frightenedbutinspired asked:

How did you learn to focus for the LSAT?

Learning to maintain focus for the LSAT is probably one of the most challenging aspects of your preparation efforts.

I think the key to staying focused is simply to stay motivated. Motivation drives success, and if you can remain truly motivated, you’ll keep your head down and push through the exhausting hours of studying.

My strategy to keep motivated was somewhat quirky, but it really worked for me. When I started getting serious about my LSAT prep, I ordered a UChicago Law School T-shirt. At the time, I wasn’t scoring anywhere close to where I where I needed to be to get accepted to UChicago, much less get a scholarship offer. But in my mind, I knew that I wanted to end up at that school, and I set that as my goal. No backing down. Failure was not an option.

Once the UChicago Law School t-shirt arrived at my house, I made a habit of putting it on before every LSAT prep session. I’d look at myself in the mirror with the UChicago Law t-shirt, and I would visualize myself as a UChicago Law student. I’d pump myself up and get my head in the “LSAT zone.” Then, I’d go sit down for a few hours of hard LSAT prep.

At first, it felt strange to wear a shirt from a school like UChicago Law. I felt like an impostor. After all, my LSAT score was nowhere close to the range required to get into such a great school.

As the weeks progressed, this routine became an increasingly effective way to get me in the right mind frame and state of focus required to make some truly significant improvements in my score.

The more I wore that t-shirt, the more comfortable I became in it. Slowly, the impostor syndrome I felt faded away. When I looked into the mirror, I felt like I was staring at a future UChicago Law student.

In my mind, I was a UChicago Law student. Now all I had to do was convince the admissions department. At that point, nothing could stop me. I’d silenced the voices in my head telling me that I was somehow not good enough for UChicago, not from a prestigious enough college, not smart enough, not a hard enough worker, not worthy. Once these mental barriers were gone, I was determined to take that dream and turn it into my reality.

At that point, I was more driven, more focused & more motivated than I had ever been. I was more determined to succeed on the LSAT than I have ever been for anything else in my lifetime. With this new resolve, I stopped dreading long hours of LSAT prep.

I woke up each morning, put on my UChicago Law t-shirt and stood in front of the mirror, excited to start a new day working towards accomplishing my goal. Little by little, things began to “click” and my practice test scores slowly improved.

Hugging my wife in front of UChicago Law School on graduation day (2012)

On the morning of my exam, I followed the same routine, wore the same t-shirt, stood in front of the same mirror and pumped myself up to take the real exam.

In the end, I earned a 177 and was awarded a generous scholarship offer from UChicago. Three years later, I got a chance to wear that very same t-shirt under my gown as I graduated from the school that I’d spent so many hours in the mirror telling myself that I was going to get into.

You can make the same thing happen for yourself. The first step is to convince yourself that it really is possible. Once you’ve done that, you’ll do anything and everything required to get yourself there.



  1. I’ll be taking the June LSAT, which is an afternoon test. The center is an hour away, though I feel the drive will be a relaxing warmup, I’m wondering, what’s your suggestion regarding the morning routine. What material would you advise looking over, etc.


    • Joshua Craven on


      Great question! I personally warmed up the morning of the exam by taking 1 full LR section.

      I decided to do this because I noticed, during the last few weeks preparing for the exam, that if I took a day off before I took a full-length timed practice test, my score would drop by 2 or 3 points. The timing element of the LSAT is so tight that if I was even a little bit rusty, I’d end up being in a rush at the end of a section and my score would suffer.

      Of course, you aren’t going to learn anything that you don’t already know on the morning of the exam, so this warm up section is purely to help you get yourself in the “LSAT mindset” and calibrate your timing.

      If you decide to take a warm up section the morning of the exam, DONT score it! The last thing you want to do is check your answers and find out that you didn’t perform as well as you usually do. That could play some pretty serious mind-games with you and have the opposite effect that you are hoping to achieve. The point is just to try and get your sense of timing down and get your head in the right place so that you are a well-oiled machine as soon as the proctor says “begin.”

      I’d also advise you to plan on arriving to the testing center about an hour early. That way, if you get a flat tire, get pulled over, get into a fender-bender, run into bad traffic, get lost, or anything else… you should still be able to get there on time. Leaving early will give you some peace-of-mind so that you can focus on psyching yourself up for the exam rather than worrying about whether or not you’ll make it in time. You don’t want to bring any unnecessary anxiety into the testing center with you, so do what it takes to put your mind at ease that day.

