Friday, August 27, 2010

Student Journal - Modifying Self Prep for Your Schedule

The following post is part of a series from one of our LSAT tutoring clients. You can read about their experiences by clicking on the "Zen Journal" label above.
Well, as promised last week, I’ve overcome my procrastination problem (at least in part): I have a strategy that entices me to take practice LSATs. Now, I’m not saying that I’m actually utilizing my strategy as fully as I should; I’m simply saying that I devised a strategy, that I’ve begun to employ it, and I actually like it. It sort of inspires.

My strategy, somewhat counter to what Mr. Bennett suggests along these lines, has me taking one section of the LSAT at a time, rather than 4-5 sections for 3+ hours in one sitting.

Example: I wake up, eat some breakfast, and knock out an analytical reasoning section. Next, I’ll read the newspaper for half an hour and then take care of a logical reasoning section. Then maybe I’ll go for a run, come home, shower, and hit the passages of a reading comprehension section. By now, it’s time to go coach soccer practice, so I’ll do that. Five hours later, after two soccer practices and dinner, I’ll take a fourth section.

I find that by breaking up the sections, several things occur for me. First, I don’t feel so pinched for time: I’m not forced to carve out such a long chunk of time to isolate myself and work on a full test. Second, rather than bulling forward, without thinking, just to finish the entire thing under test-like condition, I’m better able to absorb what I’ve just done. Slowing down allows me to analyze the questions I’ve missed in real time, when I’m more capable of recalling why I chose a particular incorrect answer.

Also, slowing down and taking my time is simply more enjoyable. After developing proper diagramming strategies for logic games, and learning how to effectively apply them to the question answering part, with Mr. Bennett, I actually find them quite fun. They are to me, on a good day, just what they’re called: games. I enjoy reading and love to think about the specific meaning of words, so, even though their absurd verbosity is a constant annoyance, logical reasoning question stems often prove thought-provoking.

In the end, studying for the LSAT makes me feel good – in its own way. I want to go to a good law school. In order to do that, I need to score well on the LSAT. To score well on the LSAT I must work hard in preparing for it. So, every time I take a practice section, I feel like I’m working hard on something that will affect my future. When I split the sections of a practice test up, scattering them throughout the day, that feel that positive sense of production several times in one day.

That feeling is not possible, though, if I’m procrastinating even starting each day. When I have to take the entire test at one time, I’ll pull out my trusty list of procrastination pointers (see post from earlier this week) and, with not much help at all, I’ll whittle away the day until there isn’t enough time left to take an entire test anyway. Then I’m out of it for one more day, but I don’t feel better. I feel worse of course. Taking it one step – one section – at a time, helps me overcome that problem.

Now, I know that – as Mr. Bennett suggests – taking full tests, in one chunk, under test-like conditions is important. It helps build stamina so that you don’t bonk on the last section or after the break. Taking full tests at a time helps one to gain a fuller understanding of the energy they must put forth on test day. It helps to internalize a personal pacing strategy.

And yet, I figure that as long as I do at least one test per week under testing conditions, breaking the other tests up each week –using the timer within each section, of course – is fine. Why not go for what feels the most comfortable and productive for me, right? Hell, it’s my test prep and I’ve got to do it, so why not make it as fun, enjoyable, and painless as possible?