How can I stop freaking out over timed LSAT games?
November 28, 2009 10:49 AM   Subscribe

The LSAT is next week and my games section is abysmal. I know it's a psychological thing. What do you recommend?

Hello Hive,

I've been doing self-study since the beginning of October with the PowerScore books and scads of real LSATs. My diagnostic was pretty middling (low 150's), though I've inched my way up to the mid 160's.

Games... There's just something about the timer running in the background that causes me to panic. But when I review the games afterward, I have *substantially* less difficulty and everything seems to click. To give you a typical example, I only managed to complete 1.5 games on the last timed practice exam. Reviewing them a few hours later, they seemed jaw-droppingly simple, and I solved them all within thirty minutes. Untimed games are usually a breezy affair, though the occasional bastardly one crops up.

Has anyone had this problem? If so, how did you conquer it? Should I focus exclusively on untimed games? Any advice is greatly appreciated.
posted by AAAAAThatsFiveAs to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Games were my toughest section, and based on anecdotal evidence, they seem to be the area that causes the most grief in general. The best advice I can offer is practice, practice, practice. I also took Princeton Review, which was helpful. My instructor taught me a number of tricks, short-cuts, and ways to avoid blind alleys and time-wasters.

Are you planning on applying to law school this year? If not, you might want to wait to take the LSAT at a later sitting. The problems you are having probably can't be worked through in just one week, especially if you are feeling a sense of "panic."

I also don't think it's helpful to do games untimed because you really need to learn the tricks and methods for doing them under time pressure. When you say, that reviewing them later, you "solved them all within thirty minutes," well, aren't you seeing them for the second time? So shouldn't it be easier then? If something purely about the time pressure is freaking you out (understandable), then maybe there are some psychological tricks you can use to sort of put the clock out of your head as you test. Maybe other folks have ideas about that.

If you are set on taking the test next week, then it might be time for triage. Assuming the test