Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

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Malakai
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Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby Malakai » Tue Jun 19, 2012 6:53 pm

So I searched the forums for this topic, and was unable to find something outside of leaving diversity statements blank :P .

After taking some time to gather myself after a west coast administration of the June '12 LSAT in sunny California, I decided to approach several people after the examination about their mental states during and post-test. While certainly not coming off as nor wanting to be the scientist's probe, I was able to reasonably determine the expression on some of their faces (through common experience with other, emotionally-capable humans) and for reasons that will be explained below, I decided to approach them about the topic above. Several said they had blanked out when they began the test, while all of them pretty much experienced no "blankness" afterwards. While I certainly understand retaining a level of mental clarity post-test, due to the higher likelihood of having ample time to "get it together", I am much more curious about the blank-out a person might experience when they begin their LSAT. Has anyone else here ever gone through this?

The reason I approached this group of six people was because I felt as though some of these people may have experienced something relevant to my own experience earlier that day (though to a different degree than some). For about 3 or so minutes, I had to keep re-reading several parts of a rather tough RC passage, being temporarily unable to comprehend the material while simultaneously experiencing my first sort of "blank-out episode" that I can ever recall.

It was incredibly bizarre, because prior to the test I did light warm-ups with a few LR questions, an LG setup, and an RC-passage about 2hrs before the exam (which I felt was plenty of time to prevent any negative effect come test time). I have also never blanked out during any type of standardized test or practice exam, and have used the Simugator LSAT Proctor DVD to become accustomed to distractions (despite the fact that my testing center turned out to be extremely quiet). As a result of this, I was fairly rushed for one of my RC sections and guessed on about 2 in addition to not being absolutely sure of 10% of that section due to the blank-out I experienced. This was unacceptable to me.

While i'd like to avoid anyone bashing on my cognitive ability, I would like to suggest that I felt as though I was adequately prepared. I am at least somewhat experienced with PT's, and though I am certainly not among the gods or logical geniuses on TLS; I have completed 30 or so PT's and and was PT'ing in the high 160's to low 170's (169-173) properly putting me at least above the rank of "Complete LSAT Noobery". For what it's worth, I had RC-RC-LR-LG-LR sitting for what was the June '12 test.

Could anyone provide their insight as to what may have happened here? Could some of you describe your experience with this? Maybe answering or discussing this would enable someone to prevent the likelihood of this occurring to them or someone else in the future, whether that be with this or any other similar standardized test. Anything relevant or helpful would be greatly appreciated!

- M

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CardozoLaw09
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby CardozoLaw09 » Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:14 pm

I think this sort of thing is fairly normal and occurs more often than you'd think. I would venture out a guess and say that in the back of your mind you know that this is the real thing so you can't really approach it as you would a practice test ie) without any added pressure. You just have to try your best to focus and then eventually you'll end up in auto pilot mode and start breezing through the questions.

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rinkrat19
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby rinkrat19 » Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:19 pm

I had 30 terrifying seconds filling out the answer sheet before the test, where I couldn't remember my SSN. It passed; I was totally fine for the rest of the test.

I have zero history of testing anxiety and have always tested well. So to even have that brief mind blank was pretty weird.

woolfiot
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby woolfiot » Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:31 pm

This absolutely happened to me. When the test began and I opened up to the RC section (I also had the RC RC version), I think I may have read the first two sentences about 10 times. It was the weirdest thing, and I have never experienced anything like it before. In that time, it was as if my brain was revving up and coming to grips with the fact that this was finally the real deal. After that initial hesitation, I seemed to ease into the test like my muscle memory was coming back or something. It definitely freaked me out though, and for a second I thought I might just choke and bomb the test.

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Micdiddy
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby Micdiddy » Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:35 pm

Tl;dr but I did this. Typing on iPhone right now, don't want to write too much.

Edit: So yeah, I was feeling ok before the test started though I could tell nerves were creeping up. I did some warm-up LR (maybe 6 questions) and 3 warm-up games and felt fine on all of them. I think it was sitting there with the test in front of me for like 40 minutes filling out all the crap beforehand when I really got nervous.
When I flipped the first page to LR, I was not in my usual state-of-mind. Usually I jump out of the gates on PTs, finishing 15 Q's in 15 minutes or even 20 in 20. This time, I re-read the first stimulus maybe 3 times and still felt weird about my answer (which I know now to be obviously correct, but at the time I just couldn't think straight). Within the first 5 questions I was prob unsure about 2 or 3 answers, whereas usually I am confident about almost the whole section.

