"Zoned out" performance curve

LSAT performance curve #5: the “zoned out” pattern

People who take the LSAT are (like all takers of standardized tests) vulnerable to under-performing at certain times during the given test.  For instance, in the “ramp-up” performance curve, a given test-taker gets off to a slow start; she’s not really focused when the test starts.  This slow start prevents that person from scoring as well as she could have if she had started the test at full concentration. Maximizing one’s LSAT score requires avoiding patterns such as the “ramp-up” and the “dead battery” patterns.

The “zoned out” performance curve

The “zoned out” pattern occurs when the LSAT-taker loses focus without realizing she’s lost focus.  As a result, she goes along attempting to answer questions—poorly. Here’s what the pattern looks like.

"Zoned out" performance curve

“Zoned out” performance curve

As shown, the test-taker who exhibits the “zoned out” pattern performs well at the beginning of the test, but, at some point, she loses focus. The person’s performance drops significantly, but she is not self-aware enough to realize that she has lost focus.  She, therefore, continues to proceed through the test as though everything is fine, missing one question after another (or perhaps simply taking much longer on each question than she would otherwise). Finally, the test-taker “gets back in the game,” and her performance recovers.  Unfortunately, by then, a good deal of damage has been done to her score.

Causes for the “zoned out” curve are (i) fatigue and (ii) lack of effective self-monitoring.  While it can happen at any time, this temporary drop in performance appears to be particularly common about 90 minutes into the LSAT (so, the latter portion of section 3).  That’s when people start feeling some fatigue from having engaged in constant concentration for an extended period of time.  If the test-taker is sufficiently self-aware, that person will immediately recognize, “Hey, I’ve zoned out; I need to take a few seconds to regain my focus.” Unfortunately, the LSAT-taker who doesn’t have this self-monitoring ability will stay zoned out.

Guarding against the “zoned out” curve

To avoid zoning out during the LSAT, hone your self-monitoring skills.  Your brain should be like an instrument panel in a car or an airplane.  You should be constantly monitoring the “gauges” in your brain’s instrument panel, asking yourself:

  • “am I working at full concentration?”
    • “if not, why not?”
  • “I am proceeding through the questions in an efficient manner?” (a topic that will be discussed in another article)
  • “am I sticking to my game plan, or getting off track?”  (a topic that will be discussed in another article)
    • in other words: “Am I taking the test, or is the test taking me?

Self-awareness is the key to avoiding the “zoned out” pattern as well as to stay in control of your approach to the LSAT as a whole.

The next article in this series will introduce an idealized, hypothetical performance curve:  the “zen master” pattern.

 

 

psyched out performance curve

LSAT performance curve #4: the “psyched out” pattern

As discussed in earlier articles of this series, LSAT performance can fall into predictable patterns.  For instance, in the “ramp-up” performance curve, a given test-taker gets off to a slow start; she’s not really focused when the test starts.  This slow start prevents that person from scoring as well as she could have if she had started the test at full concentration. Maximizing one’s LSAT score requires avoiding patterns such as the “ramp-up” and the “dead battery” patterns.

The “psyched out” curve

The “psyched out” pattern occurs when the LSAT-taker hits a difficult question, passage, or game and gets completed rattled. Here’s what the pattern looks like.

psyched out performance curve

“Psyched out” performance curve

As shown, the test-taker who exhibits the “psyched out” pattern performs well at the beginning of the test, but, after the moment of getting “psyched out,” the test-taker’s performance falls—and never recovers. This type of pattern is particularly undesirable, since the test-taker suffers from under-performance for the entire remainder of the test.  Sometimes, in extreme cases, the test-taker will walk out of the LSAT and not even finish.  Even those who don’t literally walk out have still, in a sense, “walked out” mentally.

Causes for getting discouraged to this extreme degree pertain to a person’s view of the LSAT—and view of himself or herself.  If one is in the habit of beating oneself over every mistake one makes in life—perhaps being too much of a “perfectionist”—then one mistake can destroy a person’s confidence and willingness to continue.

Guarding against the “psyched out” curve

To avoid falling prey to getting psyched out, develop and maintain a powerful perspective on the nature of performance.  Even the greatest performers in history—great musicians, great athletes, great speakers, great actors—make mistakes. Think of the most successful soccer or basketball player:  that person has missed plenty of shots—and at crucial times.  Think of the most successful football quarterback:  that person has thrown plenty of interceptions—and even in big games.  Expecting that you are not going to make mistakes on the LSAT is unrealistic.  Accepting that will shield you against getting psyched out—and, by helping you remain calm and focus, help you avoid making mistakes in the first place.

