Tuesday, August 25, 2009

LSAT Retake Question - Ensure Significant Gains like 172 to 180

Deciding whether to retake the LSAT is a difficult and arduous task. As we discussed yesterday, although most people improve with their repeat score, most scale scores do not lend themselves to significant gains because of their distance from a standard deviation on the LSAT bell curve.

After analyzing the retake LSAT data, we were able to create this graph showing where almost all of the repeat test takers' second--or third--score fell.

The green space above the positive first standard deviation represents the ideal outcome, an LSAT score that greatly outshines the first attempt. Conversely, the red space is the nightmare outcome: a lower repeat score. The transparent space shows the dead zone where repeat test takers only improved by a few points; in our opinion, not worth the stress of retaking the LSAT.

As you can see, while the "average" increase from original to retake score is about 2 scale points, there is a huge variation in how repeat test takers perform. About 70% of all repeaters fall between the red and green lines, and about 99% fall within the entire gradient region.

The question becomes, "How do you ensure that you are in the green portion of the graph?" I'll answer from my own example, as you should always focus on your personal experience and weaknesses when developing a strategy for any LSAT training program.

When I first took the LSAT, I had been scoring in the 175 range on practice tests. Therefore, I was unhappy with the 172 I received on the September 2007 test; on the day of the test, I felt it had gone well. Even though I was in the LSAT 99th percentile, I had "bombed" on the last section, reading comprehension--now I know that reading comprehension sections are the most susceptible to LSAT fatigue because they require you to hold so much information in your working memory at once. Although I had taken many full official PrepTests, I became mentally fatigued on the test day and couldn’t perform to the best of my ability.

The realization that test fatigue was my main problem is why deciding to retake the LSAT was correct for me: I had pinpointed my problem and knew exactly what I needed to do so that there was a significant change in my practice. Instead of accepting my 172, I went about securing the score I knew I was capable of. Over the next six weeks, I developed the system of training for the LSAT that is the basis of
Zen of 180.

To address my fatigue, I practiced
longer than the actual LSAT and required the same level of accuracy from myself in order to be satisfied. I followed a strict regimen of taking eight full sections--two official PrepTests in a sitting--twice a week. After analyzing and correcting the errors (which would later become the basis of the Zen task strands)I made in the logical reasoning and reading comprehension sections, I improved my average practice score from 175 to 179.

It's worth noting that my practice not only addressed my issue of fatigue--the original problem that kept me from scoring at my original practice average--it also improved my accuracy in ways that I hadn't felt necessary, obviously a welcome side effect.

On the second test day, in December 2007, I was fully prepared to handle each section and, more important, the entirety of the test. At the break, I bounced around the hallway while everyone else looked as though they were on their deathbeds. Their perception of their practice, the test itself, and its importance made the LSAT an imposing, exhausting, and terrifying ordeal. I, however, played games (and not just in the analytical reasoning section) with the test because I understood its rules.

I attribute my perfect LSAT score of 180 to my hours of practice and the mentality I developed through training, not to any innate ability. In my experience as an LSAT tutor with clients starting out from both the 130s and the 170s, I have seen that everyone is capable of improving their score through regimented practice which is designed to address their specific weaknesses.

It is worth noting that in addition to the two problems I fixed while developing the
Zen of 180 system, LSAT fatigue and task-specific accuracy, there is an additional problem of reading speed and comprehension. If you have the time to develop this baseline skill, start so now; hopefully if you get your Zen on with our training schedule and target your weaknesses, you won't have to worry about taking the LSAT a second time.