Taking a Page from the LSAT Playbook

mss_strategy

I am taking the LSAT on Saturday, as are many of you.

The experience of taking the LSAT is generally associated with a great deal of trepidation for students, but I assure you there is nothing to fear. I have taken the real deal three times in the past. So this will be round four. In order to quell some of your anxieties, I thought it would be helpful to explain what the experience will be like.

Here is what I anticipate my Saturday is going to look like. Actually, I will take you all the way from Friday night through the end of the test. Granted, your LSAT experience might vary slightly from mine, but this will be like a dry run for you.

Friday, September 25

3:24 pm:      I attempt to leave the office early. I explain to the Blueprint crew that I am taking the LSAT tomorrow and I need to get some rest. I am immediately greeted with very encouraging words, including “You better get a 180” and “Don’t get too drunk tonight.”

4:52 pm:      After a leisurely drive home on a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, I send a good luck email to my students. I have spent the last hour finding the most ridiculous things that I can on the information superhighway. This email will contain links to Chuck Norris jokes, some texts from last night, and a YouTube video that I have been saving for the right moment. I encourage them to relax and have a laugh.

5:13 pm:      I realize that it is Friday night and I do not want to be tempted to leave my house on the night before the LSAT. I decide to update my Facebook status to inform my friends that I am taking the LSAT tomorrow morning. That should take care of that.

7:41 pm:      Nope. After a number of phone calls from friends encouraging me to join them in activities that will inevitably interfere with my LSAT performance, I turn my phone off. Well, okay, I put it on silent, but that still counts.

8:14 pm:      Tempted to leave my house, I start to do the math. On the night before the LSAT, I figure each bar visited equals -3 points and each game of beer pong (win or lose) equals -4 points. Not good; I am staying home.

8:37 pm:      Dinner time. I open my fridge hoping to find a nice power meal with lots of antioxidants. (I don’t know what an antioxidant actually does, but the LSAT seems to think they are very good for you.) Damn, looks like I am going with a frozen pizza. I do a quick search on the information superhighway to see if frozen pizza has any antioxidants. The results are inconclusive.

9:41 pm:      I start to think that I should try to get to bed early. I do the math in my head. I have to arrive at Southwestern around 8 am. The drive will probably take 30 minutes. I would like to take a shower, although that would mean less sleep. I decide to shoot for a 6:30 wake-up call. Crap.

10:12 pm:      I am actively searching the DVR for anything to watch. Nothing. I am up to date on Entourage and the new Melrose Place has been a real disappointment. I go with The Real Housewives of Des Moines or whatever city they are doing now. After a few minutes, I realize this is worse than a game of beer pong. I just lost five points. Damn. I quickly flip to the Discovery Channel.

10:30 pm:      I open my fridge. This is simply a psychological trick. I am not hungry, but I know there is beer inside. (Freud calls this the fulfillment of my unconscious desires; the LSAT also really likes Freud.) I figure that one beer will help me fall asleep earlier, so it is clearly a good idea.

10:48 pm:      Beer number two seems like an equally good idea.

11:27 pm:      Beer number three causes a brief existential crisis. I stop myself and put it back in the fridge.

12:04 am:      I lie down in my bed and try to count sheep, but it inevitably turns into a Logic Game in my head. Sheep 4 jumps over the fence before sheep 6. This is not relaxing. If sheep 7 does not jump over the fence, then sheep 2 must jump over the fence. I curse sheep and all other livestock.

12:43 am:      I really have to get to sleep and I realize there is only one option. I grab a Blueprint book from the stack in my living room. I flip open to a reading comprehension passage about an Elizabethan playwright. I fall asleep immediately.

Saturday, September 26

6:30 am:      Alarm sounds. Shower now seems unnecessary. Snooze.

6:39 am:      Snooze.

6:48 am:      Snooze.

6:57 am:      Snooze.

7:06 am:      Okay, fine. I seriously debate just sleeping in and trying out this new ‘no show’ option on the LSAT. Realizing that this would set a bad example for my students, I drag myself out of bed and straight to the coffee maker.

7:11 am:      I call Teti to make sure he is suffering through this early Saturday morning as well. He does not pick up. Bastard.

7:18 am:      With some caffeine coursing through my system, I stumble around and get ready to leave. I grab my Blueprint shirt with Sensei written across the front.

7:26 am:      I hit the road. I debate the best type of music for the drive to the LSAT. I need something intellectual and yet something that will fire me up for the logical rigors in front or me. Obviously, I go with Bon Jovi.

