(Last updated 9/5/18)
If you are reading this, there is strong likelihood that soon you will be making the LSAC sponsored, law school endorsed 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, not that (did you know that a guy once tried to take the test in a Spider Man suit?). LSAC themselves would pretty much not be able to sneak anything 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 this meme), 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, again odds are greatly in your favor that you have prepared more and taken more practice tests 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 mean it. 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 every single day but trust me, YOUR HIGH SCORE IS YOUR ONLY SCORE. Don’t like what LSAC gives back to you at the end of September? Retake the test. Unless you are in a very small group where you have taken the test already five or more times, this is either a great score or a practice test for you.
(4) This is 2018, not 2009, Lucky McLuckerson
Applications seem up, and they may be early cycle. But versus the go-go years of law admissions, they are still lower than any single cycle from 1983 - 2013. You picked a great year to apply to law school. Indeed, even if applications keep going up, those are the periods when law schools have more leeway to pick people they like off the waitlist indepndent of a low LSAT score. 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 really good year to take it. Even more significantly, the LSAT can only help you. It cannot 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 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 October).
Good luck, let us know how it went!