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The “Rage to Master”

The Development of Mastery

Psychologists report that some children have an innate, self-driven desire to learn and know all there is to know about a field.  These children lock onto and pursue a topic with unusual tenacity, pouring hours of unbroken concentration into exploring this topic.  The results of this kind of concentration are not surprising:  a very high competency in the chosen field.

One phrase that is apparently in current usage as a label for this type of drive is the “rage to master.”

Not Just for Kids

While “child prodigies” appear to have attracted the most study so far, the “rage to master” is not something that is unique to children—or child prodigies.  College and law students can also catch fire with an internal desire to know, dominate, master a field.  These students are, of course, great at test preparation.

Finding the “rage to master” within oneself for a topic such as the logical reasoning or reading comprehension that is tested on the LSAT or the contracts, torts, evidence, or other law topics that are tested on the bar exam may require some soul-searching.  But it’s worth going on this journey, because that fire—the rage to master—is an incredibly powerful mechanism for improvement.  More discussion on the rage to master coming soon. . . .

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Occlumency for LSAT, Law School, and the Bar Exam

Test-Taking Distractions Don’t Always Come from the Outside

In recent articles, the external distractions that can from from a testing center facility or a proctor have been discussed.  But these distractions can be relatively easy to handle compared to the distractions that come from within one’s own mind.

Clearing and Closing Your Mind:  Occlumency for LSAT, Law School, and the Bar Exam

Internal sources of distractions include several different types of worry, such as:

loose ends: the test-taker can’t concentrate during a part of the test because anxieties about not having paid the rent, not watered the plants, or not made travel or lodging arrangments
underpreparation remorse: as the test begins, the test-taker is overcome with regret about not having practiced and studied more
personal baggage:  the test-taker has under-performed on some previous test and believes that there’s something inherently “wrong” with him or her that will doom him or her to failure on the present test
habitual self-denigration: some test-takers have a more generalized form of baggage in which they have become perpetual—and vicious—critics of themselves, telling themselves they are dumb, a failure, a loser almost constantly; these antagonistic voices and messages can reach a debilitating pitch when a difficult task requiring a lot of concentration—such as the LSAT, a law school essay, or the MBE—is at hand

One part of the solution to all of the above distractions is essentially a real-world version of  “occlumency,” a form of magic resistance from the Harry Potter fantasy book and movie series.  Wizards in the Harry Potter world are taught to block others out of their minds rather than let their thoughts be meddles with.  Test-takers need to do the same, i.e., to treat all of the above distracting thoughts as though they were just little “curses” or “spells” that are being cast against you in order to take you away from your work.  Dispense with them accordingly.

Not Easy, But Worth It

Building up this mental resistance to distraction is easier said than done.  But the first step is recognizing that each of the above mental distractions is counter-productive.

Each one of these thoughts takes points out of final score by burning up your time and diluting your focus.  These thoughts are not friends, not teaching you valuable lessons, not helping you to develop a stronger character or to be responsible.  They’re just undermining your abilities and hurting your scores.  They are, in short, point stealers.

As such, they are not worth one moment of your time or one heartbeat’s worth of emotional energy on test day.

Testing Centers: Some Warnings

Things Go Wrong that Are Not within a Student’s Control

As discussed in a recent article about LSAT time warnings and bar exam time warnings, test preparation companies have a commercial incentive to ensure that things go smoothly for students.  But this admirable work by test prep companies can be misleading for LSAT students, bar exam students, and other people preparing for standardized tests. Many things can and do go wrong on test day that have nothing to do with the test-takers themselves, and shielding students from these difficulties may give students a false sense of security.

Test Centers

Just as proctors can have issues, the physical testing facilities and the providers of these facilities can also give rise to extra-test problems.  Such difficulties include:

– test center is too hot, too cold
– test center has bad desks or chairs (e.g., unstable, too small)
– test center has to change rooms and relocate students at last minute
– test center is very close to an external noise source (e.g., nearby construction, a noisy convention event)
– test center causes other ambient distractions and discomforts (e.g., mildewy)

The Answer:  Practice Being Unflappable

Taking the bar exam, LSAT, MPRE, or a law school exam is tough enough without the addition of such external obstacles.  Such obstacles are particularly disturbing when they are unique to one test-taker or a small group of test-takers rather than presented to everyone.

But getting upset doesn’t do any good.  No one gets extra credit for having had to endure unfortunate testing conditions.

Part of effective preparation is, therefore, developing an unflappable mindset.  Resolve that, no matter what surprises come your way on test day, you will waste no mental cycles on or offer any emotional resistance to these difficulties.  Treat all such distractions as part of the test itself.