I relied almost purely on pattern recognition, and don't actually feel like I thought logically on a single question.

RC was even worse. I did not read the passage in a coherent, logical sense. Everything seems disjointed. I would absorb some information, but there was no sense that what came before in the passage had an bearing on what came next. When reading questions, I would have to quickly scour the passage again almost every time looking for some little hint to an answer. Usually, MP questions are clearly the easiest ones, but because of the way I was comprehending the passage they became almost unbearable. I could still pick out details and answer questions that way, but a lot more than usual felt like shots in the dark.

LG's is the only thing I feel like I did normally, and ever since I first saw the LSAT it's been my best section. Unfortunately, it was last. So I didn't get a confidence boost for the next sections or get my head on straight. I did it, and think I did it well, but for the other 4 sections I felt basically in a haze.

Oh well, since then I have thought about my answers for a lot of questions and realize I still got them right. But I attribute any correctness on my part to muscle and pattern memory, not conscious comprehension.
Last edited by Micdiddy on Wed Jun 20, 2012 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

BalanceCare
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby BalanceCare » Wed Jun 20, 2012 8:52 am

I know people say not to do this but I warmed up for the test by doing 5 or 6 games, a full lr section, and one rc passage a few hours before hand. i felt loose and ready to go when the test began. this might be hard to do on non-June administrations because you have to wake up so early.

thenumberfour
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby thenumberfour » Wed Jun 20, 2012 11:29 am

I had terrible anxiety before the test started. TERRIBLE. The half hour of biographical bubble fill in was excruciating for me. I got into the groove a couple of questions into the first sections, but man.

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StarLightSpectre
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby StarLightSpectre » Wed Jun 20, 2012 11:52 am

I had the RC-LR-LR-LG-LR


During the break I was thinking about the best and worst possible out comes in the previous 3 sections and realized that scoring 170+ was possible only if I performed on LG. (yeah that was a conditional)

As soon as I opened section 4 I blanked completely. I read the first game 2-3 times before I picked up any information.

I don't know if I psyched myself out or what but I blanked hard.

Did get back in the groove during section 5.

I have no idea how I did on LG though. Could be anywhere from -3 to -12.

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Mr.Binks
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby Mr.Binks » Wed Jun 20, 2012 2:33 pm

I experienced this a bit also, especially with LG. Perhaps it's because you realize how important this test is, and consequently, are much more nervous than usual approaching it. Using a proctor will help you get a feel for time and whatnot, but it doesn't really compare to actual test day conditions where you know for a fact that you MUST perform. Maybe it's this pressure and stress that messes with your mind.

Thinking back, I would have diagrammed a game completely differently (and more efficiently) under PT conditions, but I sort of lost my shit during the real deal and butchered it. It is probably largely attributed to anxiety overall.

penguinbrah
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby penguinbrah » Wed Jun 20, 2012 5:26 pm

from reading the responses and having the same experience as a few of the above posters, I am inclined to thing overall and anxiety leading to a lack of focus is what's causing the lack of comprehension and re reading of passages. I as well had two back to back RC sections and the first RC passage I had to literally re-read the first paragraph multiple times because I had absolutely no clue what it was saying.

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HolleeB
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby HolleeB » Wed Jun 20, 2012 11:03 pm

I don't recall this happening during test day (although it probably did) I do however recall doing it for practice tests. I usually close my eyes, take a deep breath and then reapproach with an investigative mind (what exactly is this paragraph saying, who, why; what is this rule doing to the structure of the game, etc). It slows me down a bit but at least I'm not still blanking, and I stop as soon as I feel myself back on track.

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LSAT Hacks (Graeme)
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby LSAT Hacks (Graeme) » Wed Jun 20, 2012 11:33 pm

I teach the LSAT, and I see this a lot. I remember one student absolutely did not get a certain logic game. She had a blank, drugged stare. I called time-out, and talked to her about the book she was reading for 2-3 minutes.

When we restarted, she tore through the game and got everything right. Nothing but a change of state.

The LSAT is an extreme stressor, and demands peak concentration. Test day heightens nervousness. It's extremely important to avoid it, but that's easy to say and hard to do. Obviously you can't take 3 minutes off to daydream about a book.

