Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

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tmon
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Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby tmon » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:40 pm

I'm looking for suggestions on how to avoid a large score drop on test day. See the bottom of the post if you want the short version :)

I've been prepping for this test for many months at this point and feel pretty comfortable with the material. I'm not perfect, but I've PTed in the 170s many times on unused, strictly-timed, and modern tests. My average was around 171 going into the October test and I predicted a score maybe a couple points below that average unless the curve was particularly generous.

It turns out I scored a full 10 points below my average, and incorrectly answered well over double my average. Some of the problem was LG, where I missed 5 and often got perfect or close to it. That's a content issue I think, and I'm going to work on drilling. However, I also missed 5 on each LR section and a whopping 11 on RC. Leading up to the test I was averaging around -2 or 3 on LR, and around -3 or 4 on RC. Basically, I doubled or worse all of my average mistakes on those three sections.

I've registered for the December test, so I'm here now asking for suggestions on how to tackle avoiding this enormous unexpected score drop. I know some drop is pretty unsurprising, but I'm still somewhat at a loss trying to explain how or why it happened to me to such a great extent. More importantly, I feel like I need to do SOMETHING to make sure I perform to my ability on December 3rd. It's especially scary that I didn't even think I did poorly when I walked out of the test. I didn't have an overt freakout or anything, though I was certainly nervous and pushing myself to finish sections on time. I've put so much work into this test that it really worries me that a poor day-of performance could ruin months of studying. If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them! If there's anything else I can explain about my prep or whatever, feel free to ask.

tl;dr
I was completely shocked to find I scored about 10 points below my PT average on the October test.
I'm now registered for the December test and looking for suggestions on how to perform up to my ability.

Thanks :)

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JamMasterJ
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby JamMasterJ » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:51 pm

On my second test, I came in averaging 171-173 with a few higher and a few lower. As you know, I got a 166. I think that was due to not having a very specific, methodical approach for every type of question. I know you have this. However, I'm guessing that you may have abandoned your methods when you got into the test room and done many more questions by intuition than usual. For me, I think this meant a huge drop-off in LR especially (I'll never know b/c it was a February test). I'd attribute some of the LG to bad luck, though that can be overcome by becoming so good that you have a 10 minute buffer against unfamiliar or weird questions. For LR, remember your basics. I don't know what happened with your RC, but I assume timing was a big killer.

I know you are capable of scoring in the high 170s; I've seen you do it. But you have to approach the real test just like your PTs and I don't think you did.

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SarahT
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby SarahT » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:56 pm

Don't laugh.

Do some research on L-theanine (a natural supplement). It is an amino acid, that basically helps with immediate focus and attention.

I tried a few practice tests with it, and nailed them. Didn't do it on test day, though.

Not a hippie, but the shit seems to work.

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crumpetsandtea
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby crumpetsandtea » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:59 pm

I don't know how helpful I'll be, but you know that I struggled with something similar after this June so I'll do my best to say something useful.

How did you feel during the test? I know you said you didn't freak out after, but really think hard. When I looked back after my Oct test I realized that even though I told myself that I didn't feel too bad about the test, I distinctly remember long moments of panic and brain-dead-ness (ie: having to re-read stimulus paragraphs multiple times in LR). So I wouldn't worry too much about the fact that you didn't seem to feel panicked about the test after, I don't think that means anything <3

All I can say regarding what helped me was confidence. Don't feel the urge to cram or dive into studying again the way you did before: you've studied a fucking LOT already. Work on honing in on your specific weaknesses. I'd recommend going through all your missed questions from this test and analyzing them for any recurring themes. Were they all questions you usually miss? Or were they totally random?

Honestly, leading into December just do some drills to keep your mind sharp. You should be targeting going -1/-2 or so consistently on LR and RC, just to give yourself some elbow room. With LG, what do you think hurt you the most? I'm not sure what you mean by 'content issue'.

The take-away point that I have here is: DONT PRESSURE YOURSELF TOO MUCH. You totally have the ability to score where you want to, but sometimes our brains like to sabotage us ): (those assholes)
Last edited by crumpetsandtea on Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

horrorbusiness
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby horrorbusiness » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:00 pm

i think you can count on a decent confidence boost from retaking. you know what you're in for and you know what a real test feels like. just prevent yourself from getting test day nerves. i tanked games myself.