7:31 am:      At a stoplight, I look to my right. A woman is laughing at me. Then I realize that I am dancing and singing to Livin’ on a Prayer at 7 am on a Saturday wearing a shirt that proclaims I am a Sensei. I turn the music up.

7:54 am:      I arrive at Southwestern and am confronted with a few dilemmas. Do I bring my coffee? I know it is not allowed, but cutting off the caffeine now will be dangerous. It’s coming. Do I bring my cell phone? I know they are also not allowed, but I am one of those people. I feel naked without my phone. What will I do if there is an awkward moment and I can’t fill the time by pretending to do something on my phone? What if my phone gets lonely? Fine, I will give this a shot. Phone stays in the car.

8:03 am:      My brain needs a jumpstart. I grab a Blueprint book out of my trunk. I figure a few Logical Reasoning questions could help. I try three questions. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Ouch. I need more caffeine. Chug.

8:12 am:      My students have spotted me. We form a congregation in the Southwestern courtyard. One student asks me how to diagram an unless statement. I strangle him. I tell everyone to relax and that they are going to do great. We have a group hug and head out.

8:19 am:      I arrive at my testing room. The proctor at the door tells me that I cannot bring my coffee into the room. I attempt to bribe her with a piece of gum, but no luck. Then I give her the death stare and hope that she will back down. Nope. Chug. I am not going to be friends with this woman.

8:26 am:      People are shuffling into the room. A few unlucky souls attempt to exit for the bathroom and are quickly tackled by security. Classic mistake, you gotta empty the tank before entering.

8:32 am:      Finally, the stress is starting to take its effect on people. A girl in front of me sharpens her pencil to the point that it could qualify as a deadly weapon. A guy behind me is chewing on his fingernails as if he has not eaten in a week. Another guy in the back corner is giving himself a pep talk, loud enough for everyone to hear. Three down.

8:39 am:      The doors are closed and my proctor buddy starts to hand out the test materials. Now the freaking out reaches a new level. People stare at the test in shock; it is as though they expected it to be in a different language or something.

8:47 am:       With the aid of a Hooked on Phonics workbook, my proctor buddy begins to read the instructions. Please find the corresponding bubble to the first letter of your last name. Now please fill in that bubble completely. Now please find the corresponding bubble to the second letter of your first name. This is terrible. I miss my coffee dearly. I need some entertainment. I turn to the guy sitting next to me and casually ask, “Hey man, did you remember your graphing calculator?” He turns an odd shade of green and I hear some form of liquid dripping on the floor beneath him.

9:13 am:      Finally, it is go time. I open the test only to find that I get to do Reading Comprehension first. Crap.

9:14 am:      We lose our first one. A girl in the front row gets up, hands her test to my proctor buddy, and exits the room. Apparently she was really disappointed with her performance in the first minute.

9:16 am:      After three minutes of my own form of silent protest, I actually start to read a passage. Apparently, Native Americans have run into some real issues when settling disputes within the US legal system. Shocking.

9:48 am:      My proctor buddy calls time. After another painful minute of instructions, we start section two. Logical Reasoning. As I glance around the room, I see a number of students begin to scribble frantically. Looks like some people have just started the Logic Games. The panic level in the room has reached a new high. Apparently these people think that the real key to Logic Games is to write quickly. Oh, look, we just lost number two. A disgruntled man from the back row is out of here. Apparently, he was hoping for a test without Logic Games.

10:10 am:      Number 21 is a bitch. I can see the answer choice that most students are going to pick. I say a quick prayer to the Roman God of Logic (Validicus, if I remember correctly) that all of my students are able to stay away from the bad answer and see the real fallacy. As part of the prayer, I put my pencil down and do some fancy, yoga-ish arm movements. My neighbors are now really upset with me.

10:18 am:      Proctor buddy calls out the five-minute warning. The frantic scribbling reaches an all-time high. A girl two rows up breaks her seventh pencil, good thing she brought 84 of them. A tall, skinny kid in the middle of the room is apparently not doing well. Otherwise, he must have a skin disease that itches terribly, a nervous twitch, and a serious perspiration problem.

10:23 am:      Two sections in the books. More instructions.

10:24 am:      Finally, I get to see the Logic Games. My third section is games. The other half of the room begins frantically scribbling now.

10:28 am:      I skim through each of the four games. No mauve dinosaurs, so that is good. Actually, the section is pretty much as expected. A little Ordering and a little Grouping. I consider doing another prayer to Validicus, but I fear any more shenanigans might really push my neighbors over the edge.

10:43 am:      I finish the Logic Games in about 19 minutes.

