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How I went from a 161 to a 175 with extended time: a Reddit LSAT success story

How I went from a 161 to a 175 with extended time: a Reddit LSAT success story

Summary

161 on May 31 diagnostic, 175 on September LSAT. He studied full-time for 2 weeks, then had a full-time internship after that, so could only work 3-4 hours per day. He has narcolepsy, so gets 1.5x time on the test.

He took the Testmaster’s online course, which he appreciated for the structure, as he’s not a self-studier. He also bought the Logical Reasoning Bible, which he thought was a pretty good refresher.

For RC, he reads twice: once for content and once for structure. Then he summarizes each paragraph with what the author is trying to accomplish.

For LR, he always tries to guess the answer before looking at the answers.

For LG, he is a big fan of diagramming once in dark pencil, then writing over that in light pencil.

His biggest advice is to always review your practice tests and to manage your stress levels by taking breaks and having fun. Also, avoid alcohol.

from https://www.reddit.com/r/LSAT/comments/9k8ww5/how_i_went_from_161_to_175/

Original Post

Hi everyone! Someone asked me yesterday if I could detail the ways in which I was able to improve my score by 14 points, so I thought I would write out the gist of my study plan. I’m not sure if this will help anyone (and I’m still pretty fuzzy on how exactly I got the score I did/my heart hasn’t stopped pounding since 8 am yesterday) but I figured I have gained so much from this subreddit that I wanted to be able to give back whatever I could 🙂

Score Progression: I took my diagnostic on May 31, when my Testmasters course’s online access opened. It was PT 62 and I got a 161 (20/27 RC, 16/23 LG, and then 15/26 on one LR and 23/26 on the other). The way the class was set up required that I complete several (I think 7?) lessons and the accompanying homework in order to take the second practice test, so it was about 3 weeks until I took my second test. I think having that time to learn how to diagram logic games and learning that I actually needed to read the question stems was really beneficial, especially because I wasn’t doing practice tests at the same time. It put the focus entirely on drilling questions and not on scores on timed sections or full tests. Because of that, my score went up to a 170 on my second test (PT 63). I took 14 full tests over the course of the summer and beginning of the school year. During the latter half of the summer, I took one practice test per week (on the weekend) because since I had extended time (I have narcolepsy), it was basically impossible to come home from working full time and take a 5-section 1.5x test. This was my progression from test to test: 161 (PT 62), 170 (PT 63), 168 (PT 70), 170 (PT 73), 170 (PT 78), 168 (PT 80), 175 (PT 59 but this one was done in sections while I was moving into my dorm), 170 (PT 66), 172 (PT 67), 173 (PT 75), 173 (PT 76), 173 (PT 81), 168 (PT 82), 174 (PT 83).

Section Progression: From the beginning, it was clear that my biggest problem was going to be Reading Comp. I had basically nailed down LG by my third practice test and was getting -0s on almost every test (although on sections with several substitution problems, sometimes that didn’t work out). LR was slowly improving as well. My main problems in RC were main point questions and questions that required me to infer what the author’s perspective on something were. I was also not great at the analogy questions where they ask you to apply the reasoning from the passage to a different example. By the time I took the test, I was getting around -4 on RC, -1/-3 on LR, and -0 on LG.

Materials I used to study: Testmasters Online Course, Powerscore Logical Reasoning Bible

Testmasters Course: I really enjoyed this class and felt that I learned a lot. One thing I really appreciated was the structure. I don’t think self-study would have worked for me because on huge endeavors like this, it can be really difficult for me to figure out where to begin, and having the guidance through the whole process was helpful. For example, I see a lot of people trying to figure out which PT to use as a diagnostic and which PTs to save for later or if there is a recommended order and that was all figured out for me. The order in which I listed the PTs before were the order in which they were presented to me, and while I could have gone out of order for any of the PTs after the 6th one (the first 6 are set in stone), I trusted that they placed them in the order they did for a reason. Additionally, every PT had an experimental section already in a random slot in the order, and doing full 5-section tests where I didn’t know which section was the experimental made it a lot more realistic. On top of that, there were hundreds of questions to drill by type for each homework assignment and having all of that available without having to go through old practice tests and do them section-by-section myself was immeasurably helpful. I really only had two problems with this class, the first being that there was a ton of focus on formal logic at the beginning (which I think is really important) but it was never quite made clear that there are only a few formal logic questions on each test whereas I thought every question was a formal logic question and got stuck trying to diagram every question as such. I wish that had been made more clear, but it’s such a small thing that it didn’t detract from the overall experience. Additionally, having the question types categorized by number wasn’t super intuitive for me because it required me to read a question stem, translate that to a number, think of the rules associated with that number, and then switch it back to actual applications.

