Terrifying. Soul-draining. Life-changing. However you describe the LSAT, there’s no arguing that it’s a stressful experience. The big problem? Stress can have a major impact on your scores.
Published September 6, 2017
Here are 11 last-minute tips to minimize your stress before the LSAT! How last-minute are we talking? A week in advance? A day? An hour? Don’t worry, we’ve got tips for everyone, no matter how you define “last minute.”
Designate an “exam bag” and put all necessities in this bag. Doing this a few days beforehand gives you time to gather everything you need, and decreases anxiety over possibly forgetting something.
Experts advise test takers to avoid studying the week before. Try to do things that are proven to help you relax:
Sleep is the most neglected aspect of health across demographics. Lack of sleep affects multiple cognitive processes - including memory, problem solving, creativity, and decision making - all of which can affect your LSAT performance.
Sleeping well the week before the test will help you focus, retain information, and make good decisions under pressure.
No one’s personal life is perfect. No matter what else is going on in your life, you need to create an environment that enables success.
That means telling friends and family to give you space until after the exam, asking for assistance with childcare leading up to the exam, or even turning off your phone for a few hours if you can’t get a break. Don’t be afraid to make yourself a priority!
No matter what you believe about smartphones, computers, and other tech, there is plenty of research that suggests they can negatively affect sleep - and therefore brain performance - in multiple ways.
In fact, a recent study of nearly 850 Flemish adults found that using a mobile phone after turning the lights off was associated with worse sleep quality, more insomnia, and more symptoms of fatigue (though it's unclear from this research whether using a phone directly causes sleep problems).
Everyone else is just as nervous as you are. When anxious people interact with each other, they tend to feed off each others’ nervousness. The goal is to reduce stress as much as possible, so take some “me time” prior to the test.
Smartphones, digital watches, and other tech are not allowed in the exam rooms. If you know your devices will be a distraction, plan to leave them at home entirely. Analog watches are allowed for personal timekeeping.
In case you’re not convinced, a University of Texas study found that
In two experiments they found phones sitting on a desk or even in a pocket or handbag would distract users and lead to worse test scores even when it was set up not to disturb test subjects. The effect was measurable even when the phones were switched off, and was worse for those who were deemed more dependent on their mobiles.
Once you’re there, take stock of your environment. Where can you sit to decrease distractions? Do you need to sit up front to feel like you’re taking the exam by yourself, or do you need to sit in the back so you don’t feel like people are watching you? Are there windows that let in street noise?
What about personal distractions? If you’re struggling with personal issues, allow yourself to let them go for a few hours. If they were life and death, you wouldn’t be getting ready to sit for an exam - so give yourself permission to focus only on the test.
You only need to answer 65% of the questions to get a good score. Try to answer the first 15 questions, as those will be some of the easiest (and hopefully quickest).
If you’re spending a lot of time on one question, come back to it later.
With five options for answers, you have a 20% chance of guessing the right answer. You have a 0% chance of getting the right answer if you leave a bubble blank.
Breathing is healthy. In fact, it’s the #1 sign of life in humans. Studies have shown that conscious breathing lowers stress and anxiety - perfect for a last-minute confidence booster.
For a quick breathing exercise, follow these 4 steps outlined by the New York Times:
Remember - the LSAT is just an exam. With practice, you will pass, even if it takes two or three attempts. Once you get into the room, you’re relying on the skills you’ve build over months of prep work - so believe in yourself! Self-confidence will be your most powerful weapon to destress and knock the LSAT out of the park.