If you play any sports, the LSAT might remind you of a major competition or championship, especially on LSAT test day. If you’ve done any acting, it might seem like the premiere of a play. You might feel quite pumped up as you get ready for this little test. And just like a veteran actor at a premiere or an athlete at the world championships, you can take some steps on LSAT test day to ensure that you give your best performance.
1. Get a good night’s sleep—or don’t.
Sleep is highly underrated in the modern world, especially among college students and people in fast-paced professions. But sleep and rest in general play a crucial role in learning and performing well on tests. That’s why we recommend getting plenty of rest during the week before the test and on the day before LSAT test day.
But let’s be realistic—a lot of people find it hard to sleep on the night before the LSAT. And plenty of those people still do well on the test. You should definitely make every effort to get a good night’s sleep—staying up until 2 am to take another practice test is a poor choice. But if your body doesn’t cooperate with your commitment to sleep, it’s okay. The extra adrenaline pumping during the test will help you stay focused and alert.
2. Stick to your normal routine.
Do you like to get up early in the morning and work out? Great! Do that on LSAT test day. If you usually drink coffee in the morning, go ahead and have a cup.
Drastic changes to your routine aren’t helpful on LSAT test day. If you don’t normally drink coffee, but a friend tells you to drink some before the LSAT because the caffeine will help you focus, think twice before following that advice. LSAT test day isn’t a good time to experiment with your body and brain chemistry.
It is a good idea to eat something before the test, even just a small meal. Your brain needs energy, and you’ll be running your brain in high gear for several hours. You don’t need to down an omelette, six pancakes, and a bowl of oatmeal, unless that’s a normal breakfast for you. But even if you’re normally not a big breakfast eater, or don’t feel especially hungry on LSAT test day, a light, healthy breakfast will help your brain get the fuel it needs for the test.
3. Keep your plans for LSAT test day simple.
If you’re taking the LSAT in the morning, you might be tempted to make big plans for the afternoon. Why not grab tickets for a concert or play and blow off some steam after the test? If the test doesn’t start until the afternoon, you might be tempted to squeeze in an early-morning appointment. Don’t do it.
Taking the LSAT should be your main focus on the day of the test. It should be the only thing that you need to do that day. You don’t want to worry about getting to the LSAT on time when your morning appointment runs long. The whole test process might take longer than you expect, and you don’t need the distraction of wondering whether you’ll be late for the big plans that you have afterward.
4. Do some warm-up questions before the test.
A set of warm-up questions will wake your brain up and shift your mind into LSAT mode. This can help you get off to a better start in the first section. You don’t want the first question you see on LSAT test day to be the first question of the actual test. Here’s a possible warm-up routine:
- Complete 5-10 Logical Reasoning questions that you’ve completed in the past.
- Play a familiar logic game. Complete the initial setup, then all the questions for the game, or just a few of them.
- Reread a Reading Comprehension passage that you’ve read before, and complete some or all of the questions.
There are some things to notice about these warm-up exercises. They all utilize questions that you’ve already completed before. Don’t try to tackle anything new on LSAT test day. Also note that this isn’t a lengthy practice session. This might only take 15 minutes or so, depending on how many questions you choose.
You can adjust the number of questions if you prefer a longer warm-up. Different people’s brains work differently, so do what works best for you. But in general, a short warm-up exercise consisting of familiar questions is sufficient.
5. Think like a champion.
You want to perform like a champion on LSAT test day, so think like one. Focus on specific goals that you want to achieve. Think about the methods and approaches you’ve practiced—the ones that work well for you. If you find yourself worrying or feeling nervous, shift your thinking back to those positive thoughts. Imagine yourself answering questions smoothly and flawlessly.
Imagining that you’ll succeed does not, by itself, guarantee success. In fact, it could have the opposite effect. But once you’ve practiced something, mentally rehearsing what you’ve practiced and visualizing yourself executing a flawless performance can be a good way to focus your thoughts before you do the real thing.
6. Stick to your plan.
While it can help to visualize a flawless performance, you also have to be realistic when considering how the actual test will play out. Here’s what Matt Shinners, a veteran Manhattan Prep instructor who scored a 180 on the LSAT, says about making mistakes:
“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.”
Something that also sets top scorers apart is the ability to stick to their plan when things go wrong. Instead of abandoning their plans and trying approaches they haven’t practiced, top scorers fall back on the methods and strategies that they’ve practiced multiple times. If your car starts to veer off the highway, you want to straighten out and get back on the road. It’s not the time to go off on an unplanned off-road adventure.
This applies during the test itself, but also to LSAT test day in general. It can be tempting to spend the morning of the test scouring online forums for last-minute LSAT tips. But even if you find a juicy new approach to the Reading Comprehension section, or a great new way to diagram a logic game, when you’re actually taking the test, it’s unlikely that you’ll successfully apply a new technique that you haven’t practiced.
7. Use the break to your advantage.
You’ll get a 15-minute break at the end of the third section. Get up, walk around, and use the restroom. Do some jumping jacks or sun salutations. At that point you’ll have been sitting in one place for a couple of hours, so it’s time to get the blood moving. Also be sure to bring a small, healthy snack to eat during the break. All of these things can help you stay sharp and alert for the last two sections.
8. Avoid other test-takers.
Do you tend to be introverted and prefer to keep to yourself? Do you find it difficult to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Perfect. That’s exactly how you should act on LSAT test day.
Some people like to talk when they’re nervous. Getting into a conversation with someone who’s giving off a lot of nervous energy isn’t going to help you stay focused. And you don’t want to end up talking with someone who wants to discuss test questions or other details of the test. This could be construed as violating the rule against giving or receiving assistance. Keep to yourself and focus on your personal game plan.
9. Practice all of this before LSAT test day.
If you’re reading this in advance, not on the actual day of the LSAT, and you have more practice tests planned, follow these steps during your practice tests. The more realistic your practice tests are, the more they’ll help you prepare for the real thing. Incorporating as much of your test-day routine as possible into your practice tests will help LSAT test day feel more comfortable and familiar, which can help you focus more on the test itself. 📝
Scott Miller is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Scott has over 20 years of experience as a teacher and trainer and a love for teaching that has led him to some interesting careers, including skydiving instruction, wildlife sanctuary stewardship, and online computer skills training. He worked hard for his 173 LSAT score, and he has as much fun helping people master the challenges of the test as had overcoming those challenges himself. You can learn more from Scott here.