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JamMasterJ
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby JamMasterJ » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:01 pm

horrorbusiness wrote:i think you can count on a decent confidence boost from retaking. you know what you're in for and you know what a real test feels like. just prevent yourself from getting test day nerves. i tanked games myself.

Credited. I know you've taken it before, but it's almost as if that was a different test b/c you hadn't really studied and the implications were not the same as they are now

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tmon
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby tmon » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:15 pm

Thanks for the responses guys, a lot of really helpful stuff I hadn't necessarily thought of. J, I think you're likely right. I can remember going into the test thinking that the last thing I wanted to do was get to the end too slow and have to guess on a couple questions. Because of this, I feel like I might have abandoned some of my methods. The way I was thinking about it since I got the score was that I wasn't going far enough in thinking about some of the questions, which I think is the "intuition" bit you mentioned more or less. I'll focus on making sure I stay true to the process.

On retaking, you're probably right. October was a retake but the first take was with little studying, and not studying properly. Hopefully there'll be a boost there.

crumpetsandtea wrote:I don't know how helpful I'll be, but you know that I struggled with something similar after this June so I'll do my best to say something useful.

How did you feel during the test? I know you said you didn't freak out after, but really think hard. When I looked back after my Oct test I realized that even though I told myself that I didn't feel too bad about the test, I distinctly remember long moments of panic and brain-dead-ness (ie: having to re-read stimulus paragraphs multiple times in LR). So I wouldn't worry too much about the fact that you didn't seem to feel panicked about the test after, I don't think that means anything <3

All I can say regarding what helped me was confidence. Don't feel the urge to cram or dive into studying again the way you did before: you've studied a fucking LOT already. Work on honing in on your specific weaknesses. I'd recommend going through all your missed questions from this test and analyzing them for any recurring themes. Were they all questions you usually miss? Or were they totally random?

Honestly, leading into December just do some drills to keep your mind sharp. You should be targeting going -1/-2 or so consistently on LR and RC, just to give yourself some elbow room. With LG, what do you think hurt you the most? I'm not sure what you mean by 'content issue'.

The take-away point that I have here is: DONT PRESSURE YOURSELF TOO MUCH. You totally have the ability to score where you want to, but sometimes our brains like to sabotage us ): (those assholes)


I was thinking about the thread you had going for a while for studying and I remember you kind of took it easy to some extent. I've been PTing a bit lower than you were so I think I have some practice I can do, but I think I'm going to to not go so hard. I've basically cleared my schedule so I'm going to get back into a workout schedule and schedule plenty of off days to recover mentally. I can say, looking back, I wasn't exactly calm. I was probably rereading more than usual and felt like I just had to roll with because of time constraints. That, coupled with maybe getting away from the process of answering some stuff seems like a major factor I'm thinking. The process part isn't too hard of a fix, I just need to stick to it and see it through. But the rereading and unfocused part worries me because there's no obvious "do this" solution I know of.
As for LG, I got bogged down on game 3, skipped it after a bit, then rushed through 4. Interestingly, I missed 0 on game 3, -3 on game 4, and a couple random stupid mistakes in the first two games. When I say "content issue" I mean, I think I can actually benefit from some games drilling. I got a little lax on that over the summer and felt like I needed to catch up in the last month of prep. Hopefully I can lock that down :)

HellOnHeels
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby HellOnHeels » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:42 pm

tmon wrote:I'm looking for suggestions on how to avoid a large score drop on test day. See the bottom of the post if you want the short version :)

I've been prepping for this test for many months at this point and feel pretty comfortable with the material. I'm not perfect, but I've PTed in the 170s many times on unused, strictly-timed, and modern tests. My average was around 171 going into the October test and I predicted a score maybe a couple points below that average unless the curve was particularly generous.

It turns out I scored a full 10 points below my average, and incorrectly answered well over double my average. Some of the problem was LG, where I missed 5 and often got perfect or close to it. That's a content issue I think, and I'm going to work on drilling. However, I also missed 5 on each LR section and a whopping 11 on RC. Leading up to the test I was averaging around -2 or 3 on LR, and around -3 or 4 on RC. Basically, I doubled or worse all of my average mistakes on those three sections.

