Great test-taker curve

LSAT performance curve #7: the “great test-taker” pattern

This series of articles has addressed a number of patterns of LSAT performance, with a focus on common patterns in which a test-taker performs well at certain times during the test and then performs relatively poorly at other times.  An ideal performance pattern, called the “zen master” performance curve, has also been discussed to provide a model which all test-takers can aspire to emulate:  starting the test at maximum performance and maintaining that level of performance for the remainder of the test.

Realistically, maintaining “perfect” concentration for more than two hours of testing is an unattainable ideal.  But, if we prepare ourselves properly, we can get close to this ideal.

The “great test-taker” performance curve

What may be called the “great test-taker” pattern happens when a person is very well-prepared, not only for the material expressly being tested through the LSAT—reading, reasoning—but also for the psychological, emotional, and physical challenges this test presents.  The “great test-taker” curve is, in essence, the attainable version of the unattainable ideal LEX calls the “zen master” curve. Here’s what the great test-taker pattern looks like.

Great test-taker curve

Great test-taker curve

In this pattern, unlike that of the “zen master” curve, the great test-taker does experience occasional dips in her concentration, focus, confidence, intensity, will-power, efficiency, and effectiveness.  After all, the great test-taker is, like everyone else, just a fallible human being, subject to all the vulnerabilities revealed in the under-performing patterns.  But, by being highly self-aware and consciously prepared against such vulnerabilities, the great test-taker immediately counter-acts such momentary dips rather than allowing them to gain momentum.

As a result, instead of a momentary loss of focus growing into a full-blown example of the “dead-battery” curve, for instance, this loss is nipped in the bud, registering as only a tiny blip in the great test-taker’s performance.

Steps toward delivering a “great test-taker” performance on test day

The entire LEX blog an test prep experience is designed to help students deliver maximum performance on LSAT day.  This preparation involves honing one’s skills that are specific to the material being tested, such as one’s skills at diagramming for logic games.  But the LSAT prep process also involves developing self-monitoring and self-control skills and building up a foundation of healthy habits that provide psychological, emotional, and physical strength on test day.

Through articles such as those of the present series, the blog continues to provide guidance for such personal development.  But, in closing the present series, here are some highlights.

recognize your vulnerabilities
you are ultimately susceptible to all of the under-performing patterns that have been discussed, but it’s hard to take counter-measures against such vulnerabilities if you are “living in denial”
build great habits
a habit is a behavioral pattern to which we resort when we’re paying attention to something else; habits are our “default” patterns; but habits are changeable: by practicing an even-keeled, persistent, focused attitude in everything that you do, that attitude will become a habit
“pamper” yourself
your brain is the only thing that’s going to answer those LSAT questions for you, but it can’t do its job at maximum effectiveness when you haven’t had enough sleep, you haven’t eaten well, and you otherwise haven’t taken care of yourself properly
monitor your thoughts
there are risks, and then there are risks that materialize—those that grow from potential problems into actual problems; to be a great test-taker, you must monitor your thoughts at all times so that when a risk materializes—you actually do lose your focus, lose your confidence, etc.—you can immediately recognize the problem and take conscious steps to counteract it
develop powerful “self-coaching” skills
when a problem arises, the self-monitoring just described will allow you to recognize that the risk has materialized; that’s when your self-coaching skills take over to eliminate the problem; for instance, if you recognize that you’re about to get “psyched-out” by a particularly hard LSAT question, coach yourself through it by saying, “You know what?  If I miss this one question, that just shows I’m human. Let me ‘move on’ right away, regain my composure, and deliver a rockstar performance on the next question.”

Following these guidelines can be made easier if you have an ideal pattern to emulate, such as the hypothetical “zen master” pattern previously discussed. But there also may be an actual, living person in your life whom you know to be very good at skills such as those described above. Emulate that person’s behavior to help develop those skills.

"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.