A week ago Monday, I took the LSAT for the first time...and, hopefully, the last time. I think I have sufficiently gotten over the trauma of taking the test to tell you, my loyal followers, about the experience. For the uninitiated, the LSAT is the Law School Aptitude Test. Supposedly, it represents a fairly reliable indicator of one’s ability to succeed in law school.
The test is broken up into six sections: 2 “arguments” sections, 2 reading comprehension sections, 1 “analytical reasoning” section (commonly known as the “games” section), and the writing sample. All the sections but the writing sample have between 23 and 27 multiple choice questions. All sections have a 35 minute time limit for completion.
For the mathematically inclined, that means you have less than a minute and thirty seconds per question to read the question and any applicable argument, game parameters or reading passage, evaluate the answer choices and make a decision. If you are a slow reader or have other learning difficulties like dyslexia, you are boned. Gruesomely.
To make it even more of a mind game than it already is, one of the “arguments” section is an “experimental” section in which the test creators test out new questions. The experimental section does not count to your score, AND they don’t tell you which one is the experimental section. Surprise. You get to waste 35 nerve wracking minutes helping the sadistic maniacs create a more diabolical test, and it won’t help you get into law school in the slightest.
The multiple choice sections could probably best be described as exercises in trying to create the bed time stories for the love child of Sherlock Holmes and Spock. For instance, a typical argument question will involve you reading a paragraph anywhere from three to 10 sentences long, a question and five multiple choice answers of varying lengths depending on the question type. I would really like to write a humorous, fictional argument section question to insert here for your amusement, but it’s making my brain hurt to try. Reading comprehension section questions are even more fun. You are given a section of 50 to 60 lines of material organized into five or six paragraphs to read on a variety of subjects (one of the subjects on my test was about the Latina autobiography as a literary genre…exciting stuff). Once you’ve slogged your way through that stimulating prose, you get to answer five to seven questions on various esoteric concepts covered or implied in passage. The worst section, in my opinion, is the games section. You start out with a set of incomplete parameters typically involving at least two variables (for instance, airline flight arrival times and domestic versus international arrivals) for which you have to organize and then answer a set of five or six questions (flight A arrives before flight B but after flight C; what time does Bobby get his omelet?).
The writing sample is a whole other exercise in self flagellation. You are given a simple, two sided issue for which to take a position and write an argument. They give you a two sided sheet of wide ruled paper to write your argument. You have 35 minutes to review the pros and cons for both sides of the issue, outline your position on scrap paper, and write a grammatically correct and legible argument using nothing but a No. 2 pencil and whatever you have lodged between your ears. The kicker is that there is a better than average chance that no one will ever read your writing sample. According to the LSAC, the organization that administers the test, every law school you apply to gets a copy of the writing sample; however, the preparation materials I worked on to get ready for the test suggested that only those applications that were “borderline” candidates stood a chance of having their writing sample reviewed by the folks in the admissions departments.
In the preceding paragraph, I mentioned availing myself of some professionally produced review materials including the Princeton review book and a book of practice tests which were actually previously administered tests. A lot of people I talked to suggested taking a full blown prep class; however, I just didn’t have the time or excess cash flow to put into it at the time. How helpful were they in actually preparing me to take the test? Overall, I would have to say they gave me at least half a clue as to what to expect and how to approach the test. Without the preparation, I probably would have been flopping around on the floor in a full blown, foaming at the mouth seizure.
The one thing that the prep materials could not help me with was actually taking a test under real test conditions. Sure it’s easy to sit down, set a timer and rock through a section. If you live alone. On a mountain top. With no modern communications equipment. If you live in my house…ha. I tell people I’m studying. I tell them I’m trying to time myself. I tell them I need to not be interrupted. What happens? The phone rings. Someone yells at the deaf, 94 year old. Someone walks through and asks, “K. how’s it going?” ARRRGGGHHH!!!
