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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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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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