Powerscore Logical Reasoning Bible: I bought this because I was frustrated at the rate at which my Logical Reasoning scores were improving (also because I would have felt like a fraud if I didn’t use a Bible at some point in my LSAT experience). I found the way in which questions were categorized a bit easier and a nice supplement to the Testmasters class because they actually explained what the question type was in the name (for example, a “Strengthen” question rather than a Type 2 Question). By the time I picked up this book, I was almost done with my studying, so I found it more of a refresher than instructional, but the method of drawing an arrow from stimulus to the answer choices or vice versa in order to signal whether the answer choices had to be based off information in the stimulus or could contribute new information was really helpful.

Study Schedule: For the first 2 weeks after my diagnostic, I did LSAT work full time, but once my internship started, I only worked about 3-4 hours a day. I did practice problems on the train in the morning, at Starbucks for an hour before work, and then again on the train ride home. I would also work after dinner if I wasn’t asleep. Once I got to school, I took practice tests and sections every minute I wasn’t in class, eating, sleeping, or in my occasional “put me out of my misery” scheduled friendship appointments. On the Saturday of the real test (I took it the following Friday), I took a PT (for my third day in a row) and dropped back into the 160s for my first time in a while. I figured I was burnt out and gave myself Sunday and Monday off and then got a 174 on Tuesday, which was a big confidence booster. I started taking PT 84 on Wednesday and scored my first two sections and they were the best they had been (a -1 on RC which was a miracle) so I just stopped taking the test and treated the first 2 sections as a confidence booster.

Tips:

  • Reading Comprehension

    • I read each passage twice, the first for understanding and the second for structure. It made it much easier to answer the questions and my scores dramatically improved once I started focusing on structure.

    • I also started drawing lines between each paragraph and summarizing what the author was trying to accomplish with each paragraph as I was reading (with a few words in each section). I got that from one of the threads on this subreddit and my scores instantly started to improve in RC.

    • At the end of my first read-through of the passage, I closed my eyes for a second and thought about what I remembered them talking about the most and what all of those things were meant to get across. This helped a lot with main point questions because otherwise, I would wind up digging myself into a deeper and deeper hole of reading through the choices and checking back with the passage and trying to evaluate which part of the argument was more important, etc.

  • Logical Reasoning

    • PREPHRASING. For those who don’t know, this means basically reading the stimulus, looking at the question stem, and trying to guess what the answer is before looking at the choices. This is by far one of the most useful things I learned throughout this study process.

  • Logic Games

    • I drew my diagram once per game in really dark pencil with all of the global rules and then for each question (and new local rule) I just wrote new options to test them out in light pencil so I could easily erase in between each question. It saved a lot of time to only diagram everything once, and it ensured that if I accidentally tried to erase a global rule, the dark pencil made it much harder to do so without realizing.

    • The day I realized that the substituted rule can’t overcorrect for the original rule was the day I started getting substitution questions correct. What I mean by that is even if an answer choice seems to work in locking the correct possibilities in place, it could still be wrong if it’s too restrictive. Just because the original rule meant that A was in slot 1 and B was in slot 7 and the substituted rule also does that, it doesn’t make it right if that new rule also locks C into slot 4.

  • Overall

    • I found blind review wasn’t helpful for me, so after scoring my test, I would write down the questions I got wrong (just the number) and go back through the test, stopping at each incorrect answer and writing out why each of the wrong answer choices was wrong and why the correct one was correct. I could usually figure this out by talking it through to myself which was also a good exercise in processing all of the information.

    • Give yourself breaks. Almost every time I took a few days off of drilling/taking PTs, my next PT score went up by several points. It is so easy to get burned out but taking breaks when I felt like I needed them allowed me a couple days to get excited about taking my next test and everyone performs better when they are excited to tackle the questions.

    • Be cognizant of how you’re spending your time! Doing only LSAT stuff for months will make you hate the test so fun is important. I didn’t drink (except for wine with dinner a few times) during my 4 months of studying and it really sucked but I had a much clearer mind and now I have such a low tolerance that I can spend less money on alcohol. Win-win situation.

    • Simulate test day conditions! I did a 5-section test with a 15 minute break for every one of my practice exams which built up my stamina. I used an online proctor (either the 7sage or TestMasters ones) and started using a watch 2 weeks before the exam on my PTs to make sure I could move the bezel fast enough and that I was prepared. A lot of people I know didn’t use an official proctor while studying, using their iPhone timers instead, and many of them said that screwed them up and made it easier to get distracted.

That’s all I have for now in the longest post of all time but feel free to ask questions or message me if you need anything! thank you all for everything and I wish everyone luck with their admissions process 🙂

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