Josh Akman: Surviving the LSATs

In the recent past, I haven’t been a whole lot of fun to be around. I was moody, irritable, distracted, and frustrated. I got angry for no reason, I cried at even the most un-sentimental TV commercials and, more than once, I turned to alcohol. But luckily, I’m back. I’m not angry anymore, I’m crying a lot less, and I even woke up with a smile today. Why? I took the LSAT on Saturday.

The Law School Admission Test is the required exam given by the Law School Admission Council for those applying to law school. Like the SAT, it is composed of multiple sections and takes about four hours from start to finish. But unlike the SAT, on the LSAT, you are tested on what skills you have learned rather than the knowledge you have learned. Your skills are tested in three different sections: logic games, logic reasoning and reading comprehension.

To anyone who is familiar with the test, my overall curmudgeonly disposition throughout the process is understandable. For too many reasons, the LSAT completely dominates your existence for a lengthy period of time. First, it is extremely important to your law school application. Law school counselors claim it amounts to about 50-60 percent of your entire application. But at a recent law school forum I attended, a counselor off-handedly told another student that if a normal student and an Olympic gold-medal athlete had graduated from the same school and applied to his law school, whomever had the higher LSAT score would get in. Yikes.

Secondly, the test is enormous by design. Students are judged just as much on their endurance and pacing as they are their skills – which means to prepare, you need to perfect these two aspects of test taking. Just writing about this is starting to make me angry again.

So, what did I learn? If I had to do the whole process again, what would I do differently? The first mistake I made was taking the exam for the first time as a senior. This seems to be a common trend, as almost everyone I know who took the test on Saturday was a senior. At first glance, this seems to make sense. If you apply to law school in the middle of senior year, it’s intuitive that you would take the Law School Admissions Test in the beginning of senior year. There are, however, two significant reasons why this is a mistake.

The next LSAT is offered in December. If I end up finding out that I didn’t get my score goal on Saturday, I can’t take the test again until December. With law school admissions established on a rolling basis, every month I wait to apply represents a significant disadvantage. If I took my first LSAT junior year, I could conceivably take two tests before application season even started. With LSAC reporting only your best LSAT score to law schools, there is no reason to wait until senior year.

The second huge mistake I made was studying the night before the test. If you’re thinking about taking the LSAT, read the following: Do not study the night before! Every single person told me it was a bad idea, but I figured one logic game section couldn’t hurt. It did hurt. Oh, it hurt so badly. Predictably, I did terribly on the practice section on Friday night, and stayed up all night whimpering like a wounded animal. Saturday I arrived to the test exhausted from a sleepless night, feeling about as comfortable as a puppy at Michael Vick’s house.

Now I have to sit and wait for the results, hoping that being a senior who studied the night before didn’t hurt me too much. Either way, it sure is nice to be done.

The writer, a senior majoring in criminal justice, is a Hatchet columnist.

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