I've registered for the December test, so I'm here now asking for suggestions on how to tackle avoiding this enormous unexpected score drop. I know some drop is pretty unsurprising, but I'm still somewhat at a loss trying to explain how or why it happened to me to such a great extent. More importantly, I feel like I need to do SOMETHING to make sure I perform to my ability on December 3rd. It's especially scary that I didn't even think I did poorly when I walked out of the test. I didn't have an overt freakout or anything, though I was certainly nervous and pushing myself to finish sections on time. I've put so much work into this test that it really worries me that a poor day-of performance could ruin months of studying. If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them! If there's anything else I can explain about my prep or whatever, feel free to ask.

tl;dr
I was completely shocked to find I scored about 10 points below my PT average on the October test.
I'm now registered for the December test and looking for suggestions on how to perform up to my ability.

Thanks :)

+1. I got -12 on RC. I didn't even do that bad on my diagnostic. I walked out feeling confident on all but the LG (which, turns out, I guessed pretty damn well on). Did you take PT63? How did you do? Was there anything about the environs (loud noises from outside, extremely cold, etc) that was distracting?

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tmon
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby tmon » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:48 pm

stephinmd wrote:+1. I got -12 on RC. I didn't even do that bad on my diagnostic. I walked out feeling confident on all but the LG (which, turns out, I guessed pretty damn well on). Did you take PT63? How did you do? Was there anything about the environs (loud noises from outside, extremely cold, etc) that was distracting?

The room was mostly fine. I was in front with nobody else at my short row of table space, great chairs too. The biggest distraction (which I actually remember getting to me at one point) was this guy behind me who sounded like a sleeping dog with a nasal problem. I never thought something like that would be so annoying. Coming out of the test I would've said it didn't affect my performance but I'm kind of hesitant to say that about anything at this point. RC was my last section, but the sections went -5, -5, -5, HUGEFAIL and I've done enough practice to say that stamina shouldn't be an issue. So...I don't know.

03121202698008
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby 03121202698008 » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:50 pm

Most test day problems are due to poor stress/anxiety coping skills. Practice, exercise, and make sure you get good sleep the night before. (I took Benadryl to sleep...)

iamrobk
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby iamrobk » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:51 pm

Not sure how much this could help you, but going into test day my goal was always (for LR mostly, but RC kind of) to do 15 questions in 15 minutes, 20 in 20 minutes, and 25 in 25 minutes (which, in reality was like 27-28 minutes). Having specific goals for myself on timing helped me not to get too stressed since I knew I'd met these goals 20+ times before, and I knew I could do it again on the 'real' test.

bumblebeebuzz
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby bumblebeebuzz » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:46 pm

Tmon-- you gave me some really helpful advice when I bombed the June LSAT so I hope I can return the favor.

I studied very hard for 5 months for the June LSAT and then bombed it. I just got scores back from October and got a 170. Here are some things I did differently that may help:

1) I got a tutor. I was extremely, extremely skeptical of this. I had studied PowerScore and Manhattan inside/out and felt very confident with the material, however, a good tutor pointed out mistakes I did not even realize I was making.

2) I took a break. I felt burnt out and devastated after the June test but taking a few weeks off really helped me out.

3) I really worked on relaxation techniques and also put myself under a lot of pressure when PT'ing. I have the WORST test anxiety. But, doing yoga and meditating really helped me. To increase the "pressure" of a PT, I would tell someone (the same person every time) my score after I graded my test. Knowing that someone was going to know (and react) to my score, while I took the test for some reason really made me anxious. I know this seems weird, but by some how simulating anxiety that you may feel on test day was helpful to me.

4) I learned when to auto pilot and when to be super mentally engaged. It's impossible to be 100% mentally engaged the entire test. Some questions are easier than others on the LSAT (generally 1-10 of LR)-- you can generally pre-phrase those easily etc. But for the later questions in LR, I found I kept my self mentally engaged by really pumping myself up (sort of like talking to yourself in your head-- I know that sounds mental, but it worked).