10:46 am:      After resisting the urge for three minutes, I now try out some new pencil tricks. I successfully balance both my eraser and sharpener on top of my pencil. Pretty cool. The people around me do not look impressed.

10:59 am:      Break time. The proctor calls time and everyone takes a deep breath. A handful of smokers make a beeline for the door. Apparently they read that LSAT question about smoking improving your short-term memory.

11:03 am:      I enter the restroom located across the hall from my testing room, only to be greeted by the smell of fear (actually, that is vomit). I quickly exit. I guess it can wait. I walk back into the hallway and it looks like an old bread line in Moscow. Students are scarfing down Powerbars and chugging Red Bull like they are in the middle of a decathlon. I ask a random girl for a sip of her 5 Hour Energy. She politely asks me to step back, or else she is going to insert something uncomfortable into my backside. I take the step back option.

11:08 am:      The tall, skinny kid is pacing back and forth fast enough to compete in Olympic speed walking. I can’t fight it anymore. I go over and say, “Dude, I teach LSAT classes and I have never seen a test where all of the right answers are C.” He immediately faints. Whoops.

11:15 am:      I fish my old coffee cup out of the trashcan and once again try to enter the room with it in hand. My proctor buddy does not find this amusing. I inform her that the coffee is for a medical condition. Nothing. There is no budge with this woman.

11:17 am:      Section four begins and I am greeted with another section of Logical Reasoning.

11:31 am:      Question 14 discusses various issues related to the blowhole on top of a whale’s head. I chuckle and receive another round of icy stares. How do people not find this stuff funny? I make a mental note to include this question in the Blueprint course when it comes out. I can’t pass up the chance to talk about blowholes in class.

11:52 am:      Time is called on section four. At this point, we have lost about six people in the room.

11:53 am:      Crap. I open section five only to find another Reading Comprehension. This means that my first section was likely the experimental and thus a huge waste of 35 minutes of my life. I gleefully dive into a passage about the Harlem Renaissance Choir. The author is a big fan. Shocking.

12:24 pm:      Game over. I wrap up the section and feel pretty confident about my performance. I also now know the topic of conversation that will dominate the next couple days of my life (much like mauve dinosaurs did in June). There was a real bitch of a science passage related to human dependence on the honeybee. Apparently, they do a lot for us. Students are going to freak over that one.

12:28 pm:      Proctor buddy calls time on section five. Everyone is the room lets out a loud sigh of relief.

12:37 pm:      Proctor buddy and her friends have collected all of the tests and answer sheets. They have to count everything in the front of the room, so I figure I have time to figure out particle physics in my head before they finish.

12:52 pm:      Here it comes, the glorious writing sample. Another set of instructions and a fascinating prompt about fundraising options for a local children’s center.

12:54 pm:      Proctor buddy says go and people jump right in. The stress is back in the room. Don’t they know this doesn’t count? I plan to silently protest for at least 10 minutes before writing anything.

1:03 pm:      Okay, fine. I decide to write something. However, I want to up the ante a little and decide to use a game that I used to play with my friends in college. We used to make each other work certain irrelevant and inappropriate words into our essays. I decide to go with Papa Smurf and aphrodisiac.

1:29 pm:      The writing sample is finally done. I wonder if anyone else thought to mention that Papa Smurf costumes are a known aphrodisiac and thus should clearly be part of the fundraising campaign.

1:34 pm:      Sunlight. I hit the courtyard and the LSAT is behind me. The crowds of students leaving the doors look like they are leaving a funeral home.

1:36 pm:      Honeybee conversation #1. A female student runs up to me and exclaims that she hates honeybees. I tell her to forget about it and be happy that she is done.

1:44 pm:      I am now surrounded by a group of students. Honeybees are the main topic of conversation. Plans are hitched to destroy all honeybees in an act of revenge.

1:52 pm:      After honeybee conversation #38, I bid adieu to the mass of students and tell them to get some rest. Apparently, they thought I said alcohol because they all agree to head to the nearest liquor store and drown their honeybee memories.

2:37 pm:      I arrive home. Then I make the fatal mistake of turning on my phone and my computer. 14 text messages and 31 emails related to honeybee issues. I have a lot of honeybee conversations in front of me.

So that is pretty much how it is going to go, for me at least. But I left out the fun part, which is what happens after the test. You get to party like a rock star on Saturday and get your life back on Sunday.

I should have some post-test analysis put together on Sunday and up on my blog by Monday morning, so check back.

Good luck to everyone and watch out for the honeybees.

Sep 24, 2009 - 10:07 am - By Matt
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