Today, LSAC made the probably difficult, definitely inconvenient-for-many-law-school-hopefuls, but, in our decidedly non-expert opinion, inevitable and socially responsible decision to cancel the March 30 LSAT. You can read their statement here.
First, what this means for you, logistically, if you signed up to take the March LSAT and didn’t already take up LSAC’s offer to reschedule your LSAT for free: You’ve been automatically enrolled in the April 25 LSAT in the “community” where you were registered to take the March exam. If you’d like to change your test date or location, LSAC encourages you to reach out to their Candidate Services team at LSACinfo@LSAC.org, or (215) 968-1001. I’d try to carve out some time to contact them — this decision affected thousands of people, so, as with seemingly every grocery and drug store right now, I’d expect long queues.
Second, what it means for you if you’re planning on taking the LSAT in April or later: LSAC hasn’t decided to cancel the April or June LSATs yet. The registration for April LSAT is closed, but you can still register for the June LSAT (until April 24, 2020). But of course, these might be canceled as well. Experts can’t yet really say how long this era of social distancing will last, so any prediction about whether these exams will be held is pure speculation. But those who were planning to take these LSATs should consider a contingency plan in case these exams also get canceled. LSAC, for one, is considering some contingency plans: they note that they’re considering if remote-testing or other alternatives might be viable for future test dates.
Finally, for those who were planning to use their March LSAT scores to apply in the 2019-20 law school admissions cycle, this is a tough break. But LSAC also notes that they are working with law schools to adjust deadlines in light of the March cancellation. As an applicant, it wouldn’t hurt to reach out to the schools you planned on applying to, to let them know that you’re interested in applying still, and to see if there’s anything you can do to apply during this cycle.
OK, so those were LSAC’s decisions. Now what should you do, if you were planning on taking the March LSAT? What should you do if you’re planning on taking an April LSAT that may or may not be held? I’ll give you the same advice that was given to me before I started studying for the bar: “Take it seriously, but pace yourself; it’s going to be a long process.”
Studying for the LSAT is going to be a bit more of a marathon for you than you might have initially considered. What was originally going to be a two-, four-, or six-month process is going to be extended by at least a month. Perhaps longer. In some ways, this is a — now, any word I could possibly use here is going to feel wrong and insensitive and inappropriate considering the magnitude of a global pandemic, so please forgive me for the word choice — an opportunity to get more study time in. To master important concepts like the common fallacies and scenarios and author’s attitude. To do many extra practice exams, and review those exams thoroughly.
You should definitely do all of those things (from the safety and curve-flattening sequestration of your own home, of course)! For most of those who were studying for the March LSAT, this extra month will likely be best spent doing a few things. First, try nailing down the LSAT concepts (especially those important concepts like diagramming and identifying common fallacies in Logical Reasoning, making scenarios and “playing the numbers” for Logic Games, and understanding the structure of a passage and the author’s opinions in Reading Comp) so that you can achieve the accuracy your target score would require when doing the LSAT untimed.
After you do this, start to ease yourself into test speed by doing small, timed practice sets of Logical Reasoning questions, games, or passages. Start with the time you need to finish the set and maintain your accuracy. Then reduce the time you give yourself to complete another set of LR questions, games, or passages. If you can finish those within the allotted time and still maintain your hard-won accuracy, reduce the time given once again. Eventually, you want to work your way down, slowly and incrementally, to finishing the Logical Reasoning practice sets with an average of 1 minute and 30 seconds per question, and the Logic Games and Reading Comp practice sets with an average of 8 minutes and 30 seconds per passage or game. In this process, if your accuracy ever dips below the threshold needed for your target score, you’re going too fast. Try to get more practice with slightly more time allotted.
But when you can maintain your accuracy at those speeds — and only when you can do that — then you can start taking practice exams. But be judicious with how many exams you take. Practice exams are great for a few things: getting experienced working at “test speed,” building mental endurance, experimenting with testing strategies. Above all, they’re great at telling you what your strengths and weaknesses are as a test taker. But, paradoxically enough, they’re pretty bad at actually improving the score you get at the end of the exam. Careful review of the exam — tips here — and untimed practice between the exam will help boost your score. Two exams per week is our recommendation.
But, Please, Stay Well
Those are our purely LSAT-related recommendations for those suddenly given an extra month of study time. But to take off the proverbial instructor hat for just a moment, I want you all to remember that studying for the LSAT is a long, arduous, and stressful process, even under the best of times. And, friends, I’m not sure these are the best of times. We’re all getting adjusted to this hopefully brief period of social distancing together, and we’re all going to feel the emotional and mental toll of this abrupt change to our everyday lives. This is not the time to overstress yourself by going too hard into your LSAT study plan.
You know your ability to tolerate stress better than anyone, so I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to tell you how to regulate your study schedule. But I will say this: be honest with what you can take on right now. Listen to your body, and monitor other signals of overstress. And if right now you have serious financial or health concerns, please, please, please tend to those first. The LSAT and law school will still be there when you’re ready.
I’ll also say this: if you’ve already gone through an LSAT course, or have otherwise have acquired a solid foundation of LSAT-related skills, strategies, and experience, studying for the LSAT for a couple of hours a day, five or six days per week, is sufficient. Don’t feel like you have to put in six-hour days of studying every day. That really ups the risk that you’ll burn out before test day (especially if test day gets pushed back from April to later). So free up some time each day to engage — responsibly — in activities that bring you happiness. Practice self-care. Get plenty of sleep. These are the things that can help keep you healthy and relatively happy during these trying times; these also happen to be the things that will make you a smarter, sharper test taker.
So please stay well — physically, mentally, emotionally — to everyone who just had their test date changed. We all got some extra time to prepare for the LSAT. Let’s use that time wisely.