1) What score did you get?
diagnostic at 155
tested at 169, 174
2) What books did you use? (Kaplan, Powerscore LRB, Powerscore LGB, etc)
I used Powerscore LGB and LRB, both very helpful. For RC I used Manhattan
3) What prep courses did you take (if any)? Full length, weekend?
4) How long did you study for, and under what conditions? (during school, during the summer, etc)
I studied for three months up until the October test, then one month again before retaking in December
5) How many preptests did you do?
Too many to count, though I seriously do not believe the number really matters. Towards the end I was worried about running out of material, which is a position you never want to be in. Studying more does not always make for more effective studying.
6) What would you change if you were to do it again?
I would have definitely taken one of the administered practice tests, and anything else I could have done to prepare for the effects of nervousness on the actual test.
I was pretty damn confident going into the October test. My last three PTs were 177, 177 and 179 respectively, and I only needed a 172 to get where I wanted to go. I gathered from reading these forums that scores would drop on test day, but I didn't expect it to drop more than five points. I was always a naturally good tester, so I didn't really expect it to drop at all. If anything, I thought adrenaline would help me get a 180.
7) Any other misc comments/suggestions.
Know exactly what areas are vulnerable to nervousness for you. I knew I was solid for LR and LG, and wouldn't miss many points in those two sections. RC, on the other hand, was really inconsistent, swinging from -0 to -9. I've always had a focus problem when it comes to reading under timed conditions, and this is definitely something I should have prepped more for for that first test. Instead of doing PT after PT, I should have been doing full RC sections, as many as I could, and in distracting environments. I missed 12 questions in October - NINE of them were from my panic attack in RC.You need to know yourself, and know where you will be vulnerable when nerves hit - because they will.
I think one thing that really helped me out in December was, ironically, getting only two hours of sleep the night before. My first section was LG, which I felt like I messed up on the last game. I thought if there was any section I could do on two hours of sleep, it was LG, so when I thought I messed it up, I essentially gave up on the test. It was the best thing I could have done. I was completely relaxed because I essentially had accepted that the test was already over for me. I approached it, not like test, not even like a practice test, but like a challenging puzzle. I did much better on that test, in spite of my horrid state, because I put no added value in it. Which brings me to my next sliver of wisdom:Don't place any stakes on the test,
just look at it as a game, a fun little competition you are having with other people in the room, a game of flag football in the park.
We choke only when we feel like we have something to lose. I think a lot of us on TLS really have that problem when it comes to LSATs. We put too much onto that one test. IT DOESN'T MATTER. Schools do not average your scores anymore, so no one test can determine your future. It really doesn't matter if you bomb it. You can always apply next cycle. Or if you reach your three test limit, you can wait two cycles. It's really not that long.
Do everything you can to prepare, but also do everything you can to remind yourself that this thing really isn't a big deal.
Oh, and I love this watch as a test timer:http://lsatwatch.webs.com/
give it plenty of time to arrive though. The person who makes these is kind of a flake.