"Zen master" performance curve

LSAT performance curve #6: the “zen master” pattern

This series of articles has covered several under-performing patterns into which test-takers can fall, including:

  • ramp-up pattern
  • dead-battery pattern
  • roller-coaster pattern
  • psyched-out pattern
  • zoned-out pattern

Each of these patterns undermine a person’s LSAT score relative to how that person could have performed if she had taken the entire test at her maximum performance level. Now let’s turn to an ideal pattern.

The “zen master” performance curve

What may be called the “zen master” pattern represents the ideal to which test-takers can aspire.  Here’s what the pattern looks like.

"Zen master" performance curve

“Zen master” performance curve

Notice that, in this ideal pattern, nothing changes.  The test-taker starts the test at maximum performance and maintains that level of performance through all five sections of the LSAT. The hypothetical test-taker—the “zen master”—does not lose focus, does not get discouraged, does not get overly excited, and does not let the test rattle her in any way.

Emulating the “zen master”

Obviously, the hypothetical zen master is just an ideal; it’s unlikely that anyone can attain such an ideal in practice. But it’s useful to have this ideal in front of our eyes so that we can consider what would go into such mastery.

For instance, the hypothetical zen master hits the ground running.  She does not waste time by getting off to a slow start, as does someone who falls prey to the ramp-up pattern.  She also finishes strong.  She does not let the sight of the finish line cause her to start coasting, as does someone who gets caught in the dead-battery pattern.

In order to avoid these traps, the zen master would, first, take note that these under-performing patterns exist.  Second, the zen master would recognize that, as a fallible human being, she is potentially susceptible to falling into one of these patterns, just like everyone else, and identify those to which she herself is particularly vulnerable.  Third, the zen master would consciously take measures to protect herself against these vulnerabilities.  To avoid the ramp-up pattern, for instance, she might warm up before the test got started.

You can improve your test score by following the hypothetical zen master’s example: recognize the risks—particularly those to which you yourself are most vulnerable—and take counter-measures.

The next article will wrap up this series of articles with a look at the performance curve that results when we do our best to emulate the “zen master” pattern:  the “great test-taker” pattern.

Dead-battery performance curve

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.