      You’ll also want to check out these LSAT test day tips for some additional advice on what to do that day.

      • Do you recommend doing an lr section before every practice test? I am assuming using an lg or rc section instead would be ok too?

  2. Stefan Jatindranath on

    Hey , @josh_craven, I’ve been following this site and it’s been a huge motivational tool for me to study constantly on the LSAT. I’m taking the June LSAT and I’ve been hitting 3-6 hours a day since I took my diagnostic. My diagnostic score was tragic. I got a 145, and I thought it was a joke when I scored it. To be honest, I didn’t put my all into it, and due to the length of it, I caught myself saying “screw it, it’s just the diagnostic, I’ll just Christmas tree this part, I’m really hungry” . I have a striving and borderline obsessive goal of getting into UVA law. I have a decent GPA for admission, but I HAVE to get a 170+ to be a competitive factor. Would you think that there is anyway that I can raise my score up to a 170 with a reasonable amount (6+hours over the next 90days) of practice? I’m willing to do whatever it takes.


    Stefan j

    Ps. I got a UVA t shirt, and it’s certainly a great motivator.

    • Hey Stefan,

      Writing in on behalf of Josh. I’m glad you got the t-shirt! It really does work. Don’t worry at all about your diagnostic score. I didn’t take a diagnostic, but it would have been horrible I’m sure. Josh has told me that he got around a 145 too, so it really tells you nothing about how you will score. Your plan seems great. The only thing is that maybe 6 hours a day is overdoing it. I would do a that a couple days a week, but probably 2-4 hours is fine on the other days. Also make sure you take a full day off from studying once every week. I think the rest day is as important for learning as the study. Also, make sure your study isn’t cutting into sleep time. They are learning more and more just how critical sleep is for learning. With the LSAT, where you are literally trying to learn new skills, it’s all the more important! Good luck and let us know how it’s going.

  3. Hey Josh, this is a great idea and right up my alley. I do something sort of similar, sans the T-shirt. I think I’ll be ordering a T-shirt today, however. Maybe a hoodie.

    I’m taking the February test, and am near the final stages of my prep. Right now, I’m hitting question types and sections, and will begin a hard cycle of PTing next week (I’ve done ~10 so far).

    LG is a consistent -0 to -1, and RC hovers from -3 to -5. LR also fluctuates from -3 to -5.

    My most recent PT scores have been high 160s, low 170s.

    My question to you is, how did you make that final jump? And at this stage in the game, how do you/how did you review drills and PTs?

  4. @Gene

    Evan Jones, the other blogger here (173 scorer)

    For myself, I self-studied for about 3 months. No course. A course is probably not the best way to make up time. If you do a course, make sure it is at least two months long.

    Hitting a lot of prep tests is the key to studying late in the game. However, If you are taking in October you have no need to worry about a time crunch. Start studying in July and you will be fine.

    We are rolling out a post on scheduling your self-study soon so be on the look out for that.

    I can’t answer for Josh but my practice scores improved little by little over the 3 months I studied. I probably saw an increase in my average by 3 points every couple of weeks. Sometimes you will see bad scores on a given test but don’t let that discourage you. Good luck!

    • Joshua Craven on

      @gene – You’re quite welcome. I’m happy to help. Please let me know if there is a topic that you’d like to see me cover in a future article and I’ll be sure to post about it shortly.

      Joshua Craven

      • How long did you study for the exam? also, how much did your score increase over time – every 3 weeks, every time you took an exam?

      • meant to ask – how did your study schedule work? did you simply make time as you went on? just signed up for a course. figured that was the best way to make some time. thoughts?

  5. Joshua Craven on

    @gene – I started off scoring in the low- to mid-150s. Even just a few weeks before the exam I was still scoring in the mid- to high-160s. You really can make some huge improvements if you put in the time and work smart! You can read a bit more about how I got a 177 here:

    Thanks for your comment! Keep coming back and asking more questions, and I’ll be sure to answer them for you.

    Best of luck,
    Joshua Craven

  6. when you say that you were not scoring anywhere near your final score – just how far off were you? getting the t short for your school is also brilliant by the way.

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