5) Anticipate anxiety. After taking it in June, I knew I would freeze up on the first question on LR. Anticipating this, I was able to prevent it.

I will probably think of more in time. I know these techniques are a little odd, but honestly, it seems you don't need conventional wisdom (study more etc.) right now. Unfortunately, there will always be anxiety. My first section this time around, I made some really, really stupid mistakes-- which was no doubt due to anxiety. But, I'm sure you're going to get a killer score in the future.

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sandwiches5000
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby sandwiches5000 » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:51 pm

I have the same problem. I never had anxiety on an exam before but I did with this. I had PTs in the mid-170s consistently since April-May. 167 in June and then I went in for October and got sick (stomach problem but I think the stress aggravated it) so I'm stuck with the 167 for this cycle.

Confidence. Managing your stress. I've started meditation. Seriously, I think that could help you. And yoga. Maybe even consider talking to someone to coach you out of it. Also, don't study too much.

Good luck to you!

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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby RamblinBoyofPleasure » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:53 pm

I ended up outperforming my average a little (by a lot for the immediate week before the test) which I credit to all the little things I did to prepare myself for test-day conditions.

I'm a runner, and I approached the test just like I would for a big race. I did as wide a variety of training as possible under conditions that were more adverse than test day. So, for example, I tried to alternate testing between quiet places, like the library, and really loud places, like a busy coffee shop. Some days I took two tests back to back, others I did a test of nothing but a single section type. I did a cannibalized practice test of the questions I thought were the most difficult. Not only did this help me prepare for the worst day conditions, but it also helped keep weeks of studying for one test interesting, and it made me really confident.

As it is, I still don't think I hit my potential. But I scored as high as I did thanks to the advice on here, and this approach seems to be the only unique part of my preparation.

Best of luck with the re-take. I'm sure you'll kill it.

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crumpetsandtea
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby crumpetsandtea » Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:23 pm

tmon wrote:I was thinking about the thread you had going for a while for studying and I remember you kind of took it easy to some extent. I've been PTing a bit lower than you were so I think I have some practice I can do, but I think I'm going to to not go so hard. I've basically cleared my schedule so I'm going to get back into a workout schedule and schedule plenty of off days to recover mentally. I can say, looking back, I wasn't exactly calm. I was probably rereading more than usual and felt like I just had to roll with because of time constraints. That, coupled with maybe getting away from the process of answering some stuff seems like a major factor I'm thinking. The process part isn't too hard of a fix, I just need to stick to it and see it through. But the rereading and unfocused part worries me because there's no obvious "do this" solution I know of.
As for LG, I got bogged down on game 3, skipped it after a bit, then rushed through 4. Interestingly, I missed 0 on game 3, -3 on game 4, and a couple random stupid mistakes in the first two games. When I say "content issue" I mean, I think I can actually benefit from some games drilling. I got a little lax on that over the summer and felt like I needed to catch up in the last month of prep. Hopefully I can lock that down :)

yeah TBH I only probably did like 5 or 6 PTs between June and October, with a bunch of drills for RC. If I can be perfectly honest I think working out helped A. LOT. I'm incredibly erratic with my workouts but I distinctly remember that I had an amazing workout the night before my 180 (at like 1 am) and then I woke up half an hour early at like 6 am to work out the day of my test.

I think the endorphins help cut the nerves and stress, and there have been studies that show that exercise is good for the brain (dont ask me to find them though cause i have nooo idea hahhaha). Either way, it can't hurt! (:

Were you doing 35 min PTs? If timing is an issue, try 30 min PTs from here on out. Aim to finish with at least 1-5 minutes to review (WHILE doing 30 min PTs). That's what I've been doing since probably March or so, and it REALLY REALLY helps with timing. I had time to double check answers on every single section. I was more rushed than usual, but because I was used to doing 30 minutes, that still ended up with me finishing at ~ the 30 or 31 minute mark and having around 5 minutes to double check, or just take deep breaths and relax.

Yeah, definitely continue to drill games. I'm kicking myself for not going -0 (that 177 taunts meeee). It's hard to explain to someone how to fix a mentality, but really it's just letting yourself take the pressure off a little bit. <3 You'll kick ass in December, I know it. 180 for sure.

