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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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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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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 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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MBE | Bar Exam Tips

1.  Reading comprehension: the seventh subject. The MBE is often characterized as testing six subjects: constitutional law, contracts, criminal law/pro, evidence, property and torts.  But, in fact, probably the most important “subject” is none of the above.  It’s reading comprehension.  Many times, the key to the right answer choice is but a few words in the stimulus.  If you miss those words or do not understand them in context, it does not matter how well you know the law.  You will still have no way to recognize the right answer.

Thus, reading comprehension is something that you should practice consciously.  Develop a reading style that adheres to the correct pace and focuses on relevant information rather than irrelevancies that distract you from the trail.

2.  Take advantage of the format. The MBE is a multiple-choice test.  There are a number of classic multiple-choice test strategies that should be second nature to you by exam day.  For instance, even when you cannot see what’s right about the right answer, you can oftentimes see what is wrong with the wrong answers (good old “process of elimination”).  Every time you eliminate even a single wrong answer choice, you make a big step toward the right answer choice.

3.  You take the test; it does not take you. Do not let the test be in control.  Set your own pace, and attack the questions in the order that you have worked out with your tutor.  Stick to your game plan, and do not let yourself get into a time deficit.

4.  Be a mercenary. Your task on test day is not to please your professors, show your knowledge of the law, or understand the nuances of the cases that confront you.  Your only job is to get points and thereby pass the California Bar Exam.  Everything you do that is not directed toward getting the most points that you can is but wasted time.  Therefore, stay detached enough to avoid getting fixated on interesting or difficult problems.

5.  Go the distance. The MBE can be pretty tiring, but you cannot afford to run out of gas.  You should start the test at your best and maintain that concentration level throughout the day.  (Hence, our Test at Your Best™ motto.) Know your vulnerabilities and plan to offset them.

 

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California Bar Exam | Performance Test Tips

1.  PRACTICE. While studying the substantive law is crucial for the essays and MBE, preparing for the performance test is all about doing.  By the time test day rolls around, the doing—performing—of the performance test should feel like old hat to you.

2.  ANSWER THE QUESTION. Sticking very closely to the assigned task is half the battle on the PT.  Read the task memo as many times as you need to read it.  Patiently.  Then simply stick to what the memo has asked you to do, doing everything required and no more.

3.  ONE STEP AT A TIME. It’s interesting how widely the model answers can vary from one another; some model answers even contain inaccurate statements of law.  This variation demonstrates that doing the tasks like a competent and thoughtful professional and presenting your work product in the right package will serve you well, perhaps even more so that having the “right” answer.

4.  STAY COOL; DON’T FREAK OUT. Part of what the PT tests is your ability to handle uncertainty.  If you can simply carve out a reasonable response to uncertainty, you can pass.  While the other portions may select for mastery of the law, the PT selects for those who can master themselves.

5.  KEEP IT SIMPLE. The easiest way to adhere to all of the above rules is to adhere to this one.  Be very simple in your approach.  If you can’t see the big picture, do a good job on the parts that you can see.  If you don’t know what the whole thing should look like, simply do whatever step you do see needs to be done.

 

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California Bar Exam Essays | Some Tips

1.  Remember that your essay is being graded by a human being. Many people studying for the bar exam get so caught up in memorizing obscure rules and rigid outlines that they forget the basics of writing a decent essay.  An essay is not an outline.  It is not an unprocessed mass of all the things you know about a topic.  Instead, it is a communication between you and the reader.  Write like a human being who is writing to another human being!

2.  Establish and maintain the correct tone. The tone used in writing an essay is different from that used in writing a performance test deliverable.  In an essay, write as though you are addressing an educated person who knows little about law but who can be brought up to speed by a clear, concise explanation.  Thus, you want to mention basic principles briefly without belaboring them and then move on to cover the specifics of the present stimulus.

3.  IRAC works. There is a reason why the IRAC ( issue, rule, application, conclusion) structure  is taught in virtually every legal writing class: it works.  Some people complain that this structure is too rigid.  But the fact is that you are not writing an essay to become a famous author.  You are not trying to appeal to the masses. You are trying to get points and pass the bar exam.  Well-written IRAC applied to each of the major issues is a good way to get that job done.

NOTE:  BarRev created the ILFAC™ method, because that method scores higher and allows students to move faster. The ILFAC™ method is still the best choice, but IRAC works if done well.

4.  Get some points right up front. A one-paragraph “roadmap” of the major issues and what you are going to say about them makes a good first impression on the reader.  If the reader knows in advance that he or she is going to get high-quality work from you, he or she is more likely to be in a receptive frame of mind while reading the remainder of your essay.  Use this psychology to your advantage.

5.  Hit the right stride and stick with it. You must develop an internal gauge for the right mix of reading time, organizing time, and writing time.  Don’t get yourself backed into a corner by over-analyzing, but don’t rush into writing without any sort of plan.  Finding the right balance is a matter of practice, review, and more practice.

 

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