September 20, 2016 at 11:07 am #2735Mike KimKeymaster
Hey everyone — I’ve been getting a ton of messages asking for last minute tips — thought I’d put something short together — nothing earth-shattering, but I hope some of you find some of it helpful —
Tempting Mindsets to Avoid —
1. “I hope I get lucky and don’t run into any difficult x, y, z…”
To me, this is very much like going into the ocean fearful of waves, hoping you won’t have to deal with them.
You will run into challenges — games you can’t set up ideally, or passages that you can’t totally understand — this will happen to everyone taking the test, and, when it does, you want to be ready and aggressive.
2. “I’m going to give myself a gazillion test-day advantages to ensure I perform at my very best.”
“I’m going to monitor my pace every thirty seconds –”
“I’m going to look at every game in a section before I start it and determine the order in which to play them. Same for RC.”
“I’m going to count how many problems I had to guess on, and make sure I use a certain distribution of letters for my guessing strategies.”
“I’m going to split every pair of LG pages into a certain number of boxes per the number of questions given, so that I can best utilize my work space.”
“I’m going to jump to questions 20-25 in an LR section first, then go back and do all Assumption Family questions, then do all Inferences q’s, then move on to Parallel Reasoning…”
And so on —
It’s certainly healthy and necessary to utilize certain test taking strategies, but you really want them to take up as little mental energy and space as possible — don’t let such thoughts distract you from the task of solving problems and getting points.
3. “I’m going to be super-meticulous and read every word perfectly and not let a single thing slip by me.”
I think this is a very common reaction to nerves and it’s something I’m particularly prone to —
The problem with this is that LSAT is not designed to reward that sort of thinking — it’s designed to reward focused thinking, and trying to account for everything can make it very difficult for you to focus. Not to mention that you might find yourself having done the first RC passage as “perfectly” as you’d like, only to look up and realize you’ve spent twice as much time as you normally do.
Okay, so then, what is the optimal mindset?
Obviously, there isn’t one right answer that fits everyone — the mindset that would allow one person to perform at her best might be quite different than that which allows another student to perform at his, but in general, here’s how I see the optimal LSAT mindset:
Comfortable -> Aggressive
Challenged -> Pragmatic
That is to say, when you feel comfortable — when problems, passages, or games are going as you expect, you want to really try to take the action to the test, and be aggressive about accomplishing those tasks — diagramming, eliminating wrong choices, or whatever, that lead you to putting points on the board as quickly and correctly as possible.
When you run into challenges, you certainly want to still try your best, but that’s when you want to be a bit more practical in terms of thinking about how much time you can afford to spend, when you ought to use guessing strategies, and so on.
For me at least, this mindset is very different from my normal state of life —
Mike in real life:
Comfortable -> Lazy
Challenged -> Super-Stressed Out Spaz
So, it can take some conscious effort to put yourself in the optimal LSAT mindset, and again, I encourage you to do so.
Quick thoughts for your final PT —
The score of your final PT really doesn’t matter — it’s probably best for you not to even grade it — I know that’s easy for me to say and if I were in your shoes I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to avoid obsessing over it — but I hope hearing that from a teacher makes somewhat of a dent —
What you really want your final PT to do is put you in the best position to succeed on test day —
And when you think about what can make test day challenging, it makes sense you’d want to use your final PT to —
a) model the experience of the test so that you are as ready as possible for any pressure/nervousness you may feel. So, try to make the final PT as realistic as possible, and try to imagine yourself in the actual exam as much as possible. The more you can make it a real dress rehearsal, the more it can help you feel comfortable on test day.
b) walk through the experience of making all the tough decisions — again, instead of hoping everything goes well on your final PT, expect certain hiccups to come up, and consider the final PT your last chance to practice making right decisions in dealing with such challenges — the goal is to firm up your test day strategies so that you can rely on them during the exam without having to waste a ton of time or energy.
One final tip —
Make one note card each for LR, LG, and RC (and maybe one for the test as a whole) — do not write tiny so you that you can fit a ton on the card (which would defeat the purpose) — instead, write out just a few essential keys for you to focus during each section. Take the cards with you, and try to look at them in the car (or on your bike or whatever) before you go into the exam.
That’s it – best of luck everyone — Mike
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