Friday, June 24, 2011

Settling into an LSAT Routine

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.
The doldrums of summer rains has come to Boston; cold and rainy weather, combined with too much florescent lighting at my workplace, has affected my mood and made me heavy-headed. Except for my year abroad, I’ve lived in Massachusetts since I moved to America (Geneva is not the sunniest place in the winter either, because it’s in a valley that gathers clouds). People keep telling me that I should consider moving to California – something that I would definitely do if most the career opportunities in international relations weren’t located in the Northeast. Sigh.

I was a little bit ahead of the Zen October 2011 LSAT schedule when I first started with LSAT tutoring from Mr. Bennett. However, I attended an Indian wedding (that unfortunately didn’t have choreographed Bollywood dancing, but did feature the groom arriving on a horse and the bride arriving in what looked like Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis) in Maine last weekend, which set me back a week. It was glorious to witness the lovely traditional ceremony and dance all night to the best wedding playlist ever, but it’s also great to be back on track with studying again.

This week, I’ll be finishing PT 25 and 26 according to the schedule with the rest of the October crowd – hopefully I can stay on this schedule until the bitter end.

In the last two LG sessions, Mr. Bennett and I worked on grouping and assignment rules, the latter of which is apparently one of my many nemeses. I think that my diagramming skills has improved (thanks to Mr. Bennett and my purple highlighter), but I’m still not synthesizing rules in a way that contributes to my understanding, which according to the Zen system is key to solving games fast. This is partly due to both lack of practice and lack of patience. The question that I consistently get wrong on any LG is often the most straightforward one – the “list” question at the very beginning. All you have to do, most of the time, is check off the rules one by one. But in my mind, the ticking of the phantom clock becomes louder and more distracting to that process. As Mr. Bennett assures me all the time, “you may spend a long time on the diagram or one question, but that helped you do these other questions in 2 seconds flat, so don’t get frustrated.” On the LSAT, frustration gets you nowhere.

In happier news, I think I’m still on a slight upward trajectory. In PT25, I was able tackle 3 of the 4 games and get most of the questions right (again, very unprecedented for me). However, in every LG section I encounter at least one game that stops me short in my tracks. I have a few more weeks of LG instruction with Mr. Bennett to learn all the LG material and meanwhile, I need to dedicate more time practicing each type of LG (grouping and assignment) and examining Zen’s free online explanations of LSAT logic games. Meanwhile, since I love making lists, here are some of the other goals I have in mind for the next 2 weeks:

  1. Try to spend no less than 11 minutes on each game (that I can diagram)
  2. Do an additional 5-7 games for practice in addition to the assigned PTs
  3. Go over games done during the lesson and write up a “best practices” worksheet for how to approach games
  4. Practice correctly interpreting various versions of the “if-then” statements
  5. Try not to get impatient when I run into a roadblock
  6. Work during weekend mornings when my energy level is highest
I’ve also made slight progress on the Logical Reasoning sections through concentration, awareness and word matching, which Mr. Bennett alluded to briefly at the end of one of our LG sections. On my best day, I’m getting no more than 2 wrong per section. I’m also starting to develop a weekday routine, which goes something like this: yoga/running/tutoring session, breakfast, 2 – 3 hours of LSAT practice, lunch with a friend, work at my research jobs from 1:30 – 5:30pm, gym, drinks with friends/dinner and 2 hours of LSAT before bed (if I’m lucky and there are no distracting social events happening that night…yeah, still working on that). It’s such a luxury to have such a regular routine, because the school year was punctuated by periods of alternating high stress and quiet lulls. I’m still feeling like I’m spreading myself too thin, but routine definitely helps me get the assigned work done and getting into shape doesn’t hurt either (the past few months have been the first time in my life that I’ve gone to the gym consistently).

I’m also starting to annoy my friends by saying things like “Wow – that analogy you just made reminds me of a logical reasoning practice question I did this morning!” Don’t let it happen to you. I hope everyone has a productive, relaxing weekend. Here’s to the sun coming back to Boston soon!