It’s one of the longest standing myths in LSAT prep: that you can’t gain anything from reusing old LSAT exams. A lot of prep companies subscribe to this belief, and I admit that for a long time I was convinced it is true, at least with regards to logical reasoning and reading comprehension.
I used to counsel students to always save some fresh exams in case they were needed for a retake. Worse, I believed that when you had used up all your tests, there wasn’t much more you could do to boost your score.
Now, I’m happy to put this harmful myth to bed.
After working with a lot more people in our LSAT mastermind study group, and watching them give it a try, I have seen people making significant improvement when using old tests.
If you do it right, you can get as much, and in some ways more, out of redoing old tests. So stop worrying that using up all the tests is a built-in wall that you will hit, after which point you can’t improve. Stop worry that you have nowhere to go if a retake is necessary. Stop worrying that you are doing fresh preptests too quickly and should conserve. There will be life in those old preptests yet, and you can use them to improve.
Reusing Old Tests For Maximum Effectiveness
Memory is your enemy when reusing old tests. Say you are doing a LR question and as you are reading the answer choices, one simply pops out at you and you say “Oh, I remember, that’s the right answer.”
If you just mark it down and move on to the next question, you are going to get absolutely nothing out of that question.
Follow this rule for using old tests:
For each answer choice you are choosing, vocalize to yourself why you are selecting that as a wrong answer.
For the answer you choose as right, make sure you are similarly able to explain to yourself why it is right.
If you are doing the test timed, you won’t always be able to justify every decision, but attempt to. You can make the extra effort to vocalize the reasoning behind your decisions in your review of the test (see below).
The best LSAT prep books will give you a vocabulary for discussing problems with yourself. If you find you lack the ability to explain a question, that’s often a sign that you need to review the methods for doing that question type. Reading another person’s explanations, such as those available in our study group, can also help you develop the tools to verbally justify your correct answers.
For LR, Focus on Your Prephrase
While the answer choices themselves may trigger your memory in a unhelpful way, your memory of the prompt itself can be extremely helpful for learning. Make sure you are doing mental work to analyze the patterns contained in the stimulus. For example, if it’s a flaw question, try to prephrase your understanding of the flaw and cement it in your head.
Redoing problems can build your pattern recognition, so be aware of the process and try to have aha! moments where you know what the question is going to focus on right away after reading just the stimulus.
Just because you have done this test before, that is no reason to skimp on review. Under timed conditions, you may not be be able to devote quite as much time to analysis as you want. In review, really make sure you can verbally justify the decisions you made regarding the answer choices.
Here is a long discussion on what proper review looks like. Complements of a member of our study group, I also have a new way of doing review to recommend that I think will be very effective. Here’s how it works: before you grade the test, give it to your roommate, boyfriend, or girlfriend to grade. If you got any wrong, have them give you a range of five problems that that wrong answer fell within. Now, rather than knowing ahead of time what problem was wrong, you are forced to sleuth it out, and analyze this range of questions with a fine tooth comb. This can force you to see the problem freshly. Give it a try!
Don’t Rely on Used Tests to Predict Your Test Day Score
The score on tests you redo is not going to be a super effective predictor of your score. That doesn’t matter. Judge yourself by how well you are understanding these questions.
I am confident that I am a far better LSAT question killer than I was when I took the test. All of that growth has come from redoing questions and explaining them in my capacity as an LSAT instructor.
Redoing problems is practice and practice will lead inevitably to improvement. Take confidence in that and you will make gains.
Scores were released today, somewhat cruelly in my opinion, on New Year’s Day. If it didn’t go well, take a few days to soothe yourself and recover from last night’s festivities. After that, if you still want to improve. Get ready to dust off those old tests and get to work. They are useful and they will help you get better!