especially should you find yourself behind on time, you’ll know that these might not be good problems for you to invest a lot of time in. (On the flip side, certain types of problems, such as Identify the Conclusion, tend to, on average, be easier and take less time — if you were running out of time, these might be good problems to invest time in).
2) When you read the stimulus — If it’s confusing as hell the first read through that’s understandable — if it’s still confusing as hell after your second or third read, that’s trouble.
3) When you are evaluating the answer choices — You can look for signals from both sides — do you either understand clearly why an answer is attractive or, (more frequently) do you see clearly why certain answers are not? If you have trouble making determinations for answer (A), then (B), then (C), etc., that’s certainly a sign you are having trouble.
If you find yourself having trouble at 2 or more of these checkpoints, it’s a very strong sign the problem is going to take more time than it’s worth to totally nail, and so you’ll want to be careful to, while still trying your best to get the right answer, make sure not to let yourself get sucked in and overinvest any extra time.
11. Give yourself a pause after reading the passage to review it again for yourself.
You’ll feel rushed through the entire exam but there are certain moments where it’s really a great use of your time to slow down and work carefully — after reading an RC passage is one of those moments.
Reading Comp passages work like great stories in that, especially for more difficult passages, it can be difficult to anticipate where the passage is going, or why exactly an author has mentioned something. However, after you are done reading a passage and have all of it at your disposal, just like when you are finished hearing an entire story, it becomes much, much easier to put all the pieces together and to understand why the author mentioned everything he/she did.
It can feel like you don’t have time to do this — like you have to rush into the problems — but trust me, it will take far less time than you might think, and it can help save you tons of time when you move on to those q’s.
12. Check against text and task
When stuck between two or three attractive answers, or when your lone remaining choice just doesn’t seem right, it can be very easy to get lost in our own thoughts and spin our wheels —
That’s when it can really help to have a habit of getting specific and practical — don’t waste time comparing the remaining answers to one another, ruminating about them in your own mind, etc. — instead, put your energy into checking the specifics of the answers against the text and task — does the answer talk about exactly what the passage is talking about (oftentimes there will be subtle changes in subject matter, etc. that are very hard to spot until careful inspection) and does the answer choice actually match the task presented in the stem (often, when we get lost in thought on an RC q, thinking about the q stem becomes the odd man out).
For Logic Games
13. Use the Rules Q to verify your understanding
The vast majority of games — very likely all four that you will see on test day — begin with what I describe as a “Rules Q” — a question that asks for one way in which the elements can be organized to satisfy the given rules.
These problems are designed to test your understanding of the given information, and the way in which I recommend you solve them is this:
You go down the list of written rules (rather than using your diagram), and use one rule at a time to eliminate answer choices that violate that rule. By the time you are done going down the list, you should only have one answer remaining, and that answer will be correct.
This first q is a great opportunity to settle into a game and get comfortable with it, but it’s also a great chance to make sure you understand the rules correctly — if you go down your list of rules and for some reason can’t eliminate all 4 wrong answers, there is a very good chance you misunderstood or misinterpreted the full ramifications of one or more rules.
14. Spend more time on set-up, less on q’s —
There is the danger of spending too much time on set-up — and, especially if you are using strategies where you often rely on creating multiple frames and so on, that is certainly something to be aware of —
But for most students, it is generally beneficial to slow down a bit while you are setting up a game — give yourself the time to make sure you understand the rules correctly and give yourself the time you need to draw a smart diagram that you can be comfortable with. Just as with RC, you will feel like you need to rush, but being a bit more careful during the setup will, in general, save you time when it comes to answering the q’s.
That’s it — thanks for reading and hope you found at least a few of those tips helpful —
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