Tomorrow’s the big day – test day. Good luck to all of you. Here are five final reminders before you walk into the testing room.
1. Don’t underestimate the importance of a positive attitude. Nothing good can come from negativity, but a lot of good can come from positivity. When I prepared for the October LSAT, before each study session, I would take a few moments to visualize myself succeeding before I opened my study materials or practice test. And on Test Day, while waiting for the test to begin, I again visualized myself rocking the test. I visualized myself opening to each section and confidently attacking the questions, getting through the sections in the time limit, and getting all the answers correct. I also practiced with affirmations, literally telling myself that I was prepared and would do extremely well. The visualization and affirmation exercises helped reduce my anxiety, boost my confidence, and increase my score. Such exercises can do the same for you, as long as they are coupled with studying for the LSAT.
2. Be prepared for distractions. My testing room had 35 test takers and four proctors in it. And for some reason, the proctors took turns exiting the room every few minutes all throughout the test. This was in addition to them pacing up and down the aisles while staring at test takers. (I know, I know. They were doing what they were supposed to be doing—monitoring the test. But it was really distracting.) And one of the women sitting next to me had a loud cough and a nervous habit of tapping her pencil on the table over and over and over and over and well, you get the picture. Know that this is going to happen, and don’t let it get to you. Also, know that you’re going to feel stress on this incredibly important day, and use whatever healthy stress relief techniques you can to reduce it and not let any distractions, even ones that come from you, interfere with your Test Day success.
3. Keep going. Don’t let yourself get stuck on a game or a question or a passage. The LSAT is a test of skills, and one skill tested is whether you know how to use your time efficiently. The test-makers reward you for skipping the few killer questions so that you can get the easier questions, which comprise the majority of the test, correct. By studying for the LSAT, you’ve been able to determine your strengths and weaknesses, particularly if you’ve had the Kaplan advantage of Smart Reports to help you. Use this knowledge to help you determine where to best use your time. Test Day is not the moment to try to conquer your weakness in Parallel Reasoning questions, for example. Test Day is the time to skip such questions when they are taking up your time and go in search of questions that you know you can answer quickly and correctly.
4. Your watch is important. You can’t count on having a clock in the room, and you need a timepiece in order to pace yourself. So, definitely have a watch. And ladies, this is especially important for you, make sure that it’s a watch that actually functions as a timepiece rather than as a decoration. Make sure that it has a seconds hand, all twelve numbers, and that you can see both the hands and the numbers. I found myself wearing “men’s” watches both in practice and on Test Day because they tend to be bigger and thus it’s easier to see the time on them. Also, be creative in your use of your watch. One tip that has helped several of my students and which was also helpful for me when I took the test was to set the watch to the hour at the beginning of each section, so that you can clearly tell when 35 minutes is up. Many also find it helpful to use the same timepiece every time they study and on Test Day; familiarity helps reduce anxiety.
5. Know that the test feels difficult for everyone. This is really important information. No one I know has left the testing site feeling great and confident, and having to wait three weeks to get a score back is a special form of torture. I first took the LSAT in October 2003 during my senior year of college. When I left the testing site, I was convinced that I hadn’t done well because the test felt really difficult. And in the three weeks it took me to get my score back, I changed my career plans and decided to pursue a Ph.D. instead of a J.D. Then I got my LSAT score back and saw that I had scored above the 90% percentile, but by then I had already put myself on a different life path. Don’t do what I did and make major life decisions (such as changing your career path or canceling your score) based on the stress you feel during the test or after the test while waiting for your score. I learned my lesson in 2003, so when I took the test again two months ago, though I didn’t feel great when I left the testing site, I didn’t cancel my score even though I thought about it. And when scores came back at the end of October, I was very happy that I hadn’t. All the practice and positivity had paid off.