LSAT studying is a slog. There are other ways to describe it—taxing, frustrating, rewarding, challenging—but I think slog sums it up pretty well. One major component of its intimidating nature is the sheer number of ways to study—drilling, tutoring, practice tests, practice problems, books, classes, and videos are only some of them.
There are a number of ways to tailor prepping to what’s best for you, but there are some general tips that I find have worked no matter the student’s study style.
It’s easy to convince yourself that the importance of the LSAT means that you should be devoting every waking minute possible to studying. There will always, furthermore, be more to do, as exhibited by the above list of materials. But it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a cliché for a reason, and applies to the LSAT as much as it does anything else. You have to give your brain time to encode all of the different things you’re learning, and burnout is a very real thing where this test is concerned. When prepping, you should actively budget in “off-time”. Find something to do that lets your brain actually relax. For me, even though I had never been a gamer, it was Skyrim. I spent more hours playing Skyrim during my prep than I’m comfortable admitting to. My character became ridiculously overpowered. I honestly believe, though, that it was a huge part of my being fresh on test day—I had given my brain ample time to relax. I even played the morning of my exam.
Second: hone test-taking skills in addition to learning strategies.
There are a multitude of mental strategies embedded in taking the LSAT, the most obvious of which is time management. There are a lot of sneaky ones, too. The ability to “switch” between modes of thinking is one. You’ll only have about thirty seconds in between sections, and there’s an active difference in the mental approach to all three sections. Letting a “bad” question or section go is another—it’s extraordinarily easy, even natural, to let panic from one section bleed into the others and ruin your whole test. You have to learn to leave a bad part of the test where it belongs: behind you. These are skills that you can only build through full-section practice; don’t negate them by just drilling or tutoring.
Third: standardize everything you can.
The day of the test is one of the more anxiety-inducing experiences possible. The only thing that I’ve found to help that is to make it feel like you’ve done “test-day” before. I probably overdid it, but for me that meant going to bed and waking up at the same time every day; eating at the same time every day; playing Skyrim while I drank my coffee the same time every day; and doing practice at the same time (which became the actual test time once I had signed up) every day. By the time I woke up for test day, I had pretty much “done the day” fifteen times already. It wasn’t any different than any other one of those days. This becomes a little bit harder if you have commitments like school or work, but do what you can, and especially try to standardize your sleep schedule. I can’t overemphasize how important that is.
There’s nothing you can do, unfortunately, to guarantee that your test day performance aligns with your practice tests. You can, however, minimize the chances that it deviates drastically—and the tips above will help you do that.