Brief meditation is the best tool I've found so far. I've used it myself, I get occasional blankouts too on dull passages. Here's how to do it, it only takes about 5-10 seconds:

1. Close your eyes
2. Breathe deeply. Focus on breathing through the stomach. This is actives the calming parasympathetic nervous system, according to google.
3. Focus on your breath as it goes in and out your nostrils.
4. Do this for 5 breaths or so.

Try it now. It might sound goofy, but it works. You should feel a nice calmness if you do it right.
5-10 seconds on test day is a fair trade off if it resets your nervous system and prevents blankouts.

https://www.google.ca/search?sugexp=chrome,mod=5&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=stomach+breathing+parasympathetic

Edit: Thought of two other things.

1. It is a good idea to try some practice tests in places with distractions, such as cafes. This can help get you used to the distractions that will be present on test day. Proctored diagnostics are also a good idea, many companies offer them. The pressure doesn't match test day, but it's a step in the right direction.
2. There is some value to writing the LSAT even if you don't think you'll hit your target score and plan to take it later. You'll get exposure to a real test day, which should help nerves the second time around. Obviously, this has to be balanced against the total number of times you can take the LSAT.
Last edited by LSAT Hacks (Graeme) on Thu Jun 21, 2012 12:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

danshupp
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby danshupp » Wed Jun 20, 2012 11:50 pm

I've had terrible test anxiety during parts of the LSAT all 3 times I have taken the exam. It's extremely frustrating because I've never had a problem with test anxiety before. I feel calm during some parts of the test but as soon as I start to struggle at all the anxiety rears its ugly head once again. I've underperformed horribly due to this. My scores have been about 10 points less that my PT average.

I agree that its the incredible importance and pressure of the test that causes this. There's not a lot of test that you prepare for 3 months and that decide to some extent your future career as well as up to 120K worth of scholarship money. I believe also that because it's not a content based test and each test and section can vary so greatly that the massive amount of uncertainty at play is simply overwhelming. I've put my pride aside and ordered an array of test anxiety books to help overcome this. Hopefully this will help if I have to take the test yet again. I wouldn't even rule out anxiety medication however I would be afraid they might mess with my cognitive processes.

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mewalke1
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby mewalke1 » Thu Jun 21, 2012 12:08 am

thenumberfour wrote:I had terrible anxiety before the test started. TERRIBLE. The half hour of biographical bubble fill in was excruciating for me. I got into the groove a couple of questions into the first sections, but man.


Yea same thing with me I was totally stressed about filing out the info bubbles right.

JDot
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby JDot » Thu Jun 21, 2012 4:04 pm

This happened to me, which caused me to cancel my june test that was just given.

In all the PTs I took I always finished LR with 5 minutes to spare and had time to go back and check some questions I had a little trouble with. On the real thing I barely got through each section and almost every question I kept blanking out and having to re-read it like 2-3 times.

On RC I felt like every passage I just couldnt absorb the material and answered almost all the questions with answers I "thought" were right, but none I was totally positive on.

LG was the only section I felt I did somewhat well on, even though I had more trouble than I expected.

It pisses me off because I was doing well on the PTs and I wasnt even nervous on test day, but as soon as I opened up the booklet to begin this cloud just came over me where I was blanking on everything. I really hope this doesnt happen again in october and I really dont know how to remedy this either.

Manhattan LSAT Noah
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby Manhattan LSAT Noah » Thu Jun 21, 2012 4:27 pm

Definitely a common occurrence.

I like graeme's advice above. Training your brain--another way of looking at meditation--is clearly spot on for this sort of work.

I tell folks to talk themselves back into the test. "What sort of question is this? And what's the conclusion?" or "So, this passage is about Mexican lit - OK, and about ..."

You have to talk to yourself silently, of course! Also, some people process information better if it's read to them, and those people should learn to read to themselves silently. You start by quietly reading it aloud, and get softer and softer.

joshringu
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby joshringu » Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:08 pm

I know I am a year late, but this happened to me today - unfortunately. I had two Logic Game sections, which are my strongest and my first section was the LG section, so I was off to a good start. For some reason, the strategies I used became lost. I blanked out - entirely. I was not stressed or anxious two weeks before, but started to feel it a week before the exam. I really don't know what happened. I practically took every preptest, but my RC was my weakest section and the recent preptests the RC section becomes DISASTROUS. (Super hard). This killed my confidence.

