Q and A: What Happens If I Panic During the LSAT Logic Games Section?

winter-games-ii-428219-mA student sent me an email about how she did after taking the September LSAT. She had some concerns about the logic games section, and asked for my advice on whether to take the LSAT again and how to "practice being nervous." Here's the advice I gave her.  Student: I wanted to update you with how the LSAT went. I felt great about the first two sections: logical reasoning and reading comprehension. Finished early and had time to check over other answers. I panicked, though, on the logic games section. I got through the first two fine, but when it became clear on the third game that I was missing something important about the third game, I began to freak out (shaking hands, totally blank brain). I had to guess on half of them, and barely got through the fourth game. The last logical reasoning section didn't really seem hard, but I was so shaken from the games that I don't have much confidence that I pulled off what I usually do.

I'm bummed because I actually think it was a pretty easy logic games section. They were each game types I'd seen before and the rules were quite strait forward. Moreover, I went into the test feeling great about the games. I practiced that section every day for weeks before, and while I was always fighting to finish on time, I reliably did well. But while usually when I begin to notice something wrong on one of the games I can re-think my approach without too much trouble, this time the threat of not finishing had much higher stakes. This awareness combined with my nervousness meant that I wasn't able to re-think my approach effectively. And as I rely on doing well on logic games to get a 170+ score, I'm not feeling very hopeful about my results.

I'll likely have to take it again. I'm worried, though, because I don't know how to practice being nervous, which was clearly a really big factor for me. I feel like I went into the test fairly confident, and secure in the fact that I'd done all the prep that I realistically could do. It wasn't a particular skill that tripped me up, just my own nerves. And the stakes will only be higher on my next (and second) test. Not sure if I should try again this December (when all my prep will still be relatively fresh) or give up on applying this year and wait for a while.

Nathan: Bummer about the test. You should definitely take it again in December, and, if necessary, February. Then be done with it. That's my advice whether or not you choose to apply this cycle. Get the LSAT over with while it's fresh in your mind, then move on to other projects.

The games on the September 2014 LSAT were, as you mention, pretty easy.  So you probably didn't do your best. This is absolutely no big deal! Many, MANY students have a bit of a panic on their first real LSAT. That's why they let you take it three times. The stakes will not be higher next time, they'll be lower (since you'll already have a decent, if not great, score on record). I've had many students report that they were far less nervous the second or third time around.

As far as "practicing being nervous," I think that's a great idea and I do have some ideas.

1. Get a study partner who is also taking the test with your same accommodations, and do practice tests with them. Preferably with something on the line. Pride... dinner... 20 bucks? I'd be happy to help you connect with other accommodated students.

2. Come to my practice tests in October and November (free) and take the test in regular time alongside my class. Challenge yourself to score well even without accommodations. Might that make you nervous?

3. Take tests by yourself, but figure out a way to put some stakes on it. There are all sorts of ways you could do this. A wager frequently works; this could be money or other things (I'll eat a worm if I don't score 170+. Gross, but potentially effective).

4. Do practice tests with me watching over your shoulder. This option is expensive, but doable... I can be extra harsh on on you if you want. :)

I also strongly recommend that you continue to work on your fundamentals and increase your mastery over the test. I've had many students turn a bad first test into a great opportunity; not reaching 170 on this test could turn out to be a good thing if you end up with 175 in December.

I've greatly enjoyed working with you so far, and I'll always be on your team.

Good luck!

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