The Law School Admission Test — or LSAT for short — is only given four times a year. The fall examination is now just three short days away, on Saturday October 3.
While three days does not, realistically, leave much room for major cramming, it’s not too late for test-takers to learn a few last-minute strategies to get their best possible score.
Shinners is certainly well credentialed to give tips on the exam. He scored a perfect 180 the first time he took the LSAT and graduated from Harvard Law School.
Sleep and relaxation are key
Shinners advises test-takers not to do any LSAT studying the Friday before the exam.
Instead, test-takers should focus on their physical and emotional well-being the week before the exam.
“Nobody sleeps well the night before the LSAT,” Shinners said.
He recommended going to bed a few hours earlier each night the week before the exam, even if it means lying in bed awake. The point is to eke out as much additional sleep as possible to counter the sleepless night before the LSAT.
He also suggests activities that encourage relaxation, whether that is a massage or going for a run.
Set out materials in advance
This is also the time to set all of the materials necessary for test day, like photo identification, pencils, erasers, snacks for the exam, and a watch (analogue rather than digital which is not permitted). He reminds students they can’t bring mobile phones into the testing center.
He also advised buying an analogue watch with a rotating face so test-takers can watch the minute hand and can count down each 35-minute section.
Test prep strategies
If test-takers aren’t scoring anywhere near their goals on their practice tests the week before the test, it might be best to postpone and take a later exam.
“The goal for this week is not to radically change your score,” Shinners said.
But if test-takers are within a few points of their goal the week before the test, they could possibly use some strategies to elevate their scores.
“The standard deviation on the test is 2.7,” Shinners explained. “Which means that if your average is a 165, you can expect on test day to score anywhere between a 162 which would be disappointing for somebody who has a 165 average, or a 168, which would be huge for somebody who’s got a 165 average.”
With that in mind, Shinners provided his tips to ensuring LSAT scores end up on the positive side of that standard deviation.
Logic game strategies
For logic games, Shinners said it is important to know if you get in the groove once you get going, or if you run out of time on games.
If you are someone who gets better as they do more logic questions, start with the easy questions and work your way to the harder ones.
If, however, you are someone who normally runs out of time, you want to start with the games with the largest number of questions associated with them, and do a harder one up front.
He also advises his students to look for the “conditional questions,” which are logic game questions that give you a new piece of information. To clarify his point, Shinners used this example:
All world leaders have a responsibility to their citizens. However, they also have a responsibility towards citizens of neighbouring countries. All citizens, regardless of country, rely on stability in their region to live their lives. Therefore, any world leader who destabilizes a region is evil.
“In this question, we get a new term in our conclusion — ‘evil’,” he said. “For questions that involve finding the assumption of the argument, we should be looking for something that establishes what it means to be evil, since our premises don’t do that for us.”
Reading comprehension generally has two easier and two harder passages. It’s the most draining section, according to Shinners. It’s best to start with the section with the largest number of questions first while test-takers still feel fresh.
Also, it’s a good idea to skip the reading comprehension section that a particular test-taker struggles with. Reading comprehension passages come from a wide range of subjects in the humanities, social sciences, biological and physical sciences, and areas related to the law. For most people, the physical and biological science sections prove to be the most difficult, according to Shinners. He says not to waste time on it if it and to come back to it later.
Test-takers should have a realistic goal of where they want their LSAT score to be on test day, and they should form their logical reasoning strategy around that.
“If you’re aiming for a 165, a good strategy is to try and get through the first 15 questions in somewhere between 15 and 20 mins, which will free up time for harder questions later on, and still make sure that you pick up all those points on the easier ones early on,” Shinners said.
People aiming for a lower score than that should invest more time in the first 15 questions because they tend to be the easier ones.
Shinners also said that the last two to three questions in the section are on the easier end, so people should go for those after they answer the first 15 questions.
While these specific strategies are important, Shinners said being relaxed and well-rested is actually the most important part of last-minute LSAT test prep.
“The most important thing is you go into it feeling fresh,” he said.
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