Then today. It was LG - LR - LG - RC - LR. LG, again, not too bad, but wasn't as strong as I was when I took practice tests. The first LG game, the pressure overwhelmed me but I was able to finish in time. The second section, the LR section, I completely blanked out. I could not recall anything. When this happens or if I get fatigued, I usually meditate but I even forgot to do that. The pressure just overwhelmed me. Also, I might add that the time seems to slow during the actual exam? I know it in reality it does not, just felt that way. I read the stimulus 2-3 times, and couldn't consciously comprehend anything. I knew I bombed the LR section, which I also knew wasn't an experimental section. So after the break when I entered the RC section, I was hopeless. I knew I bombed the LR, and I knew it was irrelevant for me to take these last two. So I cancelled my score then, and will prepare again for the October.

What helps with this issue? I had the strategies down and the timing, is there any way to practice on this problem? I also might take TestMasters (a fellowship I'm in is paying for the full thing). Do you guys think TestMasters will help me out in this case?

Best,
Josh

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LSAT Hacks (Graeme)
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby LSAT Hacks (Graeme) » Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:48 am

joshringu wrote:I know I am a year late, but this happened to me today - unfortunately. I had two Logic Game sections, which are my strongest and my first section was the LG section, so I was off to a good start. For some reason, the strategies I used became lost. I blanked out - entirely. I was not stressed or anxious two weeks before, but started to feel it a week before the exam. I really don't know what happened. I practically took every preptest, but my RC was my weakest section and the recent preptests the RC section becomes DISASTROUS. (Super hard). This killed my confidence.

Then today. It was LG - LR - LG - RC - LR. LG, again, not too bad, but wasn't as strong as I was when I took practice tests. The first LG game, the pressure overwhelmed me but I was able to finish in time. The second section, the LR section, I completely blanked out. I could not recall anything. When this happens or if I get fatigued, I usually meditate but I even forgot to do that. The pressure just overwhelmed me. Also, I might add that the time seems to slow during the actual exam? I know it in reality it does not, just felt that way. I read the stimulus 2-3 times, and couldn't consciously comprehend anything. I knew I bombed the LR section, which I also knew wasn't an experimental section. So after the break when I entered the RC section, I was hopeless. I knew I bombed the LR, and I knew it was irrelevant for me to take these last two. So I cancelled my score then, and will prepare again for the October.

What helps with this issue? I had the strategies down and the timing, is there any way to practice on this problem? I also might take TestMasters (a fellowship I'm in is paying for the full thing). Do you guys think TestMasters will help me out in this case?

Best,
Josh


A testmasters course can't hurt if it's free, but I don't think any prep course will really teach you dealing with panic.

It's a very personal thing. Noah described it as 'training your brain' and I think that's correct. You can try meditation. You can also try daily mindfulness. That's where you don't think or daydream, and just pay attention to what's around you and what's happening in the present moment. If you do it right, you'll feel very calm and clear.

The other approach, which Noah alluded to, is to refer back to a set method for solving a question. For example, on LR, check for the conclusion.

The main thing is noticing when you're panicking. You can practice this by using mindfulness to develop awareness of your stress level in everyday life. Some things to look for:

* Is your pulse going faster than normal?
* Are you breathing shallowly?
* Do you feel any physical sensation of stress?
* Do you feel a negative emotion? Why?

It's all about developing awareness of your state, even for small deviations from mindfulness. Once you can detect changes in your mood, it's much easier to shift them before you get to the 100% panic blank-out you experienced on test day.

This kind of awareness is extremely useful for everyday life as well. Stop stress when it's small and you won't get ulcers and all the other bad things that come with it.

joshringu
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Re: Experiencing/Avoiding "blank-out" on Test Day

Postby joshringu » Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:27 pm

Hi Graeme,

Thanks for the reply! Quick question about prepcourse. It's free, but do you think it's worth the time to go through a prepcourse? I think I have the basics down, but do you think it will help having an instructor and taking it with a friend? I am debating that right now, not sure if I should.

I actually learned about that (I was a psychology major). Which I tried using before the exam, since I didn't start freaking out a few days before so I couldn't adjust. Man I wish I found this beforehand! Thanks for the advice, I will try to start using it now just with daily things and hopefully it works for the LSAT.

I think I should I have tried a bit harder on the LSAT, I think after the slight blank out, I told myself I have the Oct. exam and that this wasn't possible, which is probably why I stopped performing -_-.




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