What Should I Do The Last Week Before the LSAT?
Although Josh has handled this subject to a large extent in his post ‘Top 10 Last Minute LSAT Tips’, I still thought that I would go ahead and share my wisdom on the final push to test day as well.
Here is what I think you should do in your final week before the LSAT. Doing these things helped me hit a 173 on the day of the exam, just a little below my ~175 practice average (on my test, one more question right would have yielded a 175 :- so close!)
Schedule Your Remaining LSAT Prep Efforts
Schedule your study so that you know when to think about the test and when to not study and forget it. In general, by this point I recommend doing a full PT a day, and then maybe a little more study added on to that every other day. You should simulate test conditions when doing a practice test at least twice in the week before the LSAT. Other days, you are doing timed sections but it’s okay to take breaks and also do review in between each section.
Simulate the actual timing you will experience on test day by doing 3 timed sections in a row, taking a 5 minute break, then doing two more timed sections (1 full LSAT preptest plus a simulated experimental section.)
This is necessary to build the test stamina that will allow you to focus for the entire exam. As far as simulating the experimental section of the LSAT goes, you can borrow the fifth section from another PT, usually an old one that you didn’t get to. Don’t waste a section from fresh recent practice tests for this purpose.
Also, if possible, do your simulated tests at the same time that you will be taking the actual LSAT on exam day later this week. I won’t pretend to know the science behind this, but it seems pretty clear to me that energy levels rise and fall throughout the day. At the risk of sounding New Age here, you want to have your rhythms aligned with those of the test. So if the test starts at noon (those of you taking the June LSAT), then you should try and start your PT’s around that time.
Remember, you can’t cram for the LSAT the way you can for an undergrad test, because you aren’t memorizing anything. The last week is all about maintaining the mental processes you have already learned, developing the stamina to do your best under actual test conditions, and maintaining your sense of timing throughout the entire ordeal.
In the Last Week, Use the Most Recently Released Official LSAT Prep Tests
The more recently an LSAT prep test was released, the more closely it will resemble the actual LSAT exam that you’ll be taking on test day. The LSAT hasn’t changed too much over the years, but there has been a slow shift in the type of questions that are most common, particularly in the Logic Games section. Practicing with these recent LSAT PrepTests over the course of the final week before you sit for the exam will acquaint you with these minor shifts that occur over the years.
The primary goal of your LSAT preparation is to develop a sufficient understanding of the exam so that when you walk in on test day it feels almost reflexive. Your mind experiences the least possible dissonance when you have done the recent tests, which will make the exam on test day feel as ‘automatic’ as possible.
I just did a full write up on managing stress here, but in the last week managing stress becomes increasingly important. My suggestion in that previous post encouraging students to take time off of work during the last week leading to the LSAT bears repeating. If you can get a week or even two off before the LSAT, do it.
Generally though, my main tip on stress is this: make sure to do a sufficiently appropriate amount of studying, but when you aren’t studying do (almost) anything that helps you keep your mind off the LSAT entirely.
There is one exception: going out partying and getting hammered might be the best way to forget about the LSAT, but DON’T DO IT. Play sports, see movies with friends, do gardening- I don’t care what exactly, just get your mind off the test. Exercise is particularly important.
I recognize if you are reading this post in your last week you have already violated this advice by reading about the exam when you might be better off taking a mental break from everything LSAT-related!
I too couldn’t help but to scour the internet LSAT-related stuff as the LSAT got closer and closer, but try to limit this sort of activity to an hour a day (max) over the course of the last week prior to the LSAT. Although reading LSAT articles can provide you with some much-needed motivation, you want to give your poor brain a little break from worrying about this. It’s late in your studies and you are probably fighting burnout. The best way to avoid crashing is getting your mind off the test during those hours of the day not consumed with studying.
If you have overbearing parents, as many future law students do, try not to let them bother you by removing yourself from the situation! If, on the other hand, they are helpful and willing to cook meals and relieve you of some of your burdens, be thankful and stick close to them. Just remind them that you may want to talk about things besides the LSAT and correct the behavior with a gentle reminder if they bring it up too often.
