When I first started getting in the rhythm of taking LSAT practice tests, I was happy to be scoring in the high 160s and low 170s. Since I had just begun taking full-length tests, I imagined that it would only be a matter of time till I hit the mid-to high 170s, my target score range. But after a few more weeks of Sunday morning practice tests, my scores still weren’t budging past the 168-172 mark.
I had hit a plateau. I know now that this is a totally common phenomenon for LSAT students—but still, it was frustrating! So I decided to do things a little differently (and ultimately chose to work with a tutor). By changing up my studying and getting one-on-one help, I was able to break my plateau, get to the bottom of why my scores wouldn’t budge, and figure out how to consistently hit my target score.
Here’s what I learned (and what I would recommend to LSAT students also facing score plateaus):
1. Beware of practice test fatigue.
There are LSAT students who swear by taking 5, 6, or 7 practice tests a week. For me, this would be exhausting – and counterproductive! When I was studying (and working full-time), I made sure to space out my practice tests so that I could rest my mind from the stress/adrenaline of the test before taking a new one and so I could review each question thoroughly (even the ones I got right!). This meant that leading up to my LSAT administration in April, I only took 2 PTs a week. I treated each practice test like the real thing (including by doing my pre-test routine), reviewed each section for several hours after taking it, and drilled down on any issue areas before sitting down to take another test.
This method, rather than taking back-to-back practice tests into oblivion, helped me to score highly, consistently.
2. Take away the time pressure.
It’s imperative to take practice tests and sections with the hard time constraints you’ll face on test day. But if you’re still working to understand a particular logic game or LR/RC question, it can be helpful to give yourself all the time you need to work through it first.
From my own experience, I was in a score plateau because there were still some LG/LR test concepts that I wasn’t fully comfortable with. To become comfortable with them, I let myself think through these questions without any time constraints. Then, when I felt like I knew the ins-and-outs of a game or question that was confusing me, I went back to timing myself. Speed comes with practice and understanding!
3. Engage with the material in a new way.
Whether it’s working with a tutor, reading a non-LSAT book on logical fallacies, or even thinking through a question out loud, sometimes the way to break a plateau is simply to do something different. It might take activating a new part of your brain or having the guidance of a tutor (even just for a couple sessions) to get to the next level. During my first session with my tutor, I immediately felt relieved to be talking about and developing a new study plan with an LSAT “expert” who had taken and mastered the test.
4. Zero in on the tricky questions.
If you’re consistently getting perfect scores in your logic games section, for example, then it might be time to take a break from the games and focus your attention on the trickier sections/questions for a few days of concerted, focused study. I did this – which I called “bootcamp” – during my own studying, and it helped me immensely. By focusing your attention on mastering a tricky question or section alone – for example, necessary/sufficient assumption LR questions – you can go into test day knowing you have these questions down so you have more room for error when you hit a question you don’t immediately know how to answer.
5. Don’t be afraid to call it a day.
This goes back to my first point – “beware of practice test fatigue.” Sometimes the best thing you can do for your LSAT studying is to take a day off! Rest your brain, do things that make you happy, get outside – and return to your studies the next day with a fresh mind. A break can help your brain really process the information you’re studying so you can hit the ground running the next time you test.
Like I said before, hitting a plateau in your LSAT practice test scores is normal – and completely solvable! If you try out these strategies individually or in combination, I’m confident they’ll make a difference in your scores (and help you ‘enjoy’ studying for the LSAT too).