Let’s face it, most people who show up to take the LSAT are a bit nervous. That’s fine, and completely normal. However, it’s critical that your nerves don’t get the best of you and become a distraction.
How can you avoid a meltdown?
- Eliminate outside sources of stress. You don’t want to have to worry about getting to the test site on time, finding the room, or what you’re going to eat for breakfast. Sort all of these things out in advance. If the test site is nearby, check out the room location ahead of time, so you know exactly where to go. If you need to park, investigate parking options beforehand. If you’re taking public transit, check the schedules and make sure the bus or train you want is running on the day of the test (particularly if it’s a weekend test date). If it’s too far away to check in advance, leave plenty of time to get there and settle in. Think of it like airport security — better to show up early and sit at the gate for a few minutes than to get stuck in line and miss the flight. Speaking of security, make sure you know exactly what you need to bring, and what’s not allowed. Showing up with improper identification guarantees a bad day.
- Eat something healthy. And bring a healthy snack. Even if you feel sick to your stomach, try to eat beforehand. The LSAT is a long test, and you need brain fuel. It’s up to you what you eat, but give it some thought. There’s lots of advice online, but you know yourself best!
- Organize your materials. At a minimum, you need pencils, erasers, and a timekeeper. Make sure all of these are within reach, so you don’t have to look for them after the test starts. Also, make sure you know what you’re not allowed to take in, so you don’t get stressed out when the proctor makes you throw away your cell phone.
- Go to the restroom. As close to the test start time as possible, make a trip to the restroom. You don’t want to have to leave the room during the test.
- Take some deep breaths and clear your mind. This might sound cheesy, but it really helps. If your mind is racing or you’re feeling anxious, before the test begins or after, focus on your breath for 5 to 10 breaths. Just feel it coming in, and going out. If thoughts arise, you can lightly brush them away and return the focus to your breathing. If the thoughts want to stick around, silently say “in” when you breathe in, and “out” when you breathe out. This should replace them, for at least a few seconds. Even 30 seconds of conscious breathing can do wonders for your stress level and focus.
- As soon as the test section starts, write down the starting time and the ending time. Do not rely on the proctor to tell you when time is almost up! It’s critical that you keep track of your progress, and make sure you’re moving along rapidly enough. If you find that you’re stuck on a question, simply move on. Circle the question number in your test book, and come back to it if you have time at the end. There’s no penalty for incorrect answers, so make your best guess and keep going. If it stresses you out to skip a question, take a deep breath, think “move on” as you exhale, and focus on the next question. Falling behind time wise is far more damaging than getting one question wrong.
- At the end of a section, make sure all of your answers are clearly marked, and that all of your erased answers are really gone. Answer every question, even if it’s a blind guess in the last few seconds. Then take a few deep breaths and refocus for the next section. If a section didn’t go well, there’s nothing you can do about it (except hope it was experimental!). The past isn’t important, and dwelling on things you might have gotten wrong will only distract you from the task going forward. Deep breath, exhale, it’s gone. Onward.
- Once the test is over, DO NOT discuss it with anyone who took it. I know it’s tempting, but no good can come of a group rehash. If you thought it was particularly hard, and your friend thought it was surprisingly easy, so what? No one really knows how they did until the scores come out, and discussing it is only going to make you anxious. This applies doubly online. Stay off the message boards!
- Do something fun! Congratulations, you survived. Take some time off, relax, and get some sleep. You’ve earned it!
Good luck everyone!
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