 

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More about Proctors

More Dangers of Practicing with Good Proctors

Practice and diagnostic testing is an important part of preparation for the LSAT, bar exam, and other standardized tests.  Being able to perform during test-day conditions is, of course, crucial, and experiencing multiple rounds of “dress rehearsal” helps to improve such performance.

Test preparation companies, meanwhile, naturally want to impress their students by hiring proctors for practice tests who are dependably punctual, friendly, and otherwise professional.

Unfortunately, this habit may be good for a test preparation company’s image, but it’s not good for students.

Test-Day Troubles

The reality is that, on the day of the actual test, the proctor you get may not be at all like the proctor with whom you practiced.  LEX students routinely report proctor-related disruptions on the day of the actual LSAT or bar exam.  Some such problems include:

– hostile proctor who had a verbal argument during or immediately before the time the LSAT or bar exam clock was running
– late proctor who kept students waiting for the start of or return to the test
– proctor who smelled like smoke
– disorganized proctor who bumbled logistics of the test
– forgetful proctor who did not provide one (or more) of the time warnings upon which students tend to rely

At LEX, we half-jokingly tell students that test preparation companies should instruct their proctors to do everything wrong—or should simply hire people who are not able to handle the basic tasks of proctors, thereby ensuring that one or more of the above problems will arise.  Such a practicing environment would prepare students more fully than does an atmosphere in which everything runs smoothly.

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Test-Taking Mandatory “Tip”: Do Not Count on Time Warnings

The Dangers of Time Warnings

Many test preparation companies—whether for the LSAT, bar exam, or other standardized test—provide proctors who call out or write on the board how much time is left in a given section of the test.  These proctors are a pretty standard part of the landscape for diagnostic tests and timed practice exams. Unfortunately, students tend to learn to rely on these warnings, and that’s dangerous, because there might be no such warning on test day.

Thus, while professionalism may argue in favor of test prep companies providing this service, students must heed the following advice.

On the actual day of the test—LSAT, bar exam, MPRE, SAT, or whatever—, you cannot, cannot, cannot, cannot rely upon the test proctors to keep track of time for you.

If these employees of the given test-maker make a mistake and forget to warn you that there are “five minutes remaining” or “thirty seconds remaining,” you will get no sympathy from the test-makers themselves.  In other words, you will not be able to get additional points on the test for this oversight.

The Bottom Line

If you lose points that you could have gotten if you’d been apprised of the time remaining, those points are lost for good.  Don’t take that risk.  ALWAYS keep track of the time yourself, and be sure to get in the habit of doing so by practicing accordingly.

LSAT Intensity

While the SAT, GRE, MPRE, bar exam and numerous other standardized tests are difficult in their own ways, the LSAT offers some challenges that set it apart from most standardized tests.

One such distinction is that the LSAT does not test your memory, at least not in an overt way.  For instance, the bar exam requires that you memorize many rules of law and then competently reproduce these rules of law when writing your bar exam essays.  The LSAT requires no such recall.

It should be noted, however, that the LSAT does require a great deal of memory in the form of a highly developed command of the English language and vocabulary.  But this reality is true of any exam that has a reading comprehension component.

Instead of testing memory, the LSAT tests one’s ability to reason through problems on the spot in real time.  In other words, the test selects for people who are good at what we might call colloquially “thinking on their feet.”

Given this emphasis on real-time thinking, the LSAT calls for test-takers to prepare in the way that a performing artist or an athlete prepares.  Cultivating the ability to maintain a high level of concentration or intensity of thought for the duration of the test is, in short, a key aspect of effective LSAT prep.

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LSAT Prep | Reading Comprehension

Introduction

The law school admission test (LSAT) consists of four scored sections, each section representing one of three section types: (i) logical reasoning, (ii) analytical reasoning, oftentimes called “logic games “, and (iii) reading comprehension or “reading comp”.   This blog entry will focus on the reading comprehension section of the LSAT.

Reading Comprehension Overview

Reading comprehension accounts for approximately 28% of the scored questions on the LSAT, while logical reasoning makes up about 50%, and logic games about 22%.  Reading comprehension is therefore the second most important section of the LSAT in terms of numerical impact on one’s score.

However, reading comprehension seems to have become increasingly difficult in recent years, making it the “haymaker” section of the LSAT for many students, including those who are scoring well into the 170s. This increase in difficulty may be attributable to a heightened recognition by the test makers that reading comprehension is an indispensable and top-value skill for the successful law student.  But whatever the reason, students must be aware that reading comprehension cannot be treated as an afterthought in one’s study regimen—which is all too commonly done as a result of the over-emphasis of the “games” section by most LSAT prep companies.

Check this blog periodically for more information on how you can “Test at Your Best” on actual LSAT day.

