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6 Costly Practice Test Mistakes That May Be Slowing Down Your Progress

Most LSAT preppers agree that taking practice tests is an extremely important part of LSAT preparation. Not only do they give you a sense of the endurance and pacing aspects of the test, they can also help you better understand what concepts you need to focus on. But like any other tool it can be used incorrectly, which is why so many people end up frustrated because they have taken many practice tests with nothing to show for it.

Let's discuss these mistakes and how to avoid them. Mistake #6 is the most costly of all.

Mistake #1: Using practice tests too much or not enough

Practice tests, while useful, can be very draining and require a lot of endurance. Taking too many practice tests without breaks in between can lead to burnout. Also, taking practice tests back-to-back prevents you from taking the time to review, which is where you will learn from your mistakes. The improvement comes between practice tests as you learn from your mistakes, not from the tests themselves.

On the other hand, some people never take practice tests either because they are waiting for things to be perfect or they are afraid to see the results. But if you never take a test, you are very likely to be thrown off by the real test. Taking individual sections or drills will not be enough to emulate the endurance and time pressures of the test. Even if you don't feel ready, take a test just to get an accurate representation of where you are at. Ideally, you should aim to take at least 10 practice tests leading up to the day of the test.

Practice tests should be used as a tool for consistency, not as a direct tool for improvement. Start by taking tests as a tool to determine your current performance and drill the individual concepts or question types that give you the most trouble. Once you are scoring near your target, you can start ramping up the number of practice tests you take.

Mistake #2: Not Sticking to Actual Test Conditions

Students will often tell me they stopped in the middle of a section because they got discouraged or an unexpected situation came up. But this is precisely when you should be pushing through. There very well may be times where you will feel this way during the real exam, but you will not be able to stop and retake the test.

Additionally, people often perform way better than they felt, and certain sections may feel difficult but the remaining sections feel much easier. Just because you feel like you aren't doing well in a section does not mean you bombed the test. Practice pushing through even when things are not going in your favor.

It is also very important to stick closely to timed conditions. Fortunately, now that the test is online, the end of the section is automated. But avoid giving yourself an extra minute or two when taking practice tests. A little bit of extra time can significantly impact your overall score and give you a false sense of security leading up to the test. We want at least some practice tests to be an accurate representation of what score you can expect.

Mistake #3: Checking the Clock Too Often

Checking the clock can be tempting. After all, when you are in the middle of a section, you want to know how much time you have left. But as a result, you may end up wasting a ton of time if you check the clock too frequently. The time it takes to check the clock, find where you left off and reset your thinking process becomes way too costly. As a result, people end up panicking halfway through the section.

This may sound crazy, but I recommend practicing without looking at the clock at all. After all, there is no way to regain the time you lost, and seeing how much time you have left can lead you to start rushing, which will only lead to careless mistakes on questions you may have gotten correct if you maintained your composure. Also, as you continue practicing this way you will develop an internal clock where you can almost sense how much time has passed.

But if you absolutely need to check your time, it's important to set very specific checkpoints to do so. This way, you avoid the temptation to sporadically check the clock. Here are my recommended checkpoints for each section:

Logic Games--After each game and corresponding question set

Logical Reasoning--After a set of 10 questions

Reading Comprehension--After each passage and corresponding question set

Mistake #4: Burning Through the Most Recent Tests

The more recent tests are most similar to what you can expect on the day of the test. That doesn't mean the older tests are useless, but ideally you should save at least some of the most recent tests leading up to the test.

At the same time, people often claim more recent tests feel harder, so you don't want to get blindsided by these tests just a couple weeks before the real LSAT. For this reason, I recommend sprinkling in one recent test every few weeks. Then the final 3-4 weeks of your prep should be devoted solely to recent exams. Use the older tests for drilling specific concepts.

Mistake #5: Not Analyzing Your Results

The LSAT is largely a pattern recognition test. There are structures, game types, inferences, and trap answers that show up time and time again. And if we are consistently making mistakes, it is likely there are patterns in our mistakes as well.

Rather than just trying to understand why each answer is right or wrong, it is beneficial to understand what types of questions we are consistently having issues with. This can bring to light skill sets that need improvement and will allow us to focus on our weaknesses, which in turn will help us improve faster and more efficiently.

Mistake #6: Rushing

People often rush, especially as they start to run out of time. They think they need to hurry up and complete the question so that they have enough time to complete the others.

But think about how many times you go back to a question and think to yourself 'If I just had a little more time, I would have gotten this question correct.' What ends up happening is you get all of the remaining questions correct due to careless mistakes when you could have at least gotten an extra two questions correct if you had just spent a few extra seconds on them. When you are running out of time, you have to choose between the lesser of two evils--either you don't answer all of the questions and at least get some additional questions correct or you likely get all of them wrong. As counterintuitive as this may sound, the better approach is to be willing to sacrifice a few questions for the sake of accuracy. If you have questions remaining and only a minute to spare, blindly guess on the remaining questions. Then review them after the test.

Stay motivated!


Cho from Impetus LSAT

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