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It’s fairly common knowledge that the LSAT is a hard test. For those taking the test and paying attention to such things, it’s also fairly common to know that you can get a few questions wrong to still get a perfect 180 (on some test forms, up to 3 questions).
But that’s not what I’m talking about when I talk about getting a perfect LSAT score without being perfect.
Quick: Imagine an expert at the test working through a Logic Game. It’s beautiful, right? All inferences made. All questions answered with a minimum of work. Each pencil mark on the page deliberate and fast.
That’s completely off the mark.
In reality, top scorers on the exam make many, many mistakes as they work through a test. What separates them is that they stay flexible and recognize signs that they’ve made mistakes, and then they quickly identify and correct them.
What are some examples of this?
- I write down a rule wrong (hello, reversed relative ordering rule).
- I almost never find all the inferences up front.
- I often don’t have the correct answer to an unconditional question in my diagram and need to test out answer choices.
- When testing out answer choices, I’ll often prioritize wrong and end up testing the correct answer last.
- I’ll only half-follow the inference chain in a conditional question and end up with multiple answers that look correct.
Instead of panicking when these things happen, though, I’ll keep testing out answers, moving towards a correct answer. If early questions appear to have no or multiple correct answers, I’ll check my rules to see where I messed up. If I can’t figure out the answer, I’ll just start testing them out, or I’ll skip it and come back after developing some prior work.
- Want to know about a specific detail after reading the passage? Don’t ask me—I only know broad strokes.
- I’ll often be uncertain of where to find the answer in a passage.
- I’ll zone out while reading and need to get myself reinvested in the passage.
- I’ll try to talk myself into an answer I’m not 100% happy on.
How do I stop catastrophe? I go back to the passage. Again. And again. And again, whenever I need to find something I don’t remember or am unclear on. Sure, I’ve just read the passage and probably should remember more of the details, but I don’t, so instead of beating myself up, I go find the answers.
- I’ll often lose focus halfway through an argument (hey, I’ve got a lot on my mind!).
- I won’t have a solid idea of what the correct answer will be.
- I prephrase an answer that doesn’t show up at all.
- I’ll miss a relevant feature of the stimulus that’ll lead to the correct answer.
- I’ll eliminate a correct answer.
Why don’t those stop me from getting many questions wrong? Because I don’t panic. I stay flexible on the answer. If something seems like it could be correct, I’ll go back and check to see if there are features of the stimulus that I missed. I won’t pick an answer just because I’ve eliminated all the others, unless I can give some reason for why it’s correct.
Getting a perfect LSAT score is a messy affair. It’s not perfect, and it’s more about knowing how to catch your mistakes than it is about not making those mistakes in the first place. So while prepping, don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes, and don’t expect to be perfect no matter how much work you put into it. Instead, figure out how to build yourself a safety net so that you can catch mistakes after you make them, and know how you’re going to fix them once you find them.
And check out our YouTube channel, where we’re going to start posting videos in the next couple weeks of our experts working through material, warts and all. See how messy getting a perfect LSAT score actually is! ?
Don’t forget that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person LSAT courses absolutely free. We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.
Matt Shinners is a Manhattan Prep instructor and jdMission Senior Consultant based in New York City. After receiving a degree in Biochemistry from Boston College, Matt scored a 180 on his LSAT and enrolled in Harvard Law School. There’s nothing that makes him happier than seeing his students receive the scores they want to get into the schools of their choice. Check out Matt’s upcoming LSAT courses here!