Matt Shinners scored a perfect 180 on his LSAT…on his first attempt. He then received his JD from Harvard Law School. Now? He’s an LSAT instructor and curriculum developer for none other than yours truly, Manhattan Prep. This isn’t just a shameless plug for Shinners’ LSAT prep services (trust us, he doesn’t need our help); Business Insider recently reached out to Shinners for any last-minute advice or tips he might have for soon-to-be LSAT test-takers. In true fashion, Shinners delivered. See what he had to say here.
This advice is perfect if you just so happen to be taking the test this Saturday, October 3. Who knows? It might even help you boost your score by 2.7 points (the test’s standard deviation).
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So you woke up early on Saturday morning, scrambled some eggs, stuffed your wallet, pencils, and passport-size photo into the Ziploc bag you remembered to buy at midnight the night before, and took yourself an LSAT. But it didn’t go as well as you hoped. You’re considering canceling your score, but you’re not sure if it’s the best idea. Here are the critical questions to consider.
1. Was this LSAT considerably different than your usual practice test experience?
Did you only complete 3 games or reading comp passages when you usually complete 4? Or did you become violently ill? If you know you bombed the LSAT, then you should cancel unless all your goal schools are firmly committed to only considering your best score. You can find out which schools focus solely on your highest score on their websites. For example, Harvard averages your scores (“and considers them,” which means your highest may still be what really counts); Northwestern takes your highest; most schools are even fuzzier than Harvard. But unless you know you’ll score higher next time and that that higher score will be what counts, don’t keep a score that youknow is too low for you.
2. Was this LSAT below your practice scores, but only your best ones, and/or only by 2-3 points?
If you were at the bottom of your score range or slightly below it, the question becomes: which is a more accurate reflection of how you’ll perform on the next “real” LSAT—how you were scoring on practice, or how you scored in a real test setting? This is a time to be very honest with yourself. Did you give yourself slightly more time during practice? Did you “count” questions right that you thought you should have gotten right? If either of these, or something similar, is true, then your “practice scores” weren’t accurate. It is also important to consider how anxiety plays a role in your life.
To say, “but I was anxious so it’s not a reflection of how I’ll score next time” only makes sense if you are going to work on your anxiety between now and then. I see many students who think that going in and bombing because they were nervous is something that’ll just solve itself on its own before the next administration—unfortunately, I havenever seen that happen. If you got a lower score than you think you should and think you may be able to do better, but you believe anxiety played a role in this last test-disaster, cancel your score only if you plan to work on your anxiety between now and June. Yoga, exercise, meditation, long practice exams with focused calming techniques, therapy—whatever your preference, be committed to trying whatever it takes.
3. Are you going to put in the work to do better next time?
Along the same lines, you can’t just sit on your laurels (that’s the first time I’ve ever used that word, and hopefully the last). Even if you were steadily scoring higher on practice, you’re going to have to maintain working in order to maintain your skills. More likely, you actually want to improve between now and the next test. Questions to ask yourself are: do you have time to devote to studying? Do you have energy? Do you have motivation? It’s fine to take a break, first, especially since you’ve probably been working your butt off in the last week or so before the test, but after that 1-2 week break, you’re going to have to dive back into LSAT-prep land. Are you willing and able?
4. What do you actually need to achieve your goals?
All of the above should be considered in light of what you actually need to score in order to feel comfortable applying to your goal school. If you’re in the school’s median LSAT range, and you didn’t bust, i.e. score WAY lower than you have been, and you don’t have a GPA in the crickets-zone, keep the dang score. Work on making your personal statement awesome. If you are below the 25th percentile, the questions above become relevant: how likely are you to do better next time?
If you determine that realistically, the odds of your doing better under your life circumstances are not worth the risk (and so you don’t cancel), and yet you anticipate you have scored below the 25th percentile of your target schools, I suggest revisiting your goals. Play around with the LSAT/GPA calculator that the LSAC helpfully provides while you wait for your score. Still apply to your goal schools if you want—I’m not saying you shouldn’t—but at least consider adding more schools that are within a safe range for your anticipated score.
Take a deep breath, and consider this as rationally as you can. It’ll be okay.
If you want to take it again…
If you are concerned you bombed it–or just didn’t do as well as you know you can–and therefore have decided to take it again, check out upcoming in-person and online classes at Manhattan LSAT.
If you are bidding X –> Y goodbye (for now)…
Now that you’re LSAT-free, it’s time to turn your attention to the rest of your law school applications. Check out the blog at jdMission for all kinds of tips and strategies on applying to law school, from writing your personal statement to getting letters of recommendation. You can also sign up there for a free consultation with an admissions consultant.
Regardless, I hope you are all proud of yourselves for showing up on Saturday and giving it your best. It’s not an easy test or a short day, so give yourselves a big pat on the back for taking on the challenge. Just think–now you have a hundred gallon-size Ziploc bags to last you through 2014!
June 8th is just a few days away, and people are often asking for final tips about test day. Here are a few to add to the mix:
1. Easy does it. Don’t take any preptests within the last two days. The brain is a muscle, let it rest. Take a few timed sections on Saturday, a few untimed on Sunday, and watch a stupid movie on Sunday night. On Monday morning, re-do one easy logic game on your way to the test center to get your brain moving.
2. Pack-up the night before. Get all your pencils sharpened, print out the ticket (and make sure your printer doesn’t cut off any part of the ticket), and find that analog watch your dad gave you years ago. Make sure you know how to get to your testing center – there’s nothing worse than freaking out on your way to the test. Plan to arrive early and to enjoy a coffee outside while you do a crossword puzzle or something that is fun and slightly intellectual.
3. Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. On all but the easiest problems in LR and RC, you should generally eliminate 4 answers. If you’re going down the answer choice list, and (B) seems to be the answer, act suspicious – assume you’ve been duped – and go and look at the rest of the answer choices, seeing if you can eliminate them. It’s too easy to “shut down” your brain once you think you’ve found the answer.
4. Move along. If you are stuck on a question, take comfort in the fact that most everyone around you is probably struggling with that question too! Some of your neighbors will spend 4 minutes on that one question, and others will move on and devote time to questions they can tackle. Those who move on probably will do better and keep their cool. So, make an educated guess, bubble it in, circle the question number, and move on. If you have time, come back to it. Read more