Steve Schwartz is the LSAT tutor behind LSAT Blog, a comprehensive resource on everything related to LSAT prep. He has written a series of LSAT prep books and created a set of LSAT video courses. He frequently updates LSAT Blog with free LSAT tips and tricks.
1. With just two weeks left before the September LSAT, what should people be spending their time doing? Is it all about practice tests, or honing their best sections or their worst? What’s the best use of this precious time?
LSAT test-takers should be focused on pulling it all together with full-length timed practice tests. This means 5-section exams, under realistic, test-day-like conditions, timed strictly. The proctors aren’t likely to give you a few extra minutes or pause the clock at any point, so don’t give yourself this extra time. After taking a timed exam, review in detail. Review not only the questions you answered incorrectly on your various timed PrepTests, but also the ones you answered correctly but weren’t 100% sure about. When marking off the questions you answered incorrectly, don’t write the correct answer next to them. Attempt to determine the correct answers for yourself. Sure, you might spend some extra time on a last-ditch effort to shore up weak areas, but your foundation in all sections should already be fairly solid by this point. If not, you’d likely benefit from taking it in December in order to maximize your potential LSAT score.
2. How much improvement can people expect to see in their practice scores in the last 2 weeks before the LSAT?
On average, possibly a few points, but not as much as they might hope. Many people hope to get 5 or 10 point increases in the last week because they’ve underestimated the amount of work necessary to achieve a significant score increase and don’t want to wait until the December LSAT. However, these kinds of last-minute increases simply aren’t likely. Some actually experience a test day “drop” in scores due to the stress of it being the real thing (and/or distracting proctors and other test-takers). Test day “drops” can be avoided by taking practice tests under realistic, strict conditions to build endurance and focus.
3. How should people know whether to fish or cut bait? How can they decide whether they are really ready to take the test or whether they should wait for December?
If your practice test scores are within a few points of a score you’d be happy to get, take it now. (The average of your most recent few practice test scores is probably a good indication of where you stand.) Otherwise, it would make sense to register for the December LSAT now, just in case you’ll need to take it then. The best and most conveniently located test centers tend to fill up quickly, so it’s a good idea to register as early as possible, before the flood of September test-takers decides they didn’t do well enough on test day. Yes, you might be registering for December for nothing, but the cost of an unnecessary registration is a drop in the bucket compared to the benefit you may derive from going to a better law school in the end.
4. What should people know about test day? What can they bring with them? What might they encounter?
There’s plenty to know in the few weeks before in order to make sure you’re ready. I actually have an entire compilation of LSAT test day tips on the blog. However, in terms of what to bring – pack a gallon-sized ziploc bag day before with your admission ticket and photo, #2 pencils, energy bars, bananas, a bottle of water, photo ID, and an analog watch if you plan to use one. Also bring a photocopied logic game or set of logical reasoning questions to complete before you enter the test center. A warm-up is never a bad idea.
Test-takers might encounter distracting fellow test-takers or proctors who don’t know what they’re doing. Most test centers are fine, but some might have small desks. Just be ready for anything. While you can’t necessarily control conditions at your test center, you can control how you react to them. As strange as it might sound, I actually recommend that my students practice some kind of daily mindfulness meditation. This can help improve focus and concentration in dealing with the stress the LSAT can cause.
5. For people who decide to retake the LSAT in December, what can they do to evaluate what went wrong and how to correct the situation in December?
First of all, before the September LSAT, set aside a few recent practice tests just in case you’ll need them for a future retake. If September doesn’t go well, take a good hard look at the practice tests you did leading up to that exam, not only the September test itself and review them in detail (I talked a bit about this earlier.) Additionally, think about factors that may have led you to study inadequately the first time around, such as school, work, friends, or distractions (like the Internet). Attempt to minimize their impact on your studying as you prepare for your retake.