December 14, 2015 at 10:51 am #1043AnonymousInactive
HI Mr. Kim, I would love some feedback if possible. I’ve sent you a few messages over the last year, and I’ve been studying for a couple. I’m asking experts what they think. So I’ve basically studied constantly for a year with no improvement. If you count how many years I’ve been thinking about the test, and doin some work it’s actually been a couple years. Of course, learning the basics of the test got me to the point where I could at least improve a little. However, I’m just stuck in the mid to high 140’s. It’s so fustrating because I’ve put all this time into studying/drilling. I do have anxiety, and that may be a source of why I’m doing so poorly. I also believe that the simple act of comprehension may be at the heart of my lack of improving. (Anxiety, brain trying to process things too fast during the test)
I wanted so badly to do this on my own, but I just can’t. I even enrolled in 7 sage, but it just has not helped as I thought it would. I’m already old lol (relative to others on tls, and most taking the LSAT..26) i can’t give up however, my GPA is so high 3.8, and I am a black male. I realize the fortunate position I could be in if I do well. I know it wasn’t the best decision, but I just took Saturday’s test because I thought it might help my anxiety to get exposed to the test. To my surprise, I thought I was able to focus better than on any practice test I’ve ever taken. I still had to guess for most of the games, and some questions on RC. At this point I’m just thinking of finding a tutor in the Eastern NC area,and buying your book. I like the way you put things simply. I’m currently living with my mother who is basically supporting me through this time. She’s been wonderful because she understands how much this test means to my career. I can’t really spend much on a tutor though, but I am thinking about getting a job to help with money for one as well.
I’m just simply at a loss for what I should really do next, and any input/advice you could give would be great. Thanks for reading this, and again, any advice would be welcomed.
December 15, 2015 at 9:19 am #1049
Hey LTownsJr —
Appreciate you sharing your situation, and I hope that some of my advice helps you figure out how to get unstuck —
Before I get going, I recommend that you read the first chapter of the trainer, which is available for free here — http://www.thelsattrainer.com/assets/1-lsat-introduction-sample-chapter.pdf —
It offers general tips for how to prepare for the exam, and I think it can be a useful rubric against which you can evaluate what you’ve been doing so far —
Now only my message — sorry in advance for the length and typos — if I had more time it would be shorter and cleaner, but in any case, I can certain feel your pain and it seems clear to me that you are caught in a bad cycle –
To use an analogy, you are having trouble seeing target and you are having trouble hitting it —
If you could see it better you could get better at hitting it, and if you could hit it better you could get better at understanding where the target is — but you aren’t getting enough from either end to allow things to develop and move forward, and, hence, you are stuck.
Of course — that’s probably not how you experience the situation — it doesn’t feel like that — rather, it feels like there are a million things to master and as soon as you learn one thing another pops up, as soon as you address one weakness another appears, and so on — while this may make it seem like the LSAT is impossibly unpredictable or there are a 1,000,000 things to learn, the reality is that you haven’t developed the proper mental structure necessary to see how everything relates and grow.
What I recommend for you is that you stop everything you are doing and just focus, for however long it takes, on growing and strengthening your understanding of the exam. Only when you feel comfortable enough with your understanding move on to focusing on getting better and better at problems — the simple idea is that you are first going to work on seeing the target more clearly, and, once you do that first, it’ll be far easier for you to work on getting better and better at hitting it —
Suggestions for developing your understanding —
1) Whether you use the trainer or not, focus on figuring out what is most important, and focus on understanding things as correctly as you possibly can. Duh. But what I mean is to prioritize those two things and NOT worry too much about trying to learn everything there is to learn / use every product there is to use / try every problem there is to try, etc. — you’ve given yourself enough variety — that’s not the issue — focus only on quality — the best way to solve a problem, the cleanest and most correct ways to understand concepts, and so on —
2) recognize that getting good at the LSAT is less about gaining external knowledge and far more about fine tuning how you utilize skills you already have and things you already know.
I’m not trying to sound like Yoda and if you were studying for a different sort of exam (say, a calculus test) my advice would be very different —
But the beauty of the LSAT is that it poses incredibly difficult challenges, but does so based on incredibly simple and fundamental rules that govern how we think and how we communicate.
3) evaluate your mastery using 1 exam worth of q’s –
As the gauge for your understanding, I recommend that you try to completely master one exam worth of q’s.
Try to understand every single question inside and out so that you understand exactly why the right answer is what it is, exactly what makes each wrong answer incorrect (and what the wrong answers tell you about the bad habits you want to avoid), what strategies would help you focus on the right issues, all of that — try to master these 100 q’s to the point that should you see any of them again, you have zero worry you could possibly miss it.
I want to make this just a bit more visceral by making you do a little bit of math (sorry) — please go ahead and try these two problems —
1. The product of 8 and 4 is…
2. Janice drives 120 miles away to a vacation spot and drives back the same distance. She drives 60 mph on the way there, and 40 mph on the way back. What was her average speed?
