Thursday, September 28, 2006

Last minute LSAT tips

Many of you are taking the LSAT this Saturday, and I wanted to offer both my best wishes, as well as a few last minute tips. It’s time to taper off from studying -- there’s not much more that studying and/or practice can do for you now except make you more stressed out and tired. Rather, it’s time to get your mind and body in shape.
  • No more alcohol for the week!
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Eat well (but nothing you haven’t tried before that might upset your stomach!). Have breakfast Saturday morning, and bring a snack for the break.
  • If you’re not a regular coffee drinker, Saturday morning is not the time to start! Shaky hands aren’t good during the exam.
  • Make sure you know exactly where you need to be on Saturday and how you’re getting there (and where you’ll park, if applicable). These are not things you need to worry about on the day of the test.
  • Don’t forget to breathe. I mean this literally. During the exam, tension can make your breathing patterns irregular, and interrupt the normal oxygen flow to your brain. Every 15 minutes or so, take a quick break to breathe deeply a few times and get your body back on track.
  • Stretch. See above – gets the oxygen and blood flowing again.
  • Relax. I know you’re rolling your eyes at this one. But the truth is, this test does not determine the outcome of the rest of your life. At most, it helps determine which law schools you have a likelihood of getting admitted to. All of the ABA-accredited law schools are good schools that will give you the education necessary to go on to be successful attorneys.
Finally, if you are still having serious doubts about whether to go ahead with Saturday’s test or put it off until December, please look below to my comments on this topic.

Q: I'm signed up to take the October LSAT, but I'm not feeling ready. I don't think I would do as well as if I took it in December. Will it really hurt my chances of getting into law school if I don't take the test until December?

A: It is definitely preferable that you take the test when you feel ready for it than that you take it at a specific time. If you reasonably believe your score would be several points higher if you put the test off until December, you should put it off.

That said, given the fact that the December test date is right before finals, I am concerned that even by December you will not have adequate time to prepare. My recommendation would be that you put aside a chunk of time each week that is solely devoted to LSAT preparation -- 3-4 hours minimum. If you can really dedicate that time to preparation and taking sample tests, you should be fine.

In terms of timing, the important thing is that you get your applications in as soon as possible. It is generally recommended that you not complete and file the rest of your application until your LSAT score is in so that you can make a more informed determination of which schools you have a likelihood of getting admitted to. If you follow this general recommendation, then you should have your applications all set to go by the time your scores come out in mid- to late December, quickly make your final cut, and send them off. If, on the other hand, there are schools you know you will apply to regardless (for example, a school that you reasonably believe will either be a safety or a likely, depending on your score), then you can go ahead and send the applications as soon as they are ready. The schools will not look at the applications until your scores come in, but you will minimize your last-minute scramble time.

The December 1st deadline for applications is a somewhat arbitrary rule of thumb to encourage applicants to get things in as soon as possible. It does matter, and application rates are definitely better for fall applications than for winter applications, all other things being equal. This is because the schools review completed applications as they come in. Many schools have substantially filled their classes by the time their actual deadline comes around. Nonetheless, while it's not ideal, you should be fine with a December test if you get all your other ducks in a row in advance.


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