Emphasize Logic Games in Your Study
In the above section on scheduling your last week, I recommended some study beyond merely doing an LSAT prep test each day. This may vary from person to person, but for most people I think last week of your LSAT study is likely to be best utilized by focusing on the section of the exam most susceptible to rapid improvement: namely, logic games.
Everyone talks about a logic games ‘break through’ where everything starts to click and you just sort of start getting it. If you’ve already managed to make a breakthrough on logic games, you should just try to do some LG problems to maintain your skills in the last week.
On the other hand, If you have not reached a real breakthrough just yet, there is still time to try for it! Do logic games until you start seeing variables flying around before you close your eyes at night. Obviously avoid burn out, but if you feel you have improvements to make on LG, that is probably the best place to load most of your last week effort that is not spent on full PTs. Logic games is the most learnable section of the LSAT, you CAN make improvements in the final week before the test!
I spoke earlier about adding a fifth section when doing simulated full tests. Making that section an old logic games section is a effective way of getting a little more LG practice in. Also consider redoing some LG sections that you did at the beginning of your practice. Doing these ones will be easier, but will help show your brain what really getting them feels like.
Sleep Well, Eat Right, Stay Hydrated
I know its difficult to simply turn off your brain, lie down, and sleep soundly on command, but the main thing I want to get across here is that under no circumstances should your LSAT study be cutting in to your sleep time during the last week before the exam.
By the final week, the better part of your studying is over. Now it is time to make sure that your body and mind are running at peak performance. By this stage of the game, that is as important or more important than any additional study you are going to fit in over the course of a few sleepless nights.
To that end, eat healthy, high-energy foods so that your brain has the nutrients it needs to operate efficiently.
Staying hydrated is key. Take a look at this post by luminosity. Hydration is incredibly important to proper brain function, so drink up!
One of my next posts will be about the actual day of the test, when staying hydrated without needing to pee so bad that you can’t concentrate can be a tricky balancing act. Funnily enough, I have heard other LSAT tutors recommend taking practice tests under sub-optimal conditions (e.g., under-hydrated) so that you can work under those conditions on test day. There may be something to this, but generally I recommend always treating your body as kindly as possible in the week leading up to the test.
Don’t Watch Too Much TV
I’m borrowing this one from Josh’s post but only because I believe it to be pretty important. Don’t veg out in front of the TV when you aren’t studying. I think we all know that that lends itself to lethargy and general malaise. I think even chatting on the LSAT forums is better than this, because at least its engaging. If you must watch TV, watch a game with friends or something along those lines. That way, at least you are talking and maybe jumping out of your seat from time to time (remember what I said about exercise).
One movie to relax in the evening shouldn’t hurt either. I watched ‘North by Northwest’ the final evening before the LSAT, so its clearly possible to watch some TV and do okay on the test. Check here for Josh’s recommendations on what to do on the last day before the LSAT: http://lawschooli.com/what-should-i-do-the-day-before-the-lsat/
Don’t Forget the Nitty Gritty Stuff, Like Your Admission Ticket
Review what you need for the actual test day and make sure all your ducks are in a row well in advance of exam day. This includes making sure your watch is working, printing your admission ticket, getting your plastic baggy ready with number 2 pencils and snacks, and checking that you have a photo ID and a recent passport style photo. Don’t do this stuff right before you go to bed on Friday night before the test (though you should do a quick recheck sometime on Friday just to be safe).
Be Proud of Yourself, or Alternatively, Don’t Beat Yourself Up
By week 0 most of what’s done is done. If you have adhered to the rigorous study schedule you set for yourself over the past several months and are hitting your desired PT average, congrats! That alone is something to be proud of. There is really not much standing between you and hitting that score on the day of the exam.
If, on the other hand, things haven’t gone so well, stay positive. This last week gives you time to make some tangible improvements. Also, having to retake the LSAT and submit multiple LSAT scores with your law school application is no longer the major handicap it once was, so just go in and do your best. Deciding to cancel or not is another question, and you can worry about that after the exam. For now, focus on eeking out some last-minute LSAT score improvements and block out any and all negative thinking.
By the last week, everyone has one thing to look forward to: the possibility that by this time next week you won’t ever have to worry about studying for the LSAT again. That is surely something to celebrate.
Best of Luck and please let me know in the comments thread if you have any other questions that I can answer about the final week before the LSAT!