“My practice tests are abysmal and I feel unprepared for the LSAT. Has anyone practiced poorly and performed exceedingly well?”
If you happen to be taking the June LSAT, then you are in trouble. Doing significantly (>2 points) better than your practice scores on exam day is exceedingly rare (if it happens at all). While you might do a couple points better than your average on test day, its as likely or even more likely that you will do a few points worse (especially if you aren’t adequately prepared).
The stress of LSAT test day tends to disadvantage most people slightly rather than give them a boost. From talking to my prep students and others, I would say most people see a 2-3 point drop from their prep test scores when they take the actual test.
Long and steady practice can help reduce or eliminate this negative effect on test day and make it likely that you can maximize your potential. The LSAT is a learnable exam if you put in the time and effort required to develop the necessary skills. If you’ve really put in enough effort on your LSAT prep, then there should be no surprises on exam day, and it is certainly possible to perform at the top of your game.
Poor LSAT preptest performance is nothing to be concerned about if you are still early in your prep. You can get better, but, it takes time. The LSAT is not some mystery where you show up and something completely different from what you expected is on the actual test. The Law School Admissions Council has released nearly 70 previously administered LSAT preptests, so becoming sufficiently familiar with those exams, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into in test day.
These preptests are actual, official LSAT exams, and your performance on them should give you a very good idea how you are going to do on game day. Absent miracles, like guessing correctly on all questions you didn’t finish, you would be very very unlikely to do better than a point or two over your average score on your preptests (by the way, if you aren’t finishing all the problems in the allotted time, then you certainly have room to improve your LSAT skills).
The extent to which you will be able to improve your LSAT score by exam day depends on a number of factors: exactly how low you are scoring, how much LSAT prep you have done, how long you have until you take the exam, and how much time and effort you are willing to put into your LSAT preparation efforts.
Also remember that the most recent preptests are going to give you the best indicator of how you’ll score on exam day. These exams should be saved until late in your study so that there is the least difference possible between what you have recently practiced and what you’ll see on the current LSAT.
I am hoping that you are taking the LSAT in a few months in which case you have plenty of time to improve your score dramatically by exam day. If you are taking the exam in June, then sadly, you are probably going to perform poorly on exam day just as you are on your preptests.
If you are taking the LSAT soon, then you should seriously consider pushing back your test date until October and redoubling your LSAT preparation efforts. Although most law schools now take the highest LSAT score you receive, they will see the lower score and it may hurt your chances next to someone who got it right the first time.
If we have one mantra on this blog, its preparedness! Given how important the LSAT is to the law school application process, anyone who walks in to it without having done everything they could to boost their LSAT score is doing themselves a great disservice.
If you need help deciding what path your studies should take, please describe your situation in the comments thread, and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
Meanwhile, here is some related reading that might help: