If you are reading this, there is strong likelihood that in less than a week you will be making the LSAC sponsored, law school endorsed, ABA required quarterly pilgrimage to one of the many hundreds of testing centers to take the LSAT. If that alone doesn’t sound intimidating, LSAC and USNWR certainly makes it so. Bring this, not that. Wear this, and not that (there was an applicant who tried to get in dressed a Spider Man once!) The NSA would pretty much not be able to sneak into a test site and, if they did, might melt under the atmospheric pressures that the prominence of USNWR rankings have placed on an LSAT score. *This seems like a big deal and, in some regards, it is. *But, I am here to tell you that you are fine. In fact, I’m not just here to tell you that, I am here to prove it. Here’s why:
**(1) Physiologically speaking, this is not a real “stress” but rather a responsibility. **
Just knowing this matters and is helpful. Why ? Well, there are two possible scenarios for game-day:
a. Your sympathetic system goes into overdrive releasing adrenaline, norepinephrine, and a bunch of other hormones neither of us have ever heard of. This is patently good if there is a bear in the test-center (see, for example)
All of the LSAT prep, it made you ready for next week. Unless you studied with Bears. Good luck Oct. 5 you got this! Bears
— Spivey Consulting (@SpiveyConsult) September 29, 2013
but not so good if you have to sit down and solve logic games, etc for nearly three hours. Research is pretty strong that this fight or flight state will hurt your reasoning skills and that the more you sweat and fidget, the worse off you are. This singular fact, incidentally, is the primary contributing reason why people more often test lower then they pre-test than higher on standardized tests. (But you won’t be in this group).
b. You are as cool as a cucumber. Or, at least, cooler than the 95% of people who have a strong sympathetic reaction because they have not read bullet points 2, 3, and 4 below. Their aprocrine glands are in overdrive and yours are mercifully tame. State dependent learning shows us that when you are as close to possible to the mental state you studied in, you will retain all that your learned while studying, and will do better on the test because of this. Why are you calmer? ….
(2) You have been competing since day 1 of your life.
If anything, you should look forward to this test! Every single day of your life has included some form of competition and this is no different except you are competing against the LSAT, the jerk psychometricians who designed the test, and most of all every single person taking the test on this day. Guess what? If you are reading this blog, odds are greatly in your favor that you have prepared more and taken more practice test than they have. You are being scored against people who are less ready for this test than you are. AND, unless there is an actual bear in the room, they are already disadvantaged because they are more panicky. I meant it when I tweeted it and I mean it now, YOU GOT THIS. How dare someone who studied 5 hours max even come close to your score? They won’t.
(3) The stakes are not as high as they seem.
I don’t know how many times I say this (about every single day for the last 5 years) but trust me, YOUR HIGH SCORE IS YOUR ONLY SCORE. Don’t like what LSAC gives back to you at the end of the Dec? Retake the test in Febraury. It is far from too late, law schools will always make room for a strong applicants. Indeed, did you know that just about every application deadline is flexible? If you are a strong scorer most schools will take an application all the way up to early August. Unless you are in a very small group where this is your last take for the cycle, this is either a great score or a practice test for you.
(4) This is 2016, not 2009 Lucky McLuckerson
Applications are slightly up, but versus the go-go years they are way down! And most schools need to increase their class sizes. In broad terms you picked a great year to apply to law school. Indeed, because applications have been down so much the last 5 years numerous schools have gone to looking at more qualitative and interview oriented criteria for admitting applicants. Schools have been making hard choices due to dwindling enrollment numbers and some of those choices are still going to involve broadening the application criteria and how applications are read. All of those OTHER things you have been competing in and succeeding at the past four years, those are going to matter even more.
Let’s summarize. For starters, the overwhelming majority of individuals who took this test in the past — in the history of the LSAT — envy you today. They envy you because in the past LSAT scores were averaged, and they envy you because this is still a good year to take it in a diminished pool. Even more significantly,*** this LSAT can only help you.* It can not hurt you.** Even if this is the last time you can take it this cycle it can only help. All this test is, then, is an opportunity. There is zero percent chance for harm, so have at it! You are going to enter the test center with the same cool confidence you have towards anything you have prepared for and succeeded at in the past. And just like the person who I spoke to in June hours before her LSAT and who subsequently told me she scored 5 points higher than her highest practice test, you may very well score higher than you have ever practiced at (and I will be blogging about you in February).
Good luck, let us know how it went!