If you’re reading this blog, it’s fair to assume that you’re taking your LSAT preparation seriously, which is smart. But although you’re taking your study seriously, are you being smart about how you study? Both commitments are important if you want to do well on the LSAT without driving yourself crazy and burning out before test day.
Most people preparing for the LSAT experience a range of emotions relating to the test: fear, excitement, loathing — you name it. The excitement you feel when you nail a concept or raise your score on a practice test is a fantastic motivator that keeps you coming back for more. It’s like making a great chip shot onto the green in golf, or getting that 50-point bonus in Scrabble (see Rule #8). It can be a kind of geeky high, and is part of the fun of studying for the LSAT.
But then there are those times when your fear of the test forces you (rightly!) to sit down with your books even when you don’t want to. You loathe those minutes and hours toiling away at topics you don’t find fun or even interesting, perhaps. These are the times when you need to be very disciplined in your study.
Some students fall into the trap of studying only what they enjoy, typically things they already understand. You’re tired of studying, you don’t really want to be doing it, and you’re afraid that you may never truly understand the material you’re having difficulty with. So, you compromise. You can feel proud of yourself for “studying,” but you’re not doing yourself much good.
Assuming that you’ve already built a comprehensive conceptual foundation, your study should always focus on the things that you understand least that appear on the test most frequently. Let’s say you don’t understand how to deal with Evaluate the Argument questions, a difficult question type for people to master. The good news is that Evaluate the Argument questions appear very infrequently. You may not even see an Evaluate the Argument question on your test. Since you don’t fully understand the question type, you should spend some time reviewing it. But it would be a mistake to devote a large chunk of your study time to a question type that you may not even see on test day!
On the other hand, suppose your difficulty is with a more frequently tested concept, such as Assumption questions. You’re definitely going to see a few Assumption questions on test day, so you absolutely must devote time to figuring those questions out and preparing yourself to crush them.
Instead of taking this more effective approach to organizing their study, some people continually revisit the same concepts they’ve already mastered. It may be comforting, but it’s not efficient, and ultimately will leave you ill-prepared to attack the entire test.
So, break out of your comfort zone. If you know that you’re susceptible to falling into this study trap, organize yourself so that you’re prepared to avoid it. Set out clear, discrete, and attainable goals. On your study calendar (and you have one, right?), rotate the topics so that you keep some variety in your study and hit all of the topics multiple times. When you have gotten to where you truly understand a specific area of the test, reduce its prevalence in the rotation so that you study it less frequently, but still revisit it periodically to keep it fresh in your mind.
You’ve already made the critical decision to take your preparation seriously. Now reward yourself, by making your study time as efficient, effective, and fun as possible.
Photo: “College Student Studying in Park” courtesy of CollegeDegrees360.