Mental Endurance & Clock Anxiety

    • March 14, 2016 at 2:50 pm #1590


      First off, I wanted to thank you again for all of your help, and the jump that has happened in my scores via The Trainer (160 to 167 with correctable issues).

      I’ve got two issues that my be related…

      I have noticed two interesting trends during my last couple of PTs that is keeping me from the almighty 170+ zone:

      First Issue:

      All of my missed questions come at the end of LR and RC sections, usually in chunks of 2 to 4 wrong.

      Also, with LR, my performance is markedly worse on the second section – On the 1st section I routinely miss maybe 1, but on the second I am missing up to 5 questions.

      Have you ever seen anything like this before? Is there any strategies you know of (in addition to more PTs – that always helps!)?

      Second Issue:

      In logic games, I noticed I have some major anxiety around the time left. For instance, in my last PT I went into the last problem with 8:30 left. Instead of lasering in on the game and doing what I know I’m capable of, my only thought was: “I struggled a bit on one of the easier games, I’m going to run out of time”. With this ringing in my head, I was unable to focus on a good diagram/inferences and only got through the 1st question.

      Again, do you have any tips for over coming a scenario where you may need to work a minute or so quicker on a game, but not freak out (other than more drilling and PTs – of course I’ll be doing those!).


      Thanks for everything- Inching slowly but surely to steady 170s!



    • March 16, 2016 at 7:54 am #1594
      Mike Kim

      Hey JD —

      Awesome to hear about the improvement, and great to hear that you are finding the Trainer helpful —

      I talk more about section/timing strategies as you get toward the end of the book, but here are some thoughts that you might find helpful now —

      1) Q’s get harder toward the end of a section, so it’s to be expected that you run into more challenges later.

      2) Differences in score between LR sections seems to be the norm, rather than something unusual, and I wouldn’t worry about it —

      Back in my Manhattan days when I used to do mass assessments of a bunch of student scores, I often noticed how different their LR results would be — it seemed it would be much more common, say, for me to see a -2 and a -6 combo than a -4 & -4 combo. I have no idea if LSAC plans it that way, or if it’s just how the odds work out, but I wouldn’t stress too much about performing better in one section than another.

      Most people certainly do get more tired as a test goes on, and that can definitely be a factor in performance —

      One way to help mitigate that is to try and convince yourself, and train yourself, to think of each section in smaller chunks (I suggest increments of 5 q’s), and try to get closure after each grouping, so that, essentially, you try to do as well as you can on one group, then forget about it when you move on to the next one. Similarly, you want to do whatever you can to get closure after each q, so that you are done with it, one way or another (even if that means marking it to return to later if you have time) and won’t keep thinking about it.

      To illustrate the importance of this, imagine the student on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum — one that has lots of trouble getting closure —

      Imagine the student really wants to/expects to get a top score and…gets stuck on problem #2 — knows it’s supposed to be easy, but can’t figure it out, starts to panic, spends far more time than he should, gets upset at himself about that, then picks an answer just so he won’t keep wasting time — now he gets to q #10 — checks his time and still realizes he is behind — blames himself (or the testmakers, depending on the student’s life outlook) for trouble with #2, worries about having maybe rushed through some other q’s, makes plans for how to make up the time coming up, and…suddenly runs into another tough q —

      I won’t keep rambling on, but I think you can see that for this type of student, the stress will build throughout a section and throughout a test, and prevent the student from doing what he needs to in order to perform at his best, which is to focus on the q directly in front of him.

      To help improve your sense of closure, it really helps to
      a) develop a very clear sense of when you are right or not sure of being right (duh) &
      b) develop set habits that make it so you don’t have to waste time and energy thinking about what you should do/how well you think you did what you thought you should do — for example, you may want to work to develop a certain routine for what you will do when you get stuck between two answers: compare them to see if there are differences you may not have noticed before, try one more time to eliminate each, then do one more double-check to make sure you didn’t eliminate the right answer, then try one more time to see which remaining choice relates best to the conclusion/premise relationship, then, if you can’t do that, mark the best guess answer, mark that you should return to the q again if you have time at the end, then move on —

      Your habits don’t have to be like the above, and they should be adjusted slightly per each q type, but hopefully that gives you an idea — if you consciously work to develop such a backup system, one that forces you to make the decision to move on after a set number of moves, and then you run into challenges on test day, you can rely on these habits, and not waste precious time/energy worrying, deciding, and not getting closure.

      Second Issue —

      You can think of your LG timing work as falling into two distinct categories —

      1) working to get faster at solving LG games and q’s well
      2) working to get better at managing the :35 mins you have during an LG section

      As I alluded to earlier, during most of your prep #1 should be your main focus — it doesn’t make a lot of sense to make decisions about time allocation when how fast you solve games should (hopefully) be changing.

      Especially if, at this stage, you feel like you can, on average, finish 4 games in 35 mins, I encourage you to keep working to get faster and faster at them — there is no reason why, with a few more months of work, you can’t get your average time lower — and, if you get yourself to a point where, say, on average you finish an LG section in 30 minutes, how you decide to allocate your time will be much less of an issue than it is for pretty much everyone else.

      In terms of timing concern #2 — allocation — again, this is something you want to focus on most toward the end of your prep, but for now here are a few suggestions to keep in mind —

      1) When you are behind on time, you ought to be a bit more eager to look for framing opportunities (that is, chances to set up multiple diagrams instead of just one) —

      Not sure if you watch football, but to me framing is a bit like the long pass — you can’t use it all the time, and you don’t want to feel like it’s your only chance for success, but, at the same time, when framing a game works out, it can save you a tremendous amount of time, and, if you are behind on time, that’s when you want to up the aggressiveness in terms of trying to find ways to frame in any way you see possible.

      One extra credit way to work on this is to, during your practice, try to solve games in a variety of ways — without frames, and with various types of frames — over time, this can give you this great sense that you can “win” in many different ways and can help you get betting and more confident about choosing the best tool for the situation at hand.

      2) Once you get into practicing, and developing habits for, different LG question types, take note, during this process, of which types of q’s you inherently find more difficult or find take more time, and also work to get better at noticing the signs of when you are stuck on a q and might need more time on it (such as when you get asked a “could be true” and can only eliminate, on your first go-around, one of the four wrong answers) —

      And then, later on in your prep, similar to LR, you want to, during your drilling and pt’s, work to develop the right backup habits for when you get stuck — a routine of actions you will take that either lead you to fixing your issues or moving on — once you get such routines into place, it becomes much easier to make time allocation decisions (if you find yourself running out of time, you can tell yourself not to spend too much on a certain q type you know causes you trouble, or that you feel stuck on, and accomplish that by, for example, giving yourself one best shot but perhaps limiting your “backup” moves, etc.) —

      Whew! Sorry the length got away from me, but hope that helps, and if you have any follow-up let me know — excited to see how high you can go — MK

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