Managing LSAT Anxiety on Test Day

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Today’s post comes from John Rood, President and Founder of Next Step Test Prep.

By now you’ve gotten the message – the LSAT is a big deal in deciding where and whether you get into law school. The high-stakes environment naturally creates a ton of anxiety around test day. Here are a few tips.

Practice Under Test-Like Conditions

It’s completely natural to feel anxious when entering a new, high-stress situation. One step is to try to take the “new” out of the equation. First, get used to practicing under real test-like conditions. On test day, your LSAT won’t be taken in the comfort of your home, so make sure to do several full-length practice exams in a public area like a university library. Many students get thrown off by the barrage of nose-blowing, paper shifting, construction noise, and general low-level chaos that is a fixture of test day. By practicing with some of that uncertainty you’ll be better prepared to face the real thing.

Second, if at all possible scope out your testing center the week before test day. While you generally won’t be given a specific room number in advance, you can at least go to the building your test will be held and walk around to get the lay of the land. (If you go at the right time, you could probably even do a practice test in an unused room). By getting acclimated to your specific environment you’ll feel a bit more comfortable on test day.

Remember Your Backup Plan

One of the most stressful elements of the test is the high-stakes nature. Think about it — if the LSAT was only a little important in admissions, you would likely have much less anxiety! One thing that helps is understanding that, for most students, you have a backup plan.

Plenty of students take the LSAT twice. The goal is certainly to take the test once and be done — but if you’re on your first attempt remember that the worst thing that can happen is that you have to take the test again in a few months (not that your law school dreams are permanently over).

Take Mini-Breaks During the Exam

The power to take back control of your body from your mind is an incredible skill to have. If you have ever had any interest in getting into meditation, the 6 months before your LSAT is probably a good time! But on a smaller level, practice stopping to take “mini-breaks” during a section.

Here’s how it works. After you finish a reading comprehension passage, one logic game, or two pages of logical reasoning questions, give yourself 10 seconds to stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and take one deep breath. Often just taking this one little break can give your mind the space it needs to keep moving. Of course, this will take 30 seconds per section — so if you are going to use this technique make sure to integrate it into your practice exams.

A reasonable concern here is that mini-breaks do indeed eat into valuable work time. The truth, however, is that your brain will end up taking breaks whether you want it to or not. You might as well create some control over the process.

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