By Evyn Williams
Everyone knows that test day will inevitably be a stressful and hectic event, but you can minimize the madness by being prepared for even the strangest of LSAT happenings.
My own LSAT test day experience was rife with peril, but I made it through, and so can you. Here are three things you should do to get ready for the big day (and one you really shouldn’t):
1. DO read the LSAT test day rules.Then re-read them. Then re-read them again. Then commit them to memory as though they are the Gettysburg Address and you are Lincoln and the fate of the country literally depends on you knowing this thing word for word.
Okay, that might be a little dramatic. But only a little.
You can read all the test day rules here, and you probably already have, but trust me when I say that you really need to re-read them. The night before my LSAT, I thought I was A+ prepared. I had a little baggy ready with my admission ticket, my ID, pencils, keys to my apartment, a snack, a drink, earplugs, erasers, and my dad’s old analog watch which I had him mail to me weeks in advance. We’re talking LSAT-Boy-Scout levels of preparedness.
But when I re-read the rules the night before, just to be safe – I found I had not one, not two, but three prohibited items!
Turns out I couldn’t have an aluminum can – no big deal, I switched out my Sprite for a juice box. I also couldn’t have earplugs. Bummer. But the real problem, I discovered, was that I could not have a mechanical pencil. Even the #2 mechanical pencils I carefully picked out the week before were a no-go.
Now, let me ask you a question – when was the last time you used an old-school pencil? Unless you are on Project Runway, own an architecture firm, or are The Joker, your answer is probably third grade.
In a cold sweat, I realized I had no LSAT-regulation pencils and no hope of buying any before the test (it was 11 P.M. and anywhere I could have bought them in my dinky college town was already closed for the night). I asked my two roommates if either of them had #2 pencils, and they both looked at me as if I’d asked for the approximate location of the Lost City of Atlantis. At this point I had no choice but to resort to running though my apartment building, banging on every door, and begging the poor soul that answered to give me a pencil. On the 8th floor, I managed to find someone who must have been both an architect and a Project Runway contestant because he had four of them. It was an LSAT miracle.
THE LESSON: DON’T BE LIKE ME. Read the rules really, really carefully, and long before 11 P.M. on the eve of your test.
2. DO show up on time. Because if you don’t, everyone will hate you.
After being scared straight by the pencil incident the night before, I showed up to the LSAT testing center about three hours early. While I don’t recommend you show up quite that far in advance, you do need to be on time.
This is only to help you. There are probably going to be long lines and chaotic check-in stations at your testing center, and you don’t want to have to stress about the minutes ticking away while the guy in front of you argues with a proctor about his ID from Guam (this happened to me).
It’s also important to be there on time for the most obvious reason – if you’re really late, they might not let you in at all. And that will lead to a deeply unfortunate set of events, including you losing your registration fee, getting an ‘absent’ on your record, and having to walk home like this:
You also need to show up on time because of one little-known and very insidious LSAT testing policy: if the LSAT rules are still being read by the proctor, latecomers can be admitted at the testing staff’s discretion. However – the rules need to be read, in full, from the beginning, to every test taker. No exceptions.
So, what does that mean?
It means if you’re the a-hole that shows up 10 minutes late and manages to get in because the rules are still being read, the proctor will have to re-read them from the very beginning again, delaying the start of the test for every single person in your testing room.
When I took the LSAT, this very thing happened. Not once. Not twice. But seven times. As unbelievable as it is, there were actually seven different terrible human beings who showed up late, and the proctor had to start over each time. The first couple of people weren’t so bad – they got a few dirty looks but only set us back by about ten minutes. The fifth guy was greeted by a chorus of groans. The sixth guy I think had something thrown at him (a shoe?). And the seventh guy – I can’t even talk about the seventh guy. Let’s just say that room turned to Lord of the Flies real quick.
THE LESSON: DON’T BE LIKE THAT GUY. Show up on time. Someone may throw a shoe at you if you don’t.
3. DO accept that things will go wrong and you will have no control over that.
No matter how prepared you are, things will come up on test day that will stress you out. That’s a fact. And the thing is, you don’t want to be the guy that gets a shoe thrown at him, but you also don’t want to be the guy throwing the shoe.
During my LSAT, after the rule-reading debacle, one of the testing staff members named Jim handed out our exams. I am sure there is some LSAC regulation that demands silence during this activity, but Jim was just too excited for that.
As he was handing out our tests, he kept squealing to the room, “Y’ALL GONNA BE SOME LAWYERS!! WOW!!”
I found this to be hilarious, but the other people in my testing room were somewhere between mildly annoyed and ready to have Jim prosecuted for war crimes. And I can’t be sure, but I think that if you go into a testing experience so angry you’re ready to Hulk-smash a desk, that will not be good for your score.
I ended up doing well on my LSAT despite the madness of my test-day experience, and part of that was because I felt so confident in my prep, but part of it was also because I tried to see the humor in everything and just go along for the ride.
THE LESSON: DO BE LIKE ME (JUST THIS ONE TIME). Make sure you head into your LSAT test day ready to roll with the punches. Because you never know – Jim might just be your proctor.
(If he is, please don’t tell him I never became lawyer. He was so excited for me.)
4. DON’T underestimate how hard test day will be on you.
The biggest mistake I made during my LSAT experience was not grasping how daunting the whole day would be. You arrive very early in the morning, have to stand in line and contend with a complex and potentially disorganized check in process, then you have to endure the rule reading (which will likely be interrupted by jerks and shoe-throwing, as previously discussed). And finally – after what feels like hours – you start on the LSAT. With the experimental sections and essays included, you’re spending about four hours just testing.
If that sounds awful, that’s because it is. So be sure you take care of yourself! The night before, watch a movie, read a book, have a healthy dinner, get a ton of sleep, do some yoga maybe. Don’t be running around your apartment building at 11 P.M. looking for pencils.
And be sure you have someone who will pick you up or meet you after the test is over. Once you’ve conquered the LSAT, you will be in dire need of a high-five and/or some victorious fist pumping. You’ll also be exhausted. I didn’t factor this into my day and just planned to walk home after the test. I realized this was a terrible mistake pretty early on in my test day, but there was nothing I could do at that point because I was not allowed to have a cell phone with me (the LSAC has a strict no-tolerance policy on all electronics).
So, with no ability to call up a friend to come meet me, I was stuck walking home all alone after my LSAT, worn out and fist-pumping solo in a freezing Chicago blizzard.
THE LESSON: FIST-PUMPING SOLO IN SNOW IS VERY SAD. Don’t do it. Have a friend pick you up, treat yourself well, and prepare for the daunting LSAT day ahead – you can do it. Y’all gonna be some lawyers.