When are you really ready to take the LSAT?

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Statistical Mediation & Moderation in Psychological Research (52)I am a golf nut, and without a doubt the greatest golfer of modern time (perhaps ever) is Tiger Woods.

I watched an interview with Tiger Woods that was conducted at the peak of his career. Tiger talked about what it feels like being “in the zone” and playing world-class golf when the stakes could not be higher. He said that he often does not remember the best shots that he has ever hit in tournaments, because when the pressure gets so high, his conscious mind turns off and his body takes over. As Tiger put it, “I black out.” Pretty freaky, huh? “On some of these career-best shots, I remember seeing the ball in the air, but other than that I have nothing. I’m just getting out of the way and letting my training kick in.”

Tiger went on to share some advice that his father, a former military service member, gave him when Tiger was a junior competitor: “When things get chaotic, trust your training.”

In the military, units will run the same drill dozens or even hundreds of times. Why? Because when the pressure gets high, you do not want to be thinking. You want to be doing. No contemplation, because the nervy jitters of the situation can paralyze you. You need a deep encoding of what needs to be done. So deep that it requires no contemplation to access it: you hear someone shout “Marco,” and you involuntarily respond, “Polo!”

If you are early on in the LSAT preparation process, let me tell you a secret: there is a place where the LSAT happens reflexively… and, therefore, when your target score happens reflexively.

I hear students thrilled the first time they hit their target score of, say, 175. And I am excited for them. That kind of score takes a lot of hard work! But what I am obligated to tell those students is the follow-up: “Now do it ten times in a row.”

I know, I sound like a total bubble-buster. But the truth is that just because you can pull out a score at home, with a warm beverage beside you, your cat purring softly at your feet, and with nothing at stake… that does not mean that you can replicate that score on test day.

I joke with my students that the goal is to become an “LSAT machine.” I challenge my students to take practice tests in noisy coffee shops, to practice sections in 30 minutes rather than the allowed 35 minutes, to practice sessions when they are tired after work. I do this because when my students can pull off their target scores under tough conditions, then they can reliably walk into the testing room and say, “I have thrown down my target score at my best, and at my worst. Whatever today brings, I am ready.”

You are really ready to take the LSAT when your target score is more than a possibility… it is automatic.


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