The LSAT is This Weekend … What Do I Do?

calendarWith only a few days remaining until the December LSAT, I get a lot of panicked questions. Students want to know exactly what they should do -- hour-by-precious-hour -- with the time they have remaining before the big day. Some of them are nicely prepared, and some of them are woefully unprepared. No matter who's asking, my answer is always the same.

First of all, you need to relax!

If you haven't already thoroughly prepared for the LSAT, you're not going to magically get yourself ready in the last five days. No amount of last-minute cramming is going to replace what should have been weeks, if not months, of practice. There's no memorization on the LSAT, which means you simply can't do this by brute force. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Yet, you can still do a few things to ensure that you'll get your (relatively) best score on test day, and giving yourself a last-minute ulcer isn't going to help anything.  Stay with me, because most of the tips below will apply to you.

If you have already thoroughly prepared for the LSAT, then congratulations!  Your months of hard work and practice are about to pay off. You've banged your head against the wall, you've done countless practice tests, you've spent lots of time (and probably money) on your preparation. You've invested wisely in your future. Now is the time to take a deep breath and make sure that your investment pays off on test day. Here are some recommendations:

1) Stop scoring yourself. If you want to do some practice during the week leading up to the test, that's great. But please don't hang on the results of every single practice test. If you obsess about every single score, you're becoming too results-oriented instead of process-oriented. The major risk is if you happen to have a bad day, and then let that bad day get inside your head. The worst-possible scenario I can imagine is someone who takes a full-length practice test on the day before the actual LSAT, scores 10 points lower than their average score, and breaks down sobbing. This is very taxing emotionally, and is the exact opposite of what you should be doing at this point. Do some practice if you want, but don't look at your scores.

2)  Get healthy. You might have been neglecting your physical and mental health over the past few months, juggling work, school, family, and LSAT preparation. Use this week to start to repair all that. As an LSAT teacher, I help people improve their average scores.  But most people still have a plus or minus 5 point range around their average. You need to ensure that you get at least your average score, and hopefully better than average, on test day. The way you do this is: Get some sleep. Get some exercise. Don't drink too much. Eat something healthy. Get some fresh air. See a movie. Relax.

3)  Take care of your loved ones. Buy your mom some flowers. Seriously. Take your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/it's complicated out to dinner. If you've been fighting with your roommate about your dirty bathroom, then just clean the damn thing and be done with it. The last thing you want on test day is a relationship problem hanging over your head. Your friends, family, and other loved ones have probably put up with a lot of shit from you as you've been studying for the LSAT. Don't study so much this week, and use the time instead to make some amends.

4)  Clear some space around the test. Make sure you've got your work or school affairs well in order so that you aren't worried about some last-minute project during the test. Talk to your boss or professor if necessary. Do NOT plan to cook a big dinner with all your friends at your apartment immediately after the test! A former student told me she did this, and during the test she couldn't stop thinking about all the shopping, cleaning, and other preparation she needed to do... big mistake. The test (including registration, etcetera) is a long and arduous process. Plan on getting there early and staying there late.  It'll take longer than you think. Don't make plans that will be spoiled if the test takes all day.

5)  Remove some potential panic-inducers. Print out your admission ticket if you haven't already, and slap it on your fridge. The last thing you want is a morning-of-the-LSAT printer nightmare. Make sure you have your ID photo attached to your ticket. Oops, didn't realize you had to have a special photo? You need to immediately review the list of test-day requirements published by LSAC. If you haven't already gone to your testing site, do so! Figure out where you're going to park, what the traffic will be like, or what the public transportation situation is. I've had students call me, while running across campus on the morning of the test, panicked because they can't find the room. You can avoid this if you do some reconnaissance this week.

6)  Find a caddy, if you can. The LSAC's requirement that you not bring a cellphone to the test site is a real pain in the ass. Transportation can also be a major issue. A friend or family member can be a big help here. See if you can get mom, or a buddy who owes you a favor, to be your chauffeur/caddy on test day. They can drop you off, hold your phone and other stuff for you, bring you a snack at the break, pick you up afterward, and just generally be there for you as moral support. This probably isn't absolutely necessary (I didn't have a caddy on my test day) but it sure wouldn't have hurt.

7)  Redo some easy LSAT questions. Test day is going to be all about confidence, and one thing that can help that is reviewing things you've learned. If you get panicked, or if you just want to build extra confidence, consider redoing some easy Logic Games, or stepping through a couple easy Logical Reasoning questions... maybe a couple Main Conclusion questions would work. The point is to show yourself how easy the test can be. The more you believe this, the more it will be true.

With a few days to go before the test, the substantive work should basically be done. But there's always going to be at least a 10-point swing between your best and worst case scenario. I scored 4 points higher on my real LSAT than on any previous practice test. To give yourself the best chance of a welcome surprise on test day, use your remaining time to get happy, focused, and relaxed. The payoff is just around the corner.

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