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blue_c
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby blue_c » Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:55 pm

Hey tmon!

Like the others my advice is going to focus on test day, and reiterates some of the points made already (J and crumps). I made sure to have a good night sleep, which meant a few days of planning (I'm an insomniac so I had to be really careful about my sleep for the entire week to make sure I got plenty the night before). I got up early and gave myself lots of time to walk to the testing center. Thankfully I got there right as they were letting people in and it only took about a half hour for everyone to be seated. Having that time to relax and compose myself was important for me.

The other thing is to not forget your training and methods. The day of the test you're nervous and its natural to want to follow your gut/ change things up in the hope of doing even better than your average PT, but you'll end up doing worse. Probably don't even notice it happening. I was doing really good until the break (-2) but then I didn't click the dial on my watch in all the way for my 4th section (RC- my worst). When I looked to make sure I was on track I kind of stressed out some because I didn't know how much time I had. I lost a lot of time reading questions without ever really soaking in the words. Instead of just breathing in for a few seconds and calming down (I was already behind!!!) I just plowed on ahead and it would happen the next question. I ended up losing some of my strategy and a lot of time. That's the section I lost the most points in. I timed myself correctly for the last LR, but I was still stressed from the previous section and it showed. Staying calm and following the methods no matter what will make a huge difference. Thankfully I still got what I wanted, so it worked out. I know you'll rock the December test. GLHF!

hobojarpen
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby hobojarpen » Wed Oct 26, 2011 12:16 am

I haven't read through what other people have posted, but here is my experience, because I can relate to what happened to you:

I graduated from college in 2009, started studying for the December 2009 LSAT with PowerScore bibles around September. My avg PT score was in the 160s, though I hit the low 170s a few exams. Test day came and I choked. I still remember panicking as I took 5 minutes to answer the very first question that day. Somehow, I ended up still getting a 160, but overall, I'm pretty sure I took this exam waaaaay too soon.

I gave myself time to study again with previous exams and to redigest what I read in the PowerScore books, but this time, I was trying to do all this while working full time as a legal clerk, commuting M-F between the OC and Koreatown. Not a great mix. All that stress and lack of comfortably studying eventually caught up with me and my score on the December 2010 LSAT dropped to 155. The funny part is, I thought I did a lot better on this exam than the previous one.

I knew I was going to retake the exam for a third time, and while I did trust my studying skills, I decided not to screw around and used the money I saved from working to enroll in Blueprint. I guess having people to study with, a teacher to ask questions to, better resources, and a lengthy exposure to the LSAT (having taken it twice previously) helped a lot. But yeah, I ended up scoring a 170 on the most recent LSAT so I'm pretty happy about that.

Overall, between my first two LSATs and my third one, what helped me more than the fact that I had Blueprint's resources was the fact that I gave myself more time to study, and I was comfortable/consistent/disciplined in my studying habits and methods. Another difference is that I've always understood the material even back in 2009, but it wasn't until I was studying for my third LSAT that I was able to take an extended string of PTs with a concrete method/strategy in mind... But yeah, based on your story, while you did walk out confidently, it could be that you walked out feeling confident because you selected a lot more attractive wrong answers than you normally do.. because if that's the case, the best thing to do is making tactical changes, because clearly your methods and answer selection/elimination tactics weren't all that failproof. In any case, the biggest advice I'd have is clearly something went wrong, and while it might not be pretty, you need to figure out where you came up short in your study methods so you can make the critical adjustments heading into the December LSAT.

caminante
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Re: Help! Drastically Underperforming on Test Day

Postby caminante » Wed Oct 26, 2011 9:45 am

Do you live in a city? Try to find a few prep companies that give out free proctored exams. You can usually bring your own with you if they are administering one you've already taken. I did this 3 times during the month before the LSAT and got my routine down to a science.

I woke up early, drank one cup of coffee, went for a brisk walk/jog, ate an egg, practiced one section of each, and then left for the test. It was crazy how big seemingly tiny differences made for me. Eating anything with sugar dropped my score about 3 points.

Regardless of whether the routine really mattered, I felt like I was confident and "knew what to do" the morning of the test. I still felt a little nervous, but it helped a LOT.

Good luck! You will definitely crack the 170's in December!




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