How to deal with test anxiety

LSAT test anxiety
By Josh A.

The LSAT was my first time dealing with real test anxiety. I’ve always been a good test taker; the SAT, ACT, AP tests, and years of in-class assessments all proved pretty painless. But the LSAT’s high stakes and new content, plus having to fit it into a college schedule, really got to me. 

It wasn’t just that the LSAT-related stress hurt my mental health. Rather, I noticed huge differences in practice-test scores based on where my mind was when I woke up that morning. It became clear to me that test anxiety could keep me out of top law schools - so I spent months not just working on test content, but figuring out how to get my mind right on test day. 

Finding the Right Pretest Routine 

The first thing I discovered was the importance of finding a routine to do before LSAT practice, especially before practice tests. My advice: find an activity that puts you in a perfect frame of mind. Mine was to go running or lift weights, depending on the weather, take a shower, and do LSAT prep while riding the high of post-workout endorphins. Your activity might be something else, and that’s fine. Maybe painting puts your mind at ease. Maybe playing the drums provides catharsis for your restless energy. Whatever it is, experiment until you find it. And if your schedule is tight, even a few minutes of the activity will do! 

Experiment with Mindfulness 

I had little experience with meditation, but my girlfriend convinced me that it could help with my test anxiety. As usual, she was right. I found pretest meditation to be a powerful anti-anxiety tool. I would encourage LSAT takers to do some research and find meditative techniques that resonate with you. I know many will be skeptical of hippy-dippy stuff, but trust me when I say it works!

Take a Break 

Your mind needs a break. At the height of my LSAT prep, I studied almost 20 hours per week, an enormous amount of work to combine with a full-time course load. But I never worked on Saturday. I felt so much more refreshed when I started working on Sunday as a result. I always recommend taking at least one day per week to decompress. 

LSAT prep is difficult and time consuming, and there’s no way around it. But if you adopt the right techniques, your mental health does not have to suffer.

Josh is a JD Candidate at NYU. He previously completed a Master's of Public Policy and an undergraduate political-science degree from the University of Maryland, where he graduated cum laude.


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