Considering what you want to do after you get your degree can be very daunting for a lot of us, especially when you’re considering taking a graduate admission exam to continue your education. Studying for these types of exams might also seem very intimidating to the average person, especially when combining this with the stress of deciding what career path one wants to follow. One google search on tips for the LSAT and you are bombarded with LSAT prep courses and lengthy bullet points, and it might appear unclear where you should start. One thing for certain: you’ll figure it out as you go, you just need to start studying.
Before COVID-19, I had a very strict plan for how I wanted my life to look, and I was following it to a T. Part of this plan included me taking the LSAT during my summer between third year and fourth year to set myself up for success for applying to law schools. Then, in came COVID-19 in March 2020, the same year I had planned to take this exam in only a few months. As might be expected, my summer did not go as planned and I barely had the capacity to think about the LSAT.
At the time, I was so, so sad that I couldn’t focus on this goal no matter how hard I tried. I felt like a failure for putting it off for so long afterwards, even though I was doing the best I could. I look back now thankful for this time in my life, because I was forced to slow down and live in the moment instead of always being on the go to the next better thing. That being said, I was still extremely scared to embark on my journey of “Taking the LSAT”. I didn’t know where to start, and on top of this the LSAT was now offered exclusively online, instead of in-person. For someone with ADHD who dreads the thought of ever having to do work in my home environment, this was terrifying.
I get distracted by even the smallest thing in my bedroom and I’m supposed to take an exceptionally important exam in here? Yeah right.
Needless to say, I was proved wrong, and I did eventually succeed in taking the LSAT online without getting too distracted. With trial and error (admittedly lots of error), and two LSAT attempts, I built a study regime that worked for me and got to a place where I was comfortable taking the test in my bedroom. Here are some things I learned along the way that I wish I knew at the beginning of my studying journey:
- Don’t expect to be able to cram for this exam.
Okay… maybe I was told this when I first started studying for the LSAT. But in my head, as someone who has often thrived in the past with cramming for university exams, I could be the exception. Boy was I wrong. Studying for this kind of exam is mentally exhausting and dedicating too many hours in a day to studying for the LSAT can actually do the opposite of help you. I didn’t believe this at first, but after getting my grade back the first time I took the LSAT, I began to suspect this might be true. Further, as I continued to study to take the LSAT again, I found my practice test scores beginning to improve drastically when I stopped overworking myself and avoided mental fatigue. As I got closer to writing the actual exam, I found it best to do no more than three practice, timed tests a week, and go over my answers the day after I wrote these practice tests.
- If you think you might need accommodations, get them!
This is something I made the mistake of not doing the first time I took the LSAT last October. Even though I benefited greatly from exam accommodations throughout university, I (for some odd reason) thought I wouldn’t need them for the LSAT, and I was convinced the process of applying to receive accommodations was just too complicated for me (It wasn’t, it was actually quite straight forward). After feeling not-so confident about how I did the first time around, I decided it was time I spoke to my doctor and applied for accommodations for the second exam. I made an appointment with my family doctor, and together we filled out the form for accommodations from the LSAC website. After submitting everything required, my accommodations were promptly accepted, and I could look forward to studying for the LSAT knowing my ADHD wouldn’t hold me back the second time around.
- Make use of any resources that are accessible to you.
This might seem like a no brainer, but there are truly so many resources out there to help you study for the LSAT. If you can afford to, look into registering for a prep course and make this a starting point for your studying. I took a 48-hour prep course that was held on zoom and learned all of the strategies I would end up using in that course. However, there are lots of other resources online that can teach you the same things if you are looking in the right places. I found Khan Academy’s LSAT study guide extremely useful, as it helped me track my progress and identify the question types I needed to work on the most.
- Temporarily move any distractions out of your test room while you study.
If you’re going to be writing the LSAT in your bedroom, it’s a good idea to practice studying in that room to get comfortable. For me, this was extremely hard and I often hyper fixated on the noises coming from the busy street outside, using up critical time that I would need during the exam. Luckily, you’re allowed a pair of foam ear plugs during the exam, and this helped me immensely with focus. Along with this, I found it helpful to move anything distracting out of my room or in a hidden spot while I studied. Admittedly, the state of my bedroom was a little bit sad in the weeks leading up to the LSAT. But with the lack of distractions and the fact that my room looked exactly how it would look when I took the exam, I thrived.
- Expect your logical state of thinking to show up in your daily life as you get into a good study rhythm.
In order to do well on the LSAT and avoid falling for trick answers, you have to teach yourself to think in a very specific, logical way. In my experience, this new way of thinking impacted my everyday life in often random, funny ways. One day I was going for a walk with my roommate, and we found ourselves admiring the artwork on the lampposts outside. Without thinking twice, I said “I really like those blue apples over there” about a lamppost that was covered in what I assumed were blue apples. My roommate, clearly seeing that the painting was not depicting blue apples but instead blue flowers, looked at me like I was crazy. I look back at this moment as a key example of how my brain was functioning while I was intensively studying for the LSAT. I looked at everything around me with no outside knowledge, compartmentalizing everything I knew to be true (In this case, that apples aren’t blue); all I truly knew is what was in front of me. This is what I had to do when I studied for the LSAT, and this headspace evidently began to spread to other aspects of my life, even when I was not studying.
Whether you have your heart set on law school or you simply want to keep your options open after your undergrad, doing well on the LSAT is more than possible. Still, it is so much easier said than done to feel confident going into this journey and adding the fact that we are in the middle of a global pandemic does not help. Remember, everyone who once took the LSAT probably felt intimidated by it, and unsure of where to start (I sure did). Even though I have no idea where my life will take me or what law school I may end up going to, I am thankful for the lessons I have learned through this journey. More than anything, the LSAT has taught me about discipline, and having the strength to keep going even when you feel exhausted and want to give up. So, if you’re feeling anxious about your future or uneasy about taking the LSAT, know you’re not alone. We all had to start somewhere 🙂
The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.