LSAT performance curve #2: the “dead battery”

As discussed in the first article of this series, which article discussed the “ramp-up” LSAT performance curve, question-by-question score results indicate that test-takers often fall into certain patterns.  In some of these patterns, a test-taker performs well at certain times and poorly at other times during a given administration.  Maximizing your score on LSAT day requires avoiding under-performing patterns.

The “dead-battery” curve

The dead-battery pattern occurs when the LSAT-taker runs out of energy before finishing the test. Here’s what the pattern looks like.

Dead-battery performance curve

Dead-battery performance curve

As shown, the test-taker who exhibits the “dead-battery” pattern performs well during the early sections of the LSAT but loses her effectiveness toward the end of the test.  Obviously, this pattern hurts the test-taker’s score with each question that missed, regardless of how well the test-taker performed in the earlier sections.

Causes for the dead-battery phenomenon vary.  In some cases, the test-taker is not in good physical health going into the test.  Perhaps the test-taker has a cold or is just not physically fit enough to maintain maximum concentration for the entire duration of the test.  In other cases, the test-taker did not prepare well, at the self-care level, leading up to the test—she didn’t get enough sleep during the days and weeks prior to the test or hasn’t been eating a healthy diet, for instance. Another reason could be that the test-taker sees “light at the end of the tunnel” with the approach of the end of the LSAT and subconsciously starts to “coast,” i.e., to take it easy rather than continue to work as hard as possible.  Whatever the reason, it’s important to avoid the dead-battery pattern.

Guarding against the dead-battery curve

To avoid falling into the dead-battery pattern, here are some tips. First, build your fitness level.  A big part of performing well mentally is being in good shape physically.  Exercise and a good diet are essential parts of one’s LSAT prep.

Second, take good care of yourself in the weeks leading up to the test.  Sleep has a dramatic impact on people’s ability to perform, whether on the LSAT or in some other activity.  Give yourself the opportunity to rest up fully each day.  You’ll get more out of your study time, and you’ll be ready to go the distance on test day.

Third, be aware of the risk of this pattern.  Recognize ahead of time that it’s easy to “slack off” when the test is almost over and when most of the work has been done.  Make a conscious commitment to be ready for this possibility and to immediately re-focus yourself if, during the latter portion of the LSAT, you feel your intensity waning.

The next article in this series will address the “roller-coaster” pattern.