How to Take a Practice LSAT

August 17, 2017

This blog post originally appeared on the Magoosh LSAT blog.

Full length practice tests are valuable prep tools for two reasons: they allow you to practice your test management skills and they track your readiness. However, it’s easy to dampen the impact of a practice test by approaching it in the wrong way. Here are some ways to maximize the effectiveness of your practice LSAT:

When thinking about how to study for the LSAT, it’s important to not get hung up on a specific score. The same applies when taking a practice test. Even if you get that 165 you’ve been obsessing over, your practice test won’t count. Instead, treat your practice LSAT as an opportunity to show that you are progressing. That might mean answering one more question per section correctly, or it might mean decreasing the number of random guesses you are forced to make. In other words, set goals that address specific skills you’d like to track, and focus on those. Typically, if you succeed at meeting those goals, you’ll start to see your score climb as an added bonus.

Set reasonable goals.

Create a cheat sheet before your practice test that includes the number of questions you want to answer correctly from each section, the general layout of each section, and your strategies for attacking each section (how to answer a question, when to guess, common traps, etc…).

Know your priorities.

Memorize the cheat sheet before you sit down to take the practice test. Then, at the start of each section, review the relevant portion of the cheat sheet in your head (you won’t be able to bring the cheat sheet into the testing room) before you start reading or writing. This gets your head in the game from the start and keeps your head in the game if you panic or lose focus during the exam.

A low quality practice LSAT will do a poor job of tracking your readiness, possibly giving you a false sense of confidence or an unnecessarily bruised ego. It may also throw off your pacing, as poorly designed imitations might not capture the right balance of easy and difficult questions. Not to mention, if you’ve followed a LSAT study schedule, a bad practice test will waste your time and throw you off track.

Find a good practice test.

Stick to the real thing: LSAC’s Actual, Official PrepTests. These are real LSATs administered in the past, and there are plenty of them. The two most recent volumes include Comparative Reading passages in the Reading Comprehension section; you’ll definitely want those for your practice tests, as they’reawesome LSAT resources to refer back to. If you also want PrepTests for more targeted practice, just buy some older editions as well.

Your bathroom might be the quietest place in your house, but you probably don’t want to sit on the toilet for 3 hours. Your bedroom might be the most comfortable place in the house, but you might fall asleep if you take the test in bed. Strike a balance: find a place that is going to remain quiet for 3 hours and that has something like a desk and chair. In other words, do your best to mimic a test day environment. For some people, finding a place outside the home is helpful because it takes them out of their comfort zone while also removing distractions like the TV, internet, and refrigerator. I suggest a local library myself.

Find a quiet space.

You don’t need anything fancy, but I wouldn’t recommend relying on the analog clock on the far side of the room. Clocks require you to keep looking at them, and that’s both a waste of time and a distraction. Instead, just get a simple timer that will beep when your time is up and keep track of the test length. All it needs to do is count down from 35 minutes.

Get an accurate timer.

Keep with you the same items you’re planning on bringing to the LSAT. For a practice test, you don’t need to go as far as printing out an LSAT Admission Ticket (you might not even have one yet), but everything else is fair game.

Gather your test day materials.

In particular, bring your snacks, drinks, and any medical or personal hygiene items you might need on test day. You might learn a lot from drinking too much water or needing something sweet during one of your practice tests.

There is a 15 minute break between sections 3 and 4 of the exam. Take it! This is your one and only opportunity to open that ziplock bag under your seat and have a snack or a drink. It’s also the only time to use the restroom without eating into your actual exam minutes. Lastly, this is a chance to gather your thoughts, relax for a few minutes, and begin the next section with renewed energy and focus. Don’t skip this part during your practice tests. If you want an accurate predictor of your readiness, you need to treat your practice tests like the real thing.

Take a break!

Don’t look at the answer when you’re stuck between two but you’re pretty sure you would have selected the right answer anyway. That’s cheating. Don’t take an extra minute or half minute or 10 seconds at the end of the section because you’re almost done and that guy at the table next to you was sniffling the whole time anyway. That’s cheating. Don’t change an answer when you’re correcting your exam because you just made a silly mistake and now you see exactly what you did wrong. That’s cheating.

Don’t cheat.

All of the above may happen on test day. You won’t get to change answers or take a few extra seconds then, so don’t do it on your practice tests. This will inflate your score and lead to a false sense of readiness, even if you’ve made genuine progress in your preparation.

When you’re finished with the practice test, score your exam and record all the questions you missed in an error log. Include the question type and a detailed explanation of why your answer was weaker and why the correct one was stronger. Also make note of any section where you ran out of time, had too much time at the end, or panicked and didn’t recover. Write one sentence describing how to prevent this from happening on your next practice test.

Learn from your mistakes.

Before you take another practice test, spend at least a week (preferably 2-3 weeks) drilling content you struggled with and doing timed practice sections to reinforce your pacing and test management. Refer to your error log to guide your targeted practice, and alternate between targeting your weaknesses and reinforcing your strengths.

Take one full-length practice test for every 2-4 tests’ worth of material you work through piece by piece. In other words, don’t simply take one practice LSAT after another. Practice LSATs are designed to assess readiness, not to make you ready. Think of them like dress rehearsals for a play. Actors don’t learn their lines during a dress rehearsal. They come prepared to perform, and then when things don’t go as planned, they figure out how best to respond next time.

Repeat.

So, come prepared when you take a practice LSAT. Create an environment as close to the test day as possible, don’t cheat, and give yourself time to learn from your mistakes before you take another practice test.

About The Author

Travis Coleman, Guest Blogger
Travis Coleman, Guest Blogger

Travis Coleman is in charge of helping students dominate the LSAT at Magoosh. With a JD from NYU and an English degree from Boston College, he’s dedicated his career to fighting the forces of unnecessary legal jargon and faulty logic. When not geeking out on the LSAT, he can probably be found on skis, in water, or in the vicinity of a roller coaster.




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