I should have had a loaded gun on the desk with me so that I could shoot anyone who interrupted.
So, despite all that, I felt like I at least had a decent grasp of how to approach each type of section as well as individual questions going into the test. It’s possible this was a delusion of monumental proportions on my part, but I’m choosing to hold onto that fantasy a little longer. At least until the test scores come in.
Anyway, The Queen and I agreed that it would be the pinnacle of wisdom for me alone to go down to mom’s house the night before to get a good night’s sleep, get some uninterrupted last minute study in, avoid some traffic and be a few minutes closer to the testing location. I woke up on time the day of the test after a fitful night’s sleep (I can sleep anywhere, but I don’t always sleep well just anywhere…plus I couldn’t get my mind to shut off). I ate a small breakfast with mom, and off I went.
The test was supposed to start at 8:30 AM, but I got to the test center at 8:00. I took the opportunity to review the notes I had made while prepping for the test one last time, breathe deep, and say a short prayer. At about 8:10, I decided I’d better get into the building where the test was going to be held, find the testing room, get a final bathroom break, and leave plenty of time to take care of the necessary administrative tasks in case there was a line.
I needn’t have worried. There were only 6 people scheduled to take the test at this location on this date: 2 women and 4 men. However, one of the guys was a no show. I really don’t get that. For what it costs to take the test, it would have taken a coma to keep me away. Of those six people, I was the first one to get to the testing room…by about 10 minutes.
In the weeks leading up to the test, The Queen would occasionally ask if I was getting nervous about it. Truthfully, I didn’t really get nervous about the test until I arrived at the testing center. It was the sitting there for 10 minutes by myself with the proctor waiting for the others to get there so we could light the fuse on this mess that got to me. My biggest concern in prepping for the test was being able to do each section of the test within the time limit, and I had too much time to think about that while waiting for the others.
Once we finally got started, it felt like high school all over again. Write you name in the spaces provided, fill in completely the bubbles corresponding to the appropriate letter, write in the test code, write out your certifying statement and sign below in your own blood. Be sure you are using a No. 2 pencil and erase any wrong answers completely. Blah, blah, blah. All that administrative mumbo jumbo dragged on for at least 20 minutes. Giving me more time to sweat the whole time element thing.
Finally, we got to “Open your test booklets to section 1….” And they’re off! Into the first question, it’s Young And Clueless fast out of the gate with Yarmulke Boy nipping at her heels. Dyslexia Man and Preacher K. set off at a steady pace with Also Young And Homely sitting on her rear. The horses are charging madly for the finish line. It’s anybody’s race. And “Time is up. Please put your pencils down and discontinue working on section one.” It’s a photo finish. Preacher K. has the stunned look of an armadillo caught in the headlights on his face, but he doesn’t look like he’s going to puke.
I was able to relax after the first section. A little. On the first 3 sections, I think I did fairly well being able to comfortably answer all the questions in the time allotted. If not having much, if any, time left over. There were questions I was iffy on, and I coin tossed on a few questions with two possible answer choices. I am pretty sure the fourth section was the experimental section based on the number of similar, crazy questions, and I didn’t get through that one as well as the other sections. By the fifth section, I was getting tired and starting to lose focus. I finished, but the last four or five answers were not well thought out. The writing section was last, and I really think I rocked on that one. Even if no one will ever likely read it.
In my prior academic life, I took the SAT and the GRE. Both of which I was fortunate enough to have to only take once in order to achieve my educational goals of the moment. I could have gone back and taken the tests again to try for a better score; but, why bother. I got what I needed out of the tests. It’s not like getting a perfect score on the tests counts for much of anything once you’ve been accepted to the school of your choice. Or, in my case, the school my finances could afford. Hopefully, my record of once and done will continue to hold.
Now, I have to have the patience to wait until January 10 when my score will be released to find out how I did. If you’re really interested in finding out more about the test, follow the links below.