How to take an LSAT PrepTest

By J.Y. Ping

At some point in your LSAT preparation, you will have to put away the problem sets and face the behemoth: the five-section, full-length, timed LSAT PrepTest.

Rather than dreading that moment, you should be excited for the next milestone in your journey. You are now fluent enough in the fundamentals to turn theory into practice. Your job from here on out is to practice so regularly that when you sit down for the real LSAT, you’ll feel like you’re just taking another PT. Or more realistically, when you panic, your good habits will be so deeply ingrained that you can fall back on them.

How can you get the most out of your PrepTests? The basic principle is that you should replicate real test conditions as closely as possible. You can do that in four ways.

1. Maintain a consistent morning routine.

The June LSAT is administered on a Monday afternoon, but the October, December, and February LSATs are administered on Saturday mornings.

If you’re not a morning person, become one. Go to bed at 11 p.m. and wake up at 7 a.m., not just on your PrepTest days, but every day. You want to change your sleep habits so that a 7 a.m. wake-up feels natural.

On PrepTest days, you should make your morning routine completely consistent and replicable. Eat the same thing at the same time. Drink the same amount of coffee. Do the same warm-up breathing exercises for example, or a short meditation. Leave for the test center at the same time. Start the PrepTest when you’ll take the real test.

You’ve probably seen basketball players who always spin the ball the same way before taking a free throw, or tennis players who always cross themselves before serving. Rituals give us a feeling of being in control, so your whole morning routine should become a ritual.

2. Practice in a public space.

LSATs are often administered on university campuses. If you can, practice in the classroom where you’ll take the test. You want to get a feel for that space: its acoustics, its furniture, the hallway outside. The more familiar you are, the more comfortable you’ll feel on test day.

If you do not have access to the space in which you’ll take your LSAT, libraries are an excellent alternative. They are quiet enough to accommodate focused work, but not too quiet. Coffee shops are also great because they are noisy. Practicing there is like running with ankle weights on. Ideally, there won’t be much noise on test day, but that’s not something you can control. You should learn to focus in spite of coughing, paper shuffling, chair squeaking, or even someone crying.

3. Bring your battle gear.

If you haven't yet, read the LSAC’s official guidelines for the day of the test.

I'll emphasize only one point here. You must use #2 or HB pencils, so don’t practice with mechanical pencils. You need to know how #2 pencils write, how easily the tips break, how long they take to get dull, and how long it takes to bubble in an answer.

Every time you take a PrepTest, your table should have at least six #2 pencils, an analog watch, and your erasers. That’s it. Get comfortable with your battle gear.

4. Get the timing right.

The LSAT is administered in two stretches of 105 minutes each. Each 105-minute stretch is divided into three 35-minute sections. You get no breaks between these 35-minute sections. At the end of one section, the proctor will say something brief like, “Time is up. Turn to the next section. Begin.” When you’re practicing, you cannot give yourself a break. You cannot pick up a phone call. You can’t pace around the room to think.

After the first 105-minute stretch, you’ll break for 15 minutes. Take the break when you practice. Bring a snack if you like, and bring the same one on test day. It doesn't matter if you want to get your PrepTest over with—you should replicate real testing conditions.

 J.Y. Ping is the co-founder of 7Sage LSAT Prep, which is dedicated to making law school accessible to everyone through high quality and affordable online LSAT prep. He is also the co-founder of PreProBono, a non-profit that helps economically disadvantaged and underrepresented minority pre-law students acquire and utilize law degrees for careers in public interest law. He graduated from Columbia University in 2007 and earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2011.  

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