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Why Your LSAT Performance Fluctuates...And What To Do About It

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Has your performance within individual sections on the LSAT been fluctuating? Or maybe your overall practice test scores suddenly dropped by 10 points. In this post, we will discuss what could be causing these changes in scores to determine the best solution for your LSAT prep.


Some Inconsistency within Your LSAT Scores is Completely Natural

I can't tell you how many times I have seen people panic after taking an LSAT practice test and seeing their score drop by a couple points. I completely understand this can seem very alarming. You studied hard, felt like you were gaining some momentum, only to be slapped in the face with a lower LSAT score. But if this is you, take a deep breath. I promise this happens to almost everyone and is a natural part of the process.

People mistakenly believe they will see consistent improvement on the LSAT every day. I know I fell in that camp as well. But check out the charts below showing how what we expect differs from reality.

LSAT score fluctuations

If you read my previous post on how to use LSAT practice tests, you would know the LSAT is skill based, not knowledge based. So trying to improve at the LSAT is more like trying to improve at a sport or instrument than it is like studying for an undergrad exam.

In knowledge based exams, your progress is more linear because the process is simple--just memorize more facts and your score will go up. But think about athletes for a second. Are they always on their A-game? Do they always perform consistently well and do they do better each performance? Absolutely not. We are all human and have our off days.

Another reason for fluctuations is that certain tests can play on your strengths more than others. For example, maybe you are really good at Weaken questions. If this is the case, you may do better on Logical Reasoning sections that contain more Weaken questions than others. Not to mention that some sections are simply harder than others overall.

Another factor to consider is fluctuations in your individual LSAT sections. For example, maybe you scored well on one LR section only to perform poorly on the next. From this, a lot of people conclude there has been a sudden drop in their skill level.

This is almost always not true. Just as the overall LSAT exams are not equal in difficulty, individual sections have different levels of difficulty as well. For example, on one practice test there may be an unusually difficult Logical Reasoning section, but to compensate they may provide an easier Logic Games section.

For these reasons, it is important that you don't think you suddenly got worse if you missed more Logical Reasoning questions than usual. But it also doesn't mean you suddenly improved if your Logical Reasoning score went up either. The trends matter more, not the individual scores.


Fluctuations in LSAT Question Performance

So a lower performance on an individual section does not mean you have gotten worse at the LSAT. Okay, great! But how do we combat that? How do we actually improve? The most important thing is to focus on building up concepts, not your actual score. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out...

Individual concepts vary in difficulty on the LSAT. For example, one practice test may have easier Strengthen questions than another. So people often get too excited when they didn't miss any Strengthen questions only to realize they missed a lot on the next exam. Again, it's not your skill level that is changing. It is the LSAT that is changing. To get better, more consistent results, you then have to be prepared for any Strengthen question, whether it is easy or hard. To do this, you need to focus specifically on that LSAT question type to better understand the patterns. Then, imagine if you did that for all of the questions. As you master more and more question types, your LSAT score can't help but to improve!

Here is the process I recommend using:

  1. Identify a question type you consistently missed on previous practice tests

  2. Review the strategy for that question type

  3. Consistently drill that practice test for several days, until you have a higher level of difficulty even on harder questions

  4. Reattempt questions of that type you missed on previous tests

  5. Take a practice test/section. Rather than looking at the score, focus on how you did regarding that question type. Continue tracking your performance over the next few practice tests/sections. If you are consistently scoring well with that concept, you are ready to move on to the next question type and repeat the process

The moral of the story is don't get too invested in a higher or lower LSAT score. Just focus on trends within concepts. Practice concepts one at a time to the point of mastery. Then continue doing that for other LSAT question types and voila! You should see your score gradually improve. This is the analysis I offer with my students in my LSAT private tutoring time and time again, which has helped many of them improve 15+ points.


It could be Fatigue or your Mental State

If you see a dramatic or consistent drop in your LSAT score, that is something to look into a bit deeper. In this type of situation, typically that means something is going on mentally. Are you rushing? Did you just go through a bad break up? Have you been studying for the LSAT several hours everyday?

Keep in mind that you could be suffering from burnout. If you feel uncharacteristically unmotivated or irritable, or if you are reading the same sentence over and over without retaining anything, these are possible signs of burnout. If this is you, take a break for a few days and then get back to studying for the LSAT.

I know so many people who would feel guilty if they didn't spend every waking moment studying for the LSAT. This can do more harm than good and can increase anxiety even more, because you become so absorbed in the LSAT that it almost becomes life or death. This is extremely unhealthy for your mental state and will only become a vicious cycle where each coming LSAT exam stresses you out even more.

If you are currently undergoing emotional stress, don't be afraid to speak out about your problems. Having someone to talk to can be very helpful, and studying for the LSAT when you are not 100% there mentally can have a negative impact on your progress.

The LSAT is draining to a lot of people and it can be challenging to stay motivated. But having someone to work with and keep you accountable can do wonders in helping you achieve your dreams.

Stay Motivated!



Impetus LSAT

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