Original posting date: August 3rd, 2011
The Dangers of Time Warnings
Many test preparation companies—whether for the LSAT, bar exam, or other standardized test—provide proctors who call out or write on the board how much time is left in a given section of the test. These proctors are a pretty standard part of the landscape for diagnostic tests and timed practice exams. Unfortunately, students tend to learn to rely on these warnings, and that’s dangerous, because there might be no such warning on test day.
Thus, while professionalism may argue in favor of test prep companies providing this service, students must heed the following advice.
On the actual day of the test—LSAT, bar exam, MPRE, SAT, or whatever—, you cannot, cannot, cannot, cannot rely upon the test proctors to keep track of time for you.
If these employees of the given test-maker make a mistake and forget to warn you that there are “five minutes remaining” or “thirty seconds remaining,” you will get no sympathy from the test-makers themselves. In other words, you will not be able to get additional points on the test for this oversight.
The Bottom Line
If you lose points that you could have gotten if you’d been apprised of the time remaining, those points are lost for good. Don’t take that risk. ALWAYS keep track of the time yourself, and be sure to get in the habit of doing so by practicing accordingly.
Original posting date: August 11th, 2011
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.
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.
Original posting date: August 23rd, 2011
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. . . .
1. PRACTICE. While studying the substantive law is crucial for the essays and MBE, 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. This is more than half the battle on the PT. Simply stick to what they ask you to do, doing everything they require and no more.
3. JUST DO THE BEST THAT YOU CAN DO, ONE STEP AT A TIME. It’s interesting how widely the model answers can vary from one another; some model answers even contain some significant false statements of law. This variation demonstrates that, as long as you just do the tasks like a competent and thoughtful professional and present your work product in the right package, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve got the “right” answer.
4. STAY COOL; DON’T FREAK OUT. The essence of what the PT is testing is how well you can handle uncertainty. If you can simply carve out a reasonable response to uncertainty, you are going to pass. While the other portions call for mastery of the law, the PT is there basically to weed out people who can’t master themselves.
5. KEEP IT SIMPLE. The easiest way to adhere to all of these rules is to adhere to this one. Just 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.