Happy reading — and comprehending!  !

LSAT and Bar Prep | Constructing and Destroying Arguments

One key skill tested in the logical reasoning section category of the LSAT is that of building—and tearing down—arguments.  This skill can appear on the test in many ways, including:
__________

  1. Making a statement of facts into an argument, either by drawing an inference or by providing support to an unsupported assertion
  2. Finding an additional premise
  3. Presenting a “counter-premise”, i.e., a statement that would serve as a premise in a counter-argument

__________

This skill also plays a significant role in bar exam essay, performance test, and MBE sections.

Check this blog periodically for discussion of the argument-construction/destruction skill, how to develop it, how to spot questions that test it, and how to separate good from bad answer choices.

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LSAT Prep | Reading Comprehension | Overview

History

The reading comprehension section of the LSAT acquired its basic present form in 1991 but underwent a minor change in 2007. This minor change consisted of replacement of a single traditional passage with two smaller passages to be compared.

Importance

The reading comprehension section typically contributes twenty-seven (27) or twenty-eight (28) of the approximately 100 questions that go into a test-taker’s final LSAT score. This section, therefore, accounts for approximately 28% of the test-taker’s score, making it the second most important section on the LSAT (logical reasoning is first at about 50%, and analytical reasoning (often called “logic games“) is last at about 22%).

Content

Each LSAT comprises one scored reading comprehension section. The reading comprehension section consists of four subsections. Three of these subsections include a single long passage followed by five to eight questions. One of these subsections includes two shorter passages followed by seven or eight questions; the two shorter passages are related to each other in some way so as to serve as grounds for questions that call for comparison of the two passages.Each question is followed by five possible responses, lettered A through E. Only one response of the five possible responses is a credited response, i.e., the “right answer.”

Timing

The reading comprehension section is allotted 35 minutes.

Technical Information

Unlike the GRE or GMAT, the LSAT is a paper-based test. A test taker’s answers must be recorded (“bubbled in”) on an answer sheet using a soft lead pencil, which answer sheet is then scanned and electronically graded. No credit (or penalty) is given for marks in the test booklet. There is no penalty for guessing.

Strategy and Tactics

Many LSAT preparation companies are available today to assist students in preparing for the LSAT and the logical reasoning section thereof. LSAT prep companies typically provide in-class instruction regarding logical principles, test-taking strategy, and diagramming techniques. These LSAT prep courses may also include proctored mock LSATs. LSAT prep providers may also offer online LSAT training, computerized analysis of a student’s LSAT performance, and one-on-one LSAT tutoring.

For More Information

Students preparing for the LSAT reading comprehension section are advised to get a free copy of “Eight Questions for Your LSAT Tutor—and One for You” from LSAT Tutor.net.

 

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LSAT | Analytical Reasoning (“Logic Games”) | Overview

History

The analytical reasoning (“logic games”) section of the LSAT has been in its basic present form since 1991.

Importance

The analytical reasoning section generally contributes approximately twenty-two (22) out of the approximately one hundred (100) questions that go into computation of an LSAT-taker’s final score.As such, this section accounts for approximately 22% of the test-taker’s score, which makes it the least important section on the LSAT (reading comprehension is second at about 28%, and logical reasoning is the most important section at about 50%) in terms of impact on one’s score.

Content

Each LSAT comprises one scored analytical reasoning section. The analytical reasoning section consists of four subsections. Each of these subsections provides a “logic game” that comprises a set of rules about at least one set of variables. Each logic game is then followed by five to eight questions regarding these variables.Each question is in turn followed by five answer choices, only one of which choices is the “credited response,” i.e., the right answer.

Timing

LSAT-takers are given 35 minutes to take the analytical reasoning section.

Technical Information

The LSAT is a paper-based test, unlike many other standardized tests that are taken on a computer (e.g., GRE, GMAT). LSAT-takers’ answers are recorded (“bubbled in”) on an answer sheet using a soft lead pencil, which answer sheet is then scanned and electronically graded. No credit (or penalty) is given for marks in the test booklet. There is no penalty for guessing.

Strategy and Tactics

Many LSAT preparation companies are available today to assist students in preparing for the LSAT and the analytical reasoning section thereof. These LSAT prep companies typically provide in-class instruction regarding logical principles, test-taking strategy, and diagramming techniques. These LSAT courses may also include proctored mock LSATs. LSAT prep providers may also offer online LSAT testing, automated analysis of a student’s LSAT performance, and one-on-one LSAT tutoring.

For More Information

Students preparing for the LSAT reading comprehension section are advised to get a free copy of “Eight Questions for Your LSAT Tutor—and One for You” from LSAT Tutor.net.

 

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