I just spent the time typing this up for the LSAT Blog so I figure I’ll post it here too. This has been said many times before but I can now say that I was unfortunate enough to learn it the hard way… Don’t do the same as me, learn from my mistakes!
In the final weeks leading up to your exam (when you should devote at least 90% of your studying energy to full, 5 or 6 section exams), it is absolutely ESSENTIAL to be realistic in your timing. This means holding yourself strictly to 35 minutes, literally not a single second more. I found that it is really easy to allow yourself 2 or 3 or 4 minutes and justify it leading right up to the exam. Here's the problem: on test day, if you don't stop immediately when the proctor calls time you risk serious disciplinary action (not at all worth it). This means every single bubble must be filled whether you're guessing or not by the time the clock strikes 34:59. I really can't emphasize this enough...
I just took the Feb exam and I was PT'ing around 173-175 going into the test. I was a bit inconsistent with timing on all 3 sections and with accuracy on RC/LR (anywhere from -1 to -6). Games, on the other hand, were my rock, -0 or -1 every time. However, although sometimes I'd finish in as few as 25 minutes, I had a few LG sections in the last few weeks where I gave myself 2-5 extra minutes. I reasoned that I'd review them hard later (which I did) and that I'd be good by test day.
I was so confident on games that during the form-filling time before the test I was hoping for 2 LG sections. I opened section one to see games and was ecstatic. Then the first one took me about 10 minutes, and again another 10 or so for the second game, and then something about the third just threw me off. After spending a few minutes diagramming the third and not feeling great about it I went on to the fourth. It didn’t help. My stride (and my pride) were broken. When they called 5 minutes I literally froze. I couldn’t do anything over the next 3 minutes I was so full of panic. Luckily I had the presence of mind with about 2 minutes left to put down something for all the questions I had no answer for (not even educated guesses!) In the end, on the section where my worst score in the past 3 weeks was a -1, I bubbled in “D” for 8 questions.
I tried my best to regain my composure during the 15 seconds before the clock started on section two. I did so reasonably well but there is no question now that I didn’t perform anywhere near my potential for the rest of the day. And it was all because of timing.
Among those who prep for the test there is a lot of anecdotal evidence for a drop of a few points from your PT average to the real thing. I think timing is the reason (for most). In your final prep, DO NOT CUT YOURSELF ANY SLACK! There is no bending the time on the real thing so don’t fall into the alluring trap of giving yourself those few extra minutes or even seconds when you practice.
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I practice tested at 33 minutes for a while then dropped down to 31. I even finished in 29 minutes on a couple of sections with decent accuracy. On the real test I screwed up a set up for a logic game that cost me about two minutes. I had time to fix it and got only one question wrong in that section. My error was Question #1 with he bad set up, i was still a bit confused when I got the correct set up. The point is I screwed up and corrected myself without getting flustered. The two wasted minutes didn't throw off my game and I still got a 175.
Practice with 33 minutes not 35.
Practice with 33 minutes not 35.