It's a Trap

I now have almost 19 years experience watching LSAT-takers fall prey to one of the most prevalent test day mistakes. But before I share that, let me go back about 25 years, to when I was in college, and embarrass myself a bit. It all relates I promise.

Like many of you, when I was a cash-strapped college student I did psychology experiments for money. One such experiment had me in a small, mirrored room listening to instructions about how I was to receive 10 worded math questions (does anyone like these?). The typical Vanderbilt student, I was told, could get through 8-9. 10 would be my goal but "7 was okay." Unbeknownst to me, question 4 looked relatively easy but was unsolvable. Unbeknownst to you, I am incredibly, absurdly competitive. If I am having coffee with someone, it's [oddly] important to me that I finish before them. Etc. in everything I do.

I was told, and this is critical, if I got stuck I could just skip the question and move on. They were much more interested in how many I got to and rate and pacing and blah blah blah (it was all a big lie) versus which ones I answered. And then the lead experimenter left the room, I was all alone (again, or so I thought because the mirror was two way.) and off.

So long story shorter, I get to 4 and sure enough it looked like I would breeze by. But I got stuck. And more stuck. And obsessed with the fact that I wanted to be better than "8 or 9" and needed to get this one to do so. So I stood up and paced around. That didn't work. I broke one of my pencils in half which obviously didn't work. So I did the next rationale thing in the progression and punched the wall. Which is where the experiment ended and the experiment team rushed in and explained to me that they were watching me the entire time and number 4 was unsolvable. They were measuring my reaction to their induced stress, not anything to do with math (at first I didn't believe them, I thought they felt bad for me for being so below average).

What is my point? Each LSAT question counts exactly the same. And you know this. On diagnostic tests it's often a breeze to skip a difficult question and hope to come back to it. But trust me when I say this. People way too often behave differently on the real test than they do on practice tests. Probably the most common is letting a single question or set of questions get stuck in your head, or to stay on it for too long. I spoke with Dave Killoran, the CEO of Powerscore this morning about this. His point "sometimes you need to lose a few battles to win the war." Or, in the above example, to just skip 4 and go to 5.

Don't get obsessed with any single battle. None are worth it. What's worse, if you find yourself jamming a pencil into the desk so hard that it breaks, no one is going to come in and say "it's a trap!" ... it's all on you to know when to move on to the next question.

With that, go conquer that little quiz to the best of your ability and don't fall to this most common of traps. We wish you all the best and toward a great cycle!

Mike