Today, I conducted an experiment using a treadmill. With great purpose, I laced up my bright white tennis shoes, which my wife describes as having a unique, blended style: part geriatic and part orthopedic, designed for those who shuffle rather than run. I did some light stretching, put on Dave Matthews, and started the treadmill.
I entered my weight, selected the manual workout, and slowly increased not only the speed, but also the elevation. After reaching a brisk eight miles per hour pace, I settled into the recliner across the room. I closed my eyes to focus my concentration on the experiment, and simultaneously worked hard to ensure metabolic homeostasis.
After thirty minutes, I checked my progress. The treadmill’s display indicated that in those thirty minutes I had chewed up nearly four miles, and had burned an astounding 765 calories! What struck me most was how refreshed I felt. And, a few hours later, I still have no stiffness or soreness from my morning activity. How awesome is that?
Now, clearly what I’ve written so far is absurd. You and I both know that you can’t gain any physical benefit from taking a catnap on a recliner while the treadmill runs nearby. Although the treadmill recorded the anticipated product of my assumed physical activity, I didn’t actually run four miles or burn 765 calories, because I never got on the treadmill. The machine’s pulleys and gears moved the tread, but because my feet never connected with it, I received no benefit.
What’s surprising is how people approximate my absurd treadmill experiment when they attempt the Reading Comprehension section of the LSAT. Sure, they open the test booklet, sharpen their pencils, and set their timers, but they never connect with the passage. Their eyes scan over the words, and they may actually remember a few of them, but they’ve never stepped onto the treadmill. The miles are racking up, the time is flying by, but they’ve accomplished nothing.
On test day, time is too valuable a commodity to waste by failing to connect with the passage. From the very second the proctor starts marking the time, you must engage the text completely. Even if – or perhaps especially if – you find the subject matter of the passage to be incredibly boring, FOCUS on your task.
You aren’t reading the passage because it’s fun. You’re not taking the LSAT because it’s fun, just like you don’t run on a treadmill for the fun of it. There’s no book called “The Joy of Treadmill Running,” just like there’s no book called “The Joy of LSAT Test Taking.”
Your objective is to get the highest score possible on the LSAT, so that you can improve your chances of getting into the school of your choice while also minimizing the cost of your legal education. To achieve this objective, one of the most important changes you can make is to become a more active, effective reader.
There is no doubt that running on a treadmill can be a boring exercise. But one way people make it more interesting is to shift their focus from mere running to achievement, pushing themselves to reach new levels of performance. Running just one tenth of a mile longer than the day before, finishing their first mile just a few seconds faster. Setting and meeting these milestones, bite size though they may be, transforms a boring exercise into an exhilarating activity that makes them pop out of bed, even on a cold morning.
Take that same goal-setting strategy to the LSAT. Each day, focus on reading the passage just a few seconds faster, while actively engaging with the text and carrying away an understanding of the material that positions you to crush the passage set. Perhaps set a goal of getting even a slightly more effective prephrase for each question. Identify what your current weaknesses are and set as daily goals tiny, measurable improvements in each category.
Divide the challenge of achieving significant improvement on the test into tiny increments that don’t feel so daunting. Actively engage with each section of the LSAT and attack every single question. Don’t just sit back and let the test happen to you. Get aggressive! It’s your test, take control.
Photo: “Running on a treadmill” courtesy of E’Lisa Campbell.