When I was a kid, my dad had the answer to every problem written on a little notecard. It had text on both sides, painstakingly typed, printed, and taped to the center of the card. One side read BREATHE IN, and the other BREATHE OUT.
He thinks he’s funny.
And lucky for all of you, I’ve inherited his sense of humor.
Today we’re talking about the little phrases that can help get you through the tough times. Tips you can mutter to yourself while you’re in the exam room, and hopefully won’t get you weird looks. But, hey, even if they do? Baby, you’re worth it.
Test day is on Monday. Please, hold your applause. By this point, you’ve put in the hard work to learn the common fallacies, and you can spot the difference between a necessary and sufficient condition a mile off. You know that stuff. But sometimes it can be hard to shake off test-day anxiety. What if, for some reason, you absolutely forget everything you’ve ever learned about this exam? What if you look down at your first logic game and it’s an incomprehensible swirl of arrows and slashes? What if the test is actually given in German and you’ve never spoken a word of German in your life?????
In that case, I’d say that it’s time to listen to my father, and BREATHE IN, and BREATHE OUT. Because I’ve got a few short reminders that can help you get through the moment of panic, and back to the LSAT-slaying badass you are.
UNDERSTAND, DON’T INTERPRET
Reading Comprehension, a section notorious for being boring, can invite the deadly combination of both under- and over-reading. If you’re faced with a wall of incomprehensible babble about 1930s musicals, instead of regretting the day you ever started considering law school, remember: UNDERSTAND, DON’T INTERPRET.
In Reading Comp, the goal is to understand what the passage says. You want to feel confident that you know the structures of the arguments, and that you know the approximate locations of topics that were covered. What you don’t want to do is get caught up in your own opinions on the matter. If you feel yourself wanting to opine on how, actually, the author of this piece doesn’t understand the first thing about what makes musicals unique as a genre — stop. The LSAT wants to know the author’s opinion, but doesn’t care much about those of test takers. Save those musings for your LiveJournal.
FIRST CHOICE, BEST CHOICE
Was this lifted directly from a Jacoby & Meyers billboard? Yes. But this isn’t a warning against plagiarism. It’s a reminder about second-guessing yourself. If you can feel yourself dithering between two answers on a question, remember: FIRST CHOICE, BEST CHOICE.
If you feel a gut instinct pulling you towards one answer, there’s probably a reason for that! The human brain is the most brilliant pattern recognition machine in the world. You’ve put in months studying arguments, yes. But you’ve also lived for years as a person in the world, pulling apart arguments in your daily life. Trust yourself. Go with the answer you thought it was to start with. And if you’re really not certain, flag the question and come back to it at the end if you have time. But don’t drop more time than you have to on any individual question the first time through a section.
READ THE QUESTION, DING-DONG
This is, perhaps, a bit self-deprecating, but it does get the point across. For a test that has a reputation of being convoluted, sometimes the LSAT is astoundingly straightforward. The questions tell you exactly what they want from you, the test taker. So READ THE QUESTION, DING-DONG.
There’s a reason that, when looking at a Logical Reasoning question, we recommend that you read the question prompt first. The prompt tells you what to look for. Are they looking for an explanation of a phenomenon? Great! Pick an answer that explains, not just one that seems like it’s true. (Tip: Any time a question prompt uses the phrase “if true,” you don’t have to worry about whether or not an answer choice is proven true by the passage. It doesn’t matter! The test said you can look at the answers as five factual statements. Go forth and wonder no more.) So before you send yourself down a spiral trying to analyze which answer seems the most relevant, remind yourself of what you’re looking for.
DON’T LET THEM WIN
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The LSAT is a test written by a bunch of nerds sitting in an office in suburban Philadelphia. Are you gonna let some nerds beat you? No! You’re cooler, smarter, and prettier than them. Pre-law isn’t like pre-med. We don’t have to take a set course of classes designed to drive out all but the most dedicated students. Instead, we have the LSAT. This is our organic chemistry. This is where law schools expect people with only a casual interest in the law to drop out. That’s part of what this test is for: to drive people away. So get stubborn! DON’T LET THEM WIN. You want to be a lawyer? Ain’t no little test gonna stand in your way.
Go get ’em, lawyers-to-be. You got this.