Saturday, August 31, 2013

September 2013 | 5 Practical Steps to make the most of your last month before the LSAT

First and foremost, if you're not ready yet, then I strongly suggest that you consider pushing taking the test until December. Getting ready for a tough exam like the LSAT in just ONE-MONTH can cause 1) physical damage (i.e., I've seen students lose hair) and 2) even worse, psychological burn-out (i.e., I've witnessed students end up hating the very idea of law school). So strongly consider postponing taking this test.

However, if you are resolved to take the test within the next month - pay attention. Students who DO NOT go through 10-15 practice exams rarely do well on the real LSAT. This last month should be spent taking real LSAT exams under strict timed conditions AND more importantly reviewing your mistakes thoroughly and learning from them.

1. Collect PT 55 (Oct 2008) to PT 69 (Jun 2013)
Do it quick. If you're self prepping without a prep company, then quickly go on Amazon or LSAC to purchase your single-booklet copies. These exams have been known to run-out. Pre-prep and organize these exams in easy to access booklet/packet form.

2. Be Disciplined: Set a Schedule and STICK to it!
Discipline. This is so important. It is the key to anyone's success on the LSAT. It's so easy to get gung-ho about something on the ouset. But it's just as easy to lose flare and interest. Commit to, for example, waking up at 7AM on Saturday mornings and taking a full-length practice test.

Here is a schedule I have most of my class and tutoring students follow:

Light Red = timed mock exam
Light Blue = untimed mock exam (but do it in one-sitting)
Light Orange = review and practice drills
Light Green = rest rest rest

If you have one-month of prep left, I advise you to try the above schedule as well. The above schedule essentially goes through 15 practice exams in one month. It does so while providing two days of rest per week. It's very practical, manageable, and effective. However, without discipline, no amount of scheduling and planning will help you.

3. Meta-Cognition: Review, Think, and Find-a-Pattern
When you get an answer wrong, it's important to do a good job of reviewing your mistakes. Often students merely look over the accredited response, nod, and move on. It's NOT enough to merely understand why the correct answer is correct. That's like being spoon-fed. Who knows if you would have ever been able to arrive at that answer on your own, if someone else had to point out what was correct to you? Also what about hind-sight bias? When you already know something is correct, then OF COURSE you "get it".

As you score your completed exams, simply put a X on the question number(s) you got wrong; DO NOT mark/circle the correct answer. You want to be able to redo the questions you got wrong without knowing the correct answer. So do that. It's doesn't matter that you already know that one of the answer choices is incorrect - you still got it wrong and you can learn a great deal from redoing the question.

Think about why you chose the wrong answer. Think about what you missed while reading the Vignette/Stimulus. Think about what the question stem is prompting you to do. Think about how this question is like/different from all other similar question types. Think about your pace. Think about what you were thinking the first time through. Think about why the wrong answer are wrong, and the Dudds are dudds. In short, be able to teach this entire question to someone without any hiccups.

Finally, figure out whether there's a pattern to your mistakes. Patterns are difficult to deduce. But trust me - you have a pattern to your mistakes. Find it. Are you chronically struggling and fighting against the clock? Do you always get bogged down by the sciencey passages? Are assumption questions your worst nightmare? Are you have trouble setting up that one game (out of four)? Figure out the pattern. Fix it by referring to LSAT prep books and/or your LSAT teacher.

4. Sleep and Rest - just as diligently as you study
It's so important to rest and sleep properly. As test date quickly approaches people suddenly adopt this robot mentality - "I will eat drink and poop the LSAT!" But let's be real. You cannot suddenly become a machine and expect to 1) be happy; 2) naturalize the material; and 3) be effective.

You body and mind can only take so much LSAT. Trust me. I live, breathe, and teach this exam. I am intimately familiar with the extreme human limits of LSAT exposure. Don't make the mistake of saturating yourself with the LSAT, so much that you walk in on test date and blank out.

When you rest, resort to what fills your happiness gauge. This is important practice not only now, but for future success in law school. Students who figure out and know how to fill their happiness gauge can last longer and outdo any of his/her peers.

5. Avoid forums, blogs, and people that add to your stress
The LSAT (and law practice - for that matter) is an individual sport. It's not a team sport. No one will be taking the test for you. When it really matters it's just you and the exam. So why fret and heed those stress inducing idiots who are there just to wig you out?

I don't quite understand why and how people get to this point, but seriously, there are folks out there that simply get a kick out of freaking other folks out. Don't fall prey and become their victim.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Reading Comprehension | Less is More

Sometimes less is more. I find this to be true (more and more) in so many aspects of law practice. I found this to be true during law school. And upon reflection, I find it to be true also for the LSAT reading comp section.

Check out this picture:

Yes. You feel that sense of accomplishment. It feels like you've actually done something. Instead of emptiness, you feel like you're leaving a giant (colorful and scribbly) footprint behind the pages that you've mastered. It feels good. I know - I've been there.

But in all honesty, it is a huge waste of time. What really matters after reading any LSAT reading comp passage isn't that you've completely and utterly mastered identifying, for example, the list of reasons why the dolphins died off. You're not being tested on facts or how much you can remember from the RC passage. 

The key, according to Kent Lawless, from LSAC, to doing well on the RC passage is to keep the big picture in mind while working your way through the details. I agree with him.

Here's what most people don't realize - the RC passages in the LSAT were written by some think-tank Ph.D in Newton, PA, which is where LSAC is headquartered. It's NOT merely an abridged excerpt from some book/magazine. This means that you'll have to assume that the written works in the RC passages are actually good writing.

When folks read, they often forget about the elements of good writing. Indeed, reading and writing are two very different tasks, but if you put yourself in the writers shoes, then as a reader, you'll extract and analyze more efficiently.

Here's my case in point - Topic Sentences. Topic sentences give you a great window into what the entire paragraph is going to be about. Most LSAT students, however, breeze through these topic sentences without giving much though into them. In fact, some students don't really wake up or focus until mid-paragraph.

Even if for a few nano-seconds, I tell my students to get behind the "eight-ball" and predict how the entire paragraph is going to "go down" after reading the Topic Sentence. It forces you to be an active reader. It's quite efficient. You will be surprised at how accurate your predictions might be. And if you're prediction is wrong, then you'll be all the more intrigued by how the author takes twists and turns.

Reading and predicting based on Topic Sentences, will also help you keep the big picture in mind. You'll learn to treat each paragraph in units, and then (hopefully) you can learn to think about with the entire passage based on the interaction between these units. This helps you NOT get bogged down by details. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

7 Lovely Logics to Read before Bed

According to collected data by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, “among 74,571 adult respondents in 12 states, 35.3% reported <7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period, 48.0% reported snoring, 37.9% reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month, and 4.7% reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month.”

7 Lovely LSAT Logics to Read before bed:

1.       There’s nothing your mind can comprehend at 1AM.

2.       There’s nothing your mind will comprehend at 9AM without having slept the night before.

3.       There’s nothing you can do to avoid burning out if you go consecutive days not getting much sleep.

4.       There’s nothing you can do right now if you didn’t prepare for tomorrow during the day.

5.       There’s nothing you can talk yourself through that you can’t think through tomorrow.

6.       There’s nothing you can worry about that preparation won’t fix over time.

7.       There’s nothing your body will do that your mind won’t allow it to do.

Be logical, relax and get your sleep!