(A) 48 mph
(B) 50 mph
(C) 100 mph
The correct answer for #1 is (D).
If you were to review it, you would know that the fundamental issue behind it is multiplication, that you needed to understand what “product” meant in order to see that, and you needed to, more specifically, understand that multiplying 8 and 4 = 32. When you study the q more deeply, you can see, especially in the wrong answers, the bad habits the test is designed to punish — you would select (A) if you mistakenly divide, (B) if you mistakenly add, and (C) if you mistakenly take just three 8’s instead of four.
Ideally, you want to be able to understand every LSAT q with that level of clarity — knowing what is right and why, the key things one needs to know to arrive at that right answer, and the false steps that are discouraged and lead to wrong answers.
The second problem is a bit tougher and the right answer for that is (A), 48 mph. The math for that works out as follows: Average speed = total distance / total time. Traveling at 60 mph it took her 2 hours to get there and 3 hours back. 240 / 5 = 48.
This second q is certainly harder, but why? Not because it contains difficult math concepts (average speed is something most people understand fairly well) but because it requires you to be exact in utilizing your understanding (go through the steps of actually calculating average speed per its exact definition: total distance / total time) and because the trap answer (50 mph) is far more attractive, and, in order to avoid it, you have to prevent yourself from being mentally lazy/making false assumptions.
Hard LSAT q’s work in exactly the same way — at the end of the day, they rarely require you to do things or think ideas far more advanced than the easier q’s do — they just make it much harder for you to do things correctly.
So again, however long it takes and whatever methods you use, I encourage you to work to understand just 1 test worth of problems as thoroughly as we discussed the two math questions above. Use whatever learning products you feel are most helpful and take however long you need, but don’t move on until your understanding has gotten strong enough for you to be able to do this.
In my opinion, per what you’ve told me, doing this before you continue on with more drilling and practice exams is the best way to stop this bad cycle and the best way for you to naturally teach yourself better ways to master the LSAT —
Again, resist the temptation to focus on hardest q’s, resist the temptation to equate # of q’s drilled or pt’s taken with expected improvement, and instead focus on understanding and solving problems exactly and correctly. Start with the easiest ones and work your way up — and if you do this correctly, once you’ve finished one exam, when you go to look at the next one, you will come to find that there is very little that is truly different about it, and the next one even less so, and so on.
Finally, just want to end with a quote from one of my personal heroes — Ralph Waldo Emerson — I think that every single one of these lines is remarkably relevant when it comes to LSAT prep —
Without ambition one starts nothing.
Without work one finishes nothing.
The prize will not be sent to you.
You have to win it.
The man who knows how will always have a job.
The man who also knows why will always be his boss.
As to methods there may be a million and then some,
But principles are few.
The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods.
The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.
Studying for the LSAT is tough and it’s very easy for even the best of students to lose sight of what they are supposed to try to accomplish, and it’s natural, in this situation, to try method after method to see if something clicks, and maybe that’s what you need to keep doing — but again, it’s my recommendation that you stop practicing for the sake of practice and focus all your energy on understanding the test as well as you possibly can, and then after than you can move on to drilling and trying to get better and better, and I expect that you’ll have an easier time seeing your scores go up and up.
I hope some of that helps, and whether you get the trainer or not, if you have any follow up or need me just let me know —
December 15, 2015 at 11:39 pm #1052
@LTOWNSIR I am no expert but just giving some suggestions. You may or may not use it. I sincerely hope this helps.
- If you have really bad paralysing anxiety try meditation. It should be able to help you atleast some amount in calming your nerves. There are plenty of free apps on meditation and ways through which you can learn how to meditate. Just begin with 5-10 mins. See if it helps you in any way.
- Also, your sleeping, eating and exercising has a great role to play in your mental stamina and performance. Try sleeping early and atleast for 7 hours. Exercise atleast 20-30 mins everyday. Do what you like.
- I think anxiety shows that you are putting wayyyy too much pressure on yourself. LSAT is very important but it’s not the end of the world. Listen or read some good positive stuff on self improvement and motivation E.g. Brian Johnson on YouTube, Tim ferriss podcast, Elkhart tolle ( he should be of help to deal with anxiety) among others.
December 16, 2015 at 10:45 am #1054AnonymousInactive
Thanks for all the advice you all gave, I really appreciate it.
December 17, 2015 at 7:03 am #1065AnonymousInactive
Thanks, I will be up here a lot.
December 18, 2015 at 8:25 am #1073AnonymousInactive
Hi guys, so I just wanted to give a quick update. Anyone can add any thoughts they would like. So I did PT 52 over this past week. I took this test at the very beginning of my prep when I first began to get serious. I thought it would be great practice since I hardly remembered anything. (My memory is horrible) I did a section per day, and I spent as long as I needed to only focusing on 100 percent comprehension and nothing else. (No timing at all). Questions took a varied amount of time. A few questions didn’t take long, and some questions/games/passages prob took up to 20 minutes. I know in total that the games section, and the RC section took about an hour each in which I felt comfortable with comprehending the problems and finding an answer. Both LR sections prob. took that long as well. I scored every section after i did it. For what it’s worth, I missed -5 on every section except for RC. I missed -7 on that.
