Friday, July 29, 2011

Halfway Point to October 2011 LSAT

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.
For those of us who are preparing to take the October test, we are almost to the half way point. Those few days at the end of every month that I’ve spent on LSAT prep seem like a mini-grace period. This week was a good one for breakdowns, moments of self doubt, bouts of procrastination, tantrums - just get it all out of your system before August 1.

My friend, who is taking the MCAT in a week, laughed when I described my version of ridiculous grace period behavior during the past few days. On Monday, I decided to take an afternoon off work to hang out with my partner when he had his wisdom teeth taken out. On this surface, it was an admittedly noble excuse – I even made the man two types of soup because I was sincere in my empathy, thank you very much! After we came back from the appointment, I realized that I needed that afternoon off as much as he did. I ended up cracking open a sappy New York Times best seller (for the record, I need to stop visiting the public library), finished it on speed-read mode under four hours and commenced sobbing on my bed.

This behavior clearly alarmed my partner; I could see his confused expression - wasn’t he supposed to be the one crying from the awful pain of wisdom teeth removal? I thought I was crying about the fact that the main character’s husband died, came back to life, fell in love with her over again, and died…again, but the first whiny words that came out of my mouth were: “I can’t do the LSAT…it’s too hard.”

Oh, I see. I’m kind of melodramatic, especially when there’s a willing audience.

However, I also believe that crying – when kept at a minimum – is one of the best ways of relieving stress. As is sleeping. In college, I was always amazed at my ability to con myself into taking 6-hour naps whenever a deadline approached. My lovely roommates refused my pleas to “wake me up after 30 minutes” because my semi-conscious self could charm/annoy them into leaving me alone. That said, I’m proud that I’ve never pulled an all-nighter in my life (the closest I came was going to sleep at 3am because of my high school science project) - because I simply can’t. That’s not all. Having exhausted my eyes from crying and given myself a raging headache that lasted all of the next day, I fell asleep at 9pm on Tuesday night and slept until 7:30 the next day. That’s 10.5 hours of sleep, which made me even sleepier on Wednesday.

So – what caused this little LSAT breakdown? PrepTest 34, which I diligently took according to the Zen schedule, last weekend. Up until this point, I’d been skipping Reading Comprehension sections on prep tests, because I knew it was my strongest section. On Prep test 34, I had no issues with RC timing and only got 1 question wrong overall. Still, I’m doing every RC section from now on because I heard the passages were getting harder (and I managed to get 7 questions wrong on the RC section of the real test because of nerves). The next two LR sections reflected improvement – the number of wrong answers had dropped by half. I now average about 3 – 4 wrong answers per LR section and Mr. Bennett is confident that I can get up to the point where I make no more than 1 – 2 wrong per section.

The last section was the feared LG. I delved straight into the first game, which took me more than 12 minutes to slog through. It was a rather undetermined game and even though I’d done it before without much trouble back in June, its undetermined nature scared me. In the past 2 months, I had improved enough to have certain games “crack open” after just a few deductions (for example, I really enjoyed the red/green/yellow lights in stores game, in section 4 of prep test 34 and also the red/yellow/blue clothes on the mannequins game from the October 1999), but this was not one of them. That was enough to throw me off my game (pun caught upon proof-reading, not intended) and I ended up missing about 10 questions, including an entire game that I hardly even finished diagramming. I tallied up the number of wrong answers per section and was too demoralized to check my score, until….

…this morning, when Mr. Bennett and I checked the score together during our tutoring session. I got a 165. Cue: “Welcome to the 60s!” from Hair Spray! That’s still 14 points lower than what Elle Woods got in Legally Blonde, but it’s more than 10 points higher than the score I got on my real LSAT in December.

“You need to believe that you can reach 170, young grasshopper.” Mr. Bennett said to me, “you’re not going to score lower than 165 unless something goes wrong, and you let it go wrong”. I added the part about the grasshopper – for the record, Mr. Bennett bears little resemblance to Mr. Miyagi, at least physically. Anyways, I still need to get my LG time way down if I’m aiming for above a 170, but at this point, a 10-point jump is more than enough to get me out whatever weird behavior I was exhibiting during my LSAT grace period.

During these past 2 weeks, I started to type up all the LR questions that gave me trouble, including which wrong answer I selected, what the write answer choice is and most importantly, why. I plan to do this for all the prep tests because typing up something – and I do mean manually (now where is my handy dandy personal assistant?) – is slow and boring. This is why the process writes the lesson on your brain in permanent marker. Incidentally, the Zen Google calendar agrees with me – it will start to instruct you to “SELF-CORRECT” in capital letters (and possibly in a drill-sergeant voice) in 2 weeks. Mr. Bennett has helped me identify and articulate the types of mistakes I tend to make and that awareness has led to a significant score improvement in LR.

Despite crying mishaps and nightmares, I know I have ample time to improve, and so do you. Enjoy throwing that tantrum (however you like to throw those - everyone is different) and move on!