Fox LSAT Alumni Spotlight: Zach Watterson

Watterson headshotI love hearing what my former LSAT students are doing in law school and beyond. Zach Watterson took a LSAT prep class from me and achieved a score of 173. In this post, he answers a few questions about his experience taking the LSAT and shares some advice. How did you work with Nathan to prepare for the LSAT?

I took Nathan’s San Francisco course for three months starting in July of 2015 to prepare for the October 2015 LSAT. Nathan’s teaching style resonated with me and his willingness to always be accessible was a great aid whenever I had a question or was displeased with how my studies were going. After receiving my score from the October LSAT, I chose to retake the LSAT in December 2015. I did not re-enroll in Nathan’s class, but I emailed him regularly for help on questions I had and to review my personal statement.

When you started prepping for the LSAT, what scared you the most? How did your perceptions about the LSAT change?

I took the LSAT in September 2014 before I started working with Nathan so I already had a general understanding of the test. I knew what the various sections were and strategies on how to approach the test. I was not scared by the LSAT itself. Instead, I was most fearful that I would not meet my expectations of how I could perform on the LSAT. I knew I could perform well if I worked hard, but I expected to achieve my dream score every time I took a practice test. This was the most difficult part of my studies. In many of the initial full length practice tests and in the sections we took in-class with Nathan, I did not meet my goal score or I missed too many questions in a section to achieve my desired score. I became increasingly disappointed and frustrated which made studying more difficult. I had many moments of doubt, which were relieved by Nathan’s instruction.

Even though I had already taken the LSAT before I began working with Nathan, I had no clue as to how much work and time it takes to fully master the LSAT. I knew that my initial preparations for the September 2014 LSAT were inadequate, but in the first week of class with Nathan, he exposed the harsh reality that I should have never taken the LSAT in the first place. Nathan’s recommended amount of time to spend studying dramatically altered my perceptions of the LSAT. As Nathan repeatedly says, “the LSAT is not so much a test of knowledge, but rather a test of how hard you are willing to work.” The LSAT can be mastered. Learning this fact altered how I viewed the LSAT and freed me to focus on attacking each question rather than to be fearful of making a mistake.

What was the score you ended up getting? How did you get that score?

My end result was a 173 from the December 2015 LSAT. This was a 20 point jump from my September 2014 score and a nine-point jump from my October 2015 result where I gravely under-performed. I never wanted to take the LSAT three times or dedicate close to seven months of my life to studying. In the end though, that was what it took to achieve my dream score and to realize my potential. Nearly all of my success on the LSAT is due to Nathan’s approach and strategies to the LSAT. His emphasis to attack each question and always be critiquing put me in the mindset that I could conquer the LSAT. This made studying that much more enjoyable. Instead of viewing another thirty-five-minute section of reading comprehension as a burden, I saw it as a chance to tell the LSAT writers how their arguments made no sense. I achieved a 173 through repetition. My confidence grew as I saw the same question over and over again. Even though the words were different, I knew the answer just by seeing how the argument was structured. Consistently doing timed sections and drilling various question types and games was central to my preparation.

Where did you end up attending? What do you hope to do after graduation?

I am currently waiting to hear back from law schools on their admissions decisions since I applied after I received my December 2015 LSAT score. I have no idea as to what my plans are post law school. I have a wide range of interests in what area of law I hope to practice in and as a result, I do not have a concrete plan after receiving my JD. Hopefully, my 1L year will bring me some clarity.

Do you have any tips for current and future LSAT students?

Maintain a balance between your life, work, and LSAT commitments. I failed to do this in my preparation for the October 2015 LSAT and I now realize that so much of my stress and frustration could have been mitigated if I did not place the LSAT in such a supreme position. Too much of my time was consumed by the LSAT, which resulted in many hours being wasted as I just wanted to get through a timed section or a set of question types as fast as possible. In the month or so I had before the December 2015 LSAT I studied when I felt ready to, spent more of my time with friends, and began to coach the basketball and cross country teams at my high school. The LSAT should not be a burden. If you find yourself feeling that it is, step away for a few hours or a couple of days. You will not lose the skills you have acquired in your time away and it’s better to be immersed in your studies rather than be distracted by the nagging thought of “the LSAT really sucks.”

Taper off your studies as test day approaches. I have been a competitive track runner for nine years and I know the importance of feeling fresh and rested for an important meet. The LSAT is no different. Feeling confident and relaxed on test day will produce better results than you cramming in an extra section of logical reasoning or logic games in the days leading up to test day. The LSAT requires hours of preparation to do well. If you have not dedicated that time in the weeks leading up to the test than you have already failed to achieve your goal.

Running 10 miles a day with two hard track workouts the week before a championship meet will not result in a personal best. I more than likely will be crawling to the finish line. Your focus in the week leading up to the LSAT is to do whatever will ease your anxiety and build up your confidence. I ended my preparation for the December 2015 LSAT after I nailed a full length Logic Games section and missed only one question in a logical reasoning section three days before the test. I knew I was prepared and having this confidence was crucial to my calmness during the actual LSAT. I did not taper for the October 2015 LSAT when I should have after I scored a perfect logical reasoning section in my last class with Nathan. I felt that by doing a couple of full sections in the remaining days I could maintain my sharpness. I only exposed myself to negative thoughts which resulted in me being so nervous on test day that I was shaking as I took the LSAT. That was a recipe for disaster.

Focus on your immediate tasks and not the totality of what needs to get done. The general prescription for preparing for the LSAT is to do at a minimum ten full length practice exams before test day, drill logical reasoning question types for an hour each day, and do a section of logic games, reasoning, and potentially reading comprehension each day. That is an overwhelming amount of studying when you total it all up. Instead of being paralyzed by all that you have to do, focus on what you are going to achieve in the moment. Whatever time you commit to studying, create a goal. It may be, “I’m going to nail the first two games of this section,” or “I’m gonna learn what a necessary assumption is.” Whatever they are, the goals you set for yourself will keep you motivated and will focus your study time which will result in improvement.

Stay positive, immerse yourself in the LSAT, and believe in your abilities. The LSAT can be mastered, it just requires hard work which is always rewarded.

Thanks for sharing your story, Zach. Good luck and keep us posted where you're accepted!

If you want to talk with Zach about his experience, send him an email at ztwatterson@gmail.com.

Learn more about my in-person classes and how they can help you conquer the LSAT.