Updated: Feb 24, 2022
My favourite scientist, Albert Einstein, once said: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
For our purposes, I shall revise this quote: "The definition of LSAT insanity is mindlessly doing LSAT prep tests over and over again, but expecting different scores".
One of the most frustrating experiences for an LSAT student is doing prep tests over and over again without seeing any tangible improvement in their score. For many LSAT takers who excelled in school, doing practice exams was key to their success in their academic studies.
Some students adopt the strategy of exclusively taking prep tests, one after another, with no prior practice in systematically tackling the various sections of the LSAT.
Unless you have an insane aptitude for logical and deductive reasoning, this approach is an enormous mistake and a disaster in the waiting.
The main reason for this is that without having learned the necessary skill sets to consistently and efficiently solve LSAT questions, doing prep tests one after another reinforces all the wrong habits to the severe detriment of the student.
This is why in my private LSAT tutoring experience, I often find it much easier to teach students with a "blank slate" rather than students who've already done dozens of prep tests without any foundational LSAT training.
But what if you've done all the foundational legwork and have drilled enough times with all the right habits? This is the time you can transition your LSAT studies to full-length practice tests to further diagnose your strengths and weaknesses and identify areas of improvement.
Unfortunately, even at this juncture, I often see students taking a prep test and then immediately tally up their score and call it a day, maybe taking a brief look at their wrong answers right after.
If you are one of these students, you are doing the greatest disservice to your LSAT prep journey. Maybe you just couldn't resist the temptation of checking your score right away, but you have essentially wasted a valuable practice test and more than 2 hours of your life.
This is where discipline comes in. You must realize that most of the value in doing a practice test is not the test-taking process itself, but rather the review that comes after. When I say review, I mean honest, introspective, and lengthy review.
Let me describe to you, step by step, how exactly you should conduct your LSAT prep test review:
4 Key Steps to Reviewing LSAT Practice Tests
Take a short break.
Do a blind review.
Check the answer key and do another round of review.
Conduct a macro-level self-examination.
1. Short Break
It's natural to feel exhausted upon completing a full-length practice test. The temptation is to just tally up your score, see what you got, and then take the rest of the day off. You may feel that you have "done your part" in "today's LSAT prep", having gone through more than 2 hours of intensive work.
Rest is undoubtedly very important. Taking a few hours off after grinding a prep test out is indeed a wise thing to do for your brain and body. But I highly recommend that you conduct a thorough review of your practice test not too long after the initial sitting while your memory is still fresh to fully maximize the benefits of your review.
I recommend that you take a 30 minute to 1 hour rest after you complete a practice exam, and then conduct your review session immediately after. You will likely still remember a large chunk of the problem solving thought processes you had during the prep test. This is absolutely critical to steps 2, 3, and 4.
There are all kinds of ways you can take your short break. You can have a cup of tea, play with your cat, or take a brief nap (my personal favourite).
2. Review - Round 1
After you take your short break, it's time to "blind review" your practice test. This means going through both the questions you flagged and ones that you did not have enough time doing BEFORE checking the answer key.
You will attempt to redo these questions with no time limit. This could take as little as 1 minute for a logical reasoning question or as long as 1 hour for a logic game - however long it takes for you to confidently arrive at the correct answer choice.
Through this process, you may have selected a different answer choice or have elected to stick with your original one. The bottom line is that you are trying to find the right answer to the questions you struggled with a second time through.
When I say "arriving at the correct answer choice", I mean not only being able to clearly articulate to yourself why the answer choice you are selecting is right, but also confidently express why each and every other answer choice is wrong.
If you chose an answer choice to a question during the practice test without fulfilling the above two criteria, that's a question you should have flagged for review.
I know that it is slow and painful, but this is how you learn. This is how you should practice and this is how you should review. In your second crack at it in the blind review, you should ask yourself the following questions:
a) "Why did I flag this question?"
b) "What was I unsure about?"
c) "Did I actually grasp the argument in this LR stimulus?"
d) "Did I misread something in the stimulus or in an answer choice?"
e) "How could I have more efficiently set-up and diagrammed this logic game?"
f) "What's for dinner?" (I'm kidding. Resist the temptation.)
Depending on the number of questions you flagged or skipped, this could take 30 minutes or a few hours. In doing this, you are engaging in high-quality review and a second round of practice that would otherwise not have taken place had you skipped this process.
3. Review - Round 2
You can finally tally up your score and check which questions you got wrong. You should have a regular LSAT prep test score, and an LSAT prep test score based on your blind review adjusted answer choices.
You will then do another round of review. This time, you will analyze all your wrong answers. The key questions you should ask yourself during this process are:
a) "Why is d) correct?"
b) "Why is the answer choice I chose, a), incorrect?"
c) "Why did I pick the wrong answer choice?"
d) "Why did I not pick the right answer choice"?
e) "How could I have avoided two errors?"
f) "What steps should I take to avoid a similar error in the future?"
Remember that there are always two ways to arrive at the correct answer choice for each question of the LSAT:
1) Find the one correct answer choice; and
2) Eliminate the four incorrect ones.
This means that when you get a question wrong, you made not one, but two errors - failure to find the correct answer choice and selection of an incorrect answer one.
In this second round of review, you should especially aim to understand why you selected the wrong answer choice and why you did not select the correct answer choice so as to cultivate self-awareness of exactly what went wrong and exactly how you can fine-tune your LSAT problem-solving process.
4. Macro-level Self Analysis
Having gone through each and every question you flagged and got wrong, it's imperative that you spend some time analyzing your performance on the practice test on a macro scale.
You should examine your score on the individual sections and observe possible trends. In this process, you may find yourself asking the following questions:
a) "Am I struggling with a specific logic game type?"
b) "How did I do on time for LR? Did I budget my time wisely?
c) "Did I lose focus and concentration at some point? How is my stamina?"
d) "How was my mentality throughout the prep test? Was I discouraged at all?"
e) "What possibly contributed to my improved/declined prep test score?
f) "What other lessons can I glean from this prep test?"
Undertaking the macro-level self-examination as shown above helps you understand what you should further practice on. If you bombed an In/Out game on the prep test, for instance, perhaps it's wise to drill those games. If you found yourself physically and mentally drained after 3 sections, perhaps you could ramp up the intensity and length of your LSAT drills to improve your test-taking stamina.
If there's improvement and a positive trend in your practice test scores, it's also worthwhile to reflect what you did right, not just what you have done wrong. Not only is this a confidence booster, but it also helps you identify and reinforce the good habits you've developed and cement your improved skill sets.
As an LSAT tutor, I have consistently observed that students who improve the most are not only those who put in the most amount of hours, but also those who are highly self-aware and who take active steps to diagnose their strengths and weaknesses to find ways to break their score plateau.
Study hard and study smart, my LSAT compatriots. And knowing how to review practice tests wisely is a crucial part of that.
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