It’s the week before the LSAT. Are you excited?
“Excited” might not be the first word you’re thinking of. It’s very common for people to feel nervous as test day approaches, especially in the final week before the LSAT. If that’s how you feel, you’re in good company. Many people who’ll be taking this test on the same day as you feel the same way right now.
If you remember feeling excited about the LSAT, maybe way back when you first started prepping for it, fire up those feelings again. This is the time to be excited. In the last 5 to 7 days before the LSAT, getting yourself in the right headspace is one of your most important jobs. There are other things that you should do, of course, and we’ll discuss some of those in this article. Just remember that a positive attitude is a powerful tool.
What Have You Done So Far?
Before we look specifically at what and how to study in the week before the LSAT, it’s important to recognize that with the test a week away, different people will be at different points in their prep process.
You might’ve just spent months and months preparing for the LSAT, following a detailed prep plan. By this point, you’ve taken a number of timed practice tests. You’ve identified areas of weakness and worked to overcome them. You are ready for this test. You might or might not feel ready, but you are ready. Your job in the week before the LSAT is to cement, solidify, and maintain your current level of LSAT mastery.
Or, maybe you planned to prep thoroughly, but things didn’t go according to plan. Maybe you didn’t allow yourself as much time as you should have. Or perhaps other responsibilities like work or school interfered. You’ve done some prep, but not as much as you would have liked. Since the scores you’ve been getting on practice tests are acceptable, you’ve decided to press on and give it your best on test day.
This might come as a surprise, but your job this week is the same as described above: cement, solidify, and maintain. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll do anything in a single week to raise your score significantly. However, you can do a lot to ensure that the score you earn on test day is the very best that you’re capable of scoring right now.
What if you haven’t really studied at all? You registered for the LSAT, but that’s about it. It’s 7 days before the LSAT, and you’ve come here for some last-minute tips.
If that’s your situation, here’s some quick advice: take a practice test if you haven’t already done so. You should know the score that you need to make your application attractive to the law school that you want to attend. If you hit or exceeded that target score on your practice test, that’s great. Some people do well on the LSAT with little or no prep. However, if the score on your practice test was below the lowest score that will be acceptable for you, consider postponing your LSAT. As we noted above, this isn’t the kind of test where you can study for a single week and increase your score by much.
The Week Before the LSAT: The Big Picture
You might expect people who score in the 170s to spend the entire week before the LSAT studying, cranking out as many practice tests as they can, spending every waking hour preparing for the test. The opposite is often true, though. Many top-scorers spend the week before the LSAT doing a modest amount of prep work, mostly focused on review.
This makes sense if you understand what you’ll be doing on test day. The LSAT isn’t testing your knowledge of any specific subject. It’s testing a set of skills that are perfected through practice. Even if you learn some great new technique a few days before the test, you’ll need time to practice in order to use it effectively on the actual LSAT.
It’s more effective to spend the week before the LSAT reviewing and cementing skills that you’ve already had time to practice. Veteran Manhattan Prep instructor Brian Birdwell describes this as “sharpening your swords before battle.” While you might not have time to learn and perfect entirely new skills, you can get better and faster at things that you already do well.
Let’s break down important tasks and goals for each day.
7 Days Before the LSAT
This is a great time to take your final full LSAT practice test. If at all possible, take it at the same time of day when you’ll take the real thing. If you can take it in the location where you’ll take the real test, that’s even better. This isn’t always possible, but if it is, take advantage of that.
Your goal on this final practice test is to solidify the methods and strategies you’ve already been practicing. This isn’t the ideal time to try entirely new approaches. Again, this is the time to sharpen your swords, not to start forging a completely new one.
If you haven’t done so already, write down a list of things you’re doing well on the LSAT. The list can include anything you want, as long as it’s exclusively a list of what you do well. You’ve probably spent a lot of time focusing on skills that you need to improve. At this point, your focus should shift to your strengths. Knowing what you do well and thinking about exactly what you plan to do right on test day puts you in the right frame of mind to succeed.
On the logistical side, this is a good day to review your Candidate Information Sheet and any other information you received from LSAC. Make sure you know the rules, know what you have to bring, and know what you can’t bring into the test center.
6–4 Days Before the LSAT
Once you’ve completed your final LSAT practice test, focus on shorter prep sessions with breaks in between. Research indicates that breaks might play an important role in learning. For example, researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland and the University of Texas at Austin in the U.S. found connections between quiet rest after studying and improved memory and attention to detail.
Individual timed sections are a good form of practice on these days. Again, the goal is to solidify your existing methods and strategies. This is an especially good time to focus on your timing strategies. Before each section, set one or two specific goals. Be sure to thoroughly review each section before starting another one.
In between these sections, review your notes. Focus on your overall approaches and processes. Think big picture more than detail.
Rewrite important points from your notes, and rewrite them on paper. There is evidence that writing notes on paper improves your ability to comprehend and apply information. If you usually take notes on a computer, don’t worry. You don’t need to rewrite your entire set of LSAT notes this week, but rewriting important points from your notes on paper as you review might be more effective than just reading them.
Remember to frequently review your list of strengths, and add items to it.
Also remember that staying hydrated, eating healthy food, and getting enough sleep are important goals this week. All of these things can help you be ready to give your best performance on test day.
3–2 Days Before the LSAT
Shift from timed sections to shorter exercises, like completing individual logic games or Reading Comprehension passages. Try doing some pace-pusher sets for Logical Reasoning, where you complete the first 10 or 15 questions in a section. Replay logic games that you’ve played before, reread Reading Comp passages, and review Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension questions that you found difficult the first time you tried them.
Continue reviewing your notes, rewriting important points as you review them. If you’ve been using flashcards or similar study aids, continue reviewing those. And remember to review your list of strengths.
The Day Before the LSAT
We have a whole other article about how to study on the day before the LSAT, but briefly, a great thing to do on this day is to relax. If you do any prep, do it first thing in the morning, then put the books away. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t pick up the books at all, and instead spend the day playing video games or checking out a new exhibit at the museum. Seriously. Getting your mind off the test for a while might be the best possible thing you can do.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
While making your own personal plans for the week before the LSAT, it’s important to remember that different people learn differently, need different amounts of rest, and perform differently under pressure. Some people have done much more intensive prep than we recommend here and did very well on test day.
We recommend a modest amount of prep with plenty of breaks, because we’ve seen many people overdo things during the week before the LSAT and burn themselves out. No matter what you choose to do this week, if you start feeling tired or frustrated, take a break and shift to a lighter and less intensive prep plan. In that situation, nothing that you can study or practice in the days before the LSAT will help you more than rest.
And remember, first, last, and always—this is the week to focus on your strengths. ?
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.