Takeaways: This shows that when I comprehend well, I can score better. I know my mind prob. remembers more than I think it did, but I don’t think that was too much of a concern because of the amount of time it took on questions. Still, I don’t have as good of feeling as I prob. should about this test because of the fact that it did take me so long to get to complete comprehension. My worry is about how can I cut that time down without losing some of the comprehension. I know some parts are more Important than others, but what helped was the fact that I understood everything .
Next step: I’m going over everything today, particularly the questions I got wrong, but also everything I got right and didn’t feel comfortable about. Sort/kinda like blind review a little. I’ve actually started already, and 52-1-10, and 52-3-13, are questions I’m really going to need help with, both are assumption questions, and both involves some conditionals which aren’t necessarily that important to figuring out the answer (I don’t believe), but they still make these problems a little hard to understand.
Again, anyone is welcomed to add thoughts, I would love to hear what you think about my analysis. Frankly, I need all the help I can get lol.
Thanks in advance.
December 21, 2015 at 10:43 am #1080
Hey — great work on the test —
The negative part of getting my help is that you are going to have to listen to me repeat myself sometimes — just wanted to hop on to encourage you again to start with the easier problems and work your way up, holding yourself up to as high a level of expectation about mastery as possible — far beyond just knowing you got the right answer, even beyond just knowing the best methods to get there, and as close as you can get to knowing that you’ll never miss that sort of question ever again — as you gain more and more mastery over the easier problems, I promise it’ll just naturally happen that “harder” questions will feel less difficult, and also happen to show up less often —
Here’s another gauge to use to try and achieve a total level of mastery — again, starting with the easiest questions, imagine yourself having to teach the question to a class — if it’s not too embarrassing for you to actually do this out loud, that’s even better — forcing yourself to put things into words often helps you see areas where your understanding isn’t quite as clear as you tell yourself it is — for LR and RC q’s, imagine having different students each be attracted to the four wrong answers — see if you can figure out what could lead them to think these answers are correct, and, based on this, what they would need to fix or improve.
Again, all this may seem a bit extreme, but it is my suggestion that, for you, the best approach at this point is to develop as much understanding and mastery as possible before moving on to getting in more drilling and pt work. Really getting to know 1 test will be way, way more valuable than practicing 10 more tests —
Good luck studying this week — Mike
December 21, 2015 at 10:26 pm #1086
The “imagine you are teaching it” scenario has always forced me to go beyond. It has been a very effective strategy in my college and university work. What’s even more interesting here, is your suggestion Mike, to think 4 of my students are attracted to each wrong answer type. Ingenious! I will definitely use it. Thanks. ?
January 26, 2016 at 5:04 am #1394justicedstParticipant
To Mike and LTOWNSJR,
I have had The Trainer for almost a year and I found this site two weeks ago, thanks to following Mike on YouTube. This post was one of the first posts I read and I understood your pain, LTOWNSJR…. putting so much time into studying and getting disappointing results. When I read the advice given, I took detailed notes and followed them to the letter. Even LTOWNSJR’s update, I was eager to know how his progress was going. Well, I must say, this forum topic gave me hope so, I studied using the techniques advised by Mike and all I have to say is: Thank you. I saw great success. For example, I have had mediocre success with the flawed section. but when I explained the process of finding the flaw out loud (as if I was teaching myself): where the flaw was in the passage, the conclusion, the premise, then why the incorrect answer was wrong and why the correct answer was right, I got every flawed question that I attempted correct (from PrepTest 29 to 32), except one. And with the question, I got wrong, I know that I didn’t understand the passage thoroughly. I was amazed because I even got the hard questions right. Yes, It took a lot of painstaking time over the course of a weekend, but I was successful. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
February 13, 2016 at 8:46 am #1517AnonymousInactive
This is so awesome, I’m glad my story could help you out Justice. I’m still in the battle, but I def. feel confident. I haven’t been around much because I’ve been taking a break from the LSAT dealing with other things like my health. However, I’m about to really get going again. Since my last post I’ve taken my first timed test. I scored a 152! That’s around the highest I’ve ever got on a timed test, and the mistakes that I could easily address/correct would have yielded me at least 5 more points at a minimum.(misunderstanding a rule to one game, misreading the text of the stimulus, etc.) The key really is to completely understand what you know, and completely understand what you DONT! I will say the credit for this post goes to Mike. I really didn’t want to post it,because frankly, it was a little embarrassing to me. I had never put so much effort into something and gotten little to no results before. This was originally just a private message to Mike, but he told me that some students go through the same problem, and he encouraged me to post it in the public forum. Again, I’m really glad this could help you out, but most of the credit really goes to you putting in the effort! I hope we both see continued improvement!
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