The next article in this series will address the “zoned out” pattern.

 

 

How long is each LSAT section?

Test Prep Blog
LSAT Frequently Asked Questions

How long is each LSAT section?
Each section of the LSAT is 35 minutes long.

Note: the whole LSAT consists of five sections (except for the “LSAT Writing” section, formerly called the “Writing Sample”).  Of these five sections, four count toward your LSAT score:  one reading comprehension, one logic games (“analytical reasoning”), and two logical reasoning sections.  The fifth section does not count toward your score but will appear to be one of these other sections.

How long is the LSAT?

Test Prep Blog
LSAT Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the LSAT?
The LSAT consists of five sections of 35 minutes each, making for a total of 175 minutes of actual test time.

Note: four of these sections count toward your LSAT score, and one of these sections does not.  You will not know which section is the “unscored” section.

Note also:  the “LSAT Writing” section (formerly called the “Writing Sample”) is now administered separately from the rest of the LSAT.  It is not one of the five sections described above. 

successive narrowing example

Bar exam prep for essays: successive narrowing

When writing essays for the bar exam, bar review students should get in the habit of using “successive narrowing,” both in how they think about issues and in how they address issues.  This article seeks to introduce the basics of successive narrowing and its benefits.

Successive narrowing

Here’s a simplified “decision tree” diagram demonstrating successive narrowing in the context of a bar exam issue.

successive narrowing example

successive narrowing example

As shown, the first step is to identify the body of law in which the given issue falls (e.g., torts, criminal law, contracts).  Then move to the next-broadest layer (i.e., the layer that is immediately narrower) of issues.  After that, move to the next-broadest layer of issues, and so on.  Proceeding in this stepwise fashion, the bar exam essay writer successively narrows the issue from the broadest layer (what body of law) to the narrowest layer (perhaps elements of a cause of action, or even particular issues that arise within the context of a given element).

Essay writing in the successive-narrowing form

Each layer should get its own heading.  When a “freestanding issue” arises, i.e., an issue that does neatly fit into the decision tree, break that issue out, put a heading into the essay at approximately the point where this issue arises, and discuss it as any other issue (ideally, in classic ILFAC form).

Benefits of successive narrowing when writing essays

By disciplining oneself to think in terms of broadest to narrowest, one can significantly improve one’s issue-spotting ability.  Ask yourself questions along the lines of:

  • Is there a layer that’s even broader than the one I’m working on now?
  • Is the issue I’m working on now a subset of some other issue? (for instance, we may have jumped right to “battery” without first discussing “intentional torts”)
  • Is the issue I’m working on now one into which other issues fall?  (for example, while working on the “person of another” element in the illustration above, we may realize that we need to go on to discuss what “person of another” means or includes)

Beyond issue-spotting, successive narrowing also helps with the writing process itself.  Discussing issues in this manner feels easy—which is good—because it’s a logical way to proceed.

Moreover—and perhaps most importantly—reading and grading a bar exam essay written in the successive narrowing fashion is easier than one that proceeds haphazardly from one legal issue to another.  And easier grading produces a happy—indeed, grateful—grader.

 

LEX Tutoring

LSAT Prep | Reading Comprehension

Original posting date: Feb. 2, 2007

Introduction

The law school admission test (LSAT) consists of four scored sections, each section representing one of three section types: (i) logical reasoning, (ii) analytical reasoning, oftentimes called “logic games “, and (iii) reading comprehension or “reading comp”. This blog entry will focus on the reading comprehension section of the LSAT.

Reading Comprehension Overview

Reading comprehension accounts for approximately 28% of the scored questions on the LSAT, while logical reasoning makes up about 50%, and logic games about 22%. Reading comprehension is therefore the second most important section of the LSAT in terms of numerical impact on one’s score.

However, reading comprehension seems to have become increasingly difficult in recent years, making it the “haymaker” section of the LSAT for many students, including those who are scoring well into the 170s. This increase in difficulty may be attributable to a heightened recognition by the test makers that reading comprehension is an indispensable and top-value skill for the successful law student. But whatever the reason, students must be aware that reading comprehension cannot be treated as an afterthought in one’s study regimen—which is all too commonly done as a result of the over-emphasis of the “games” section by most LSAT prep companies.

Check this blog periodically for more information on how you can “Test at Your Best” on actual LSAT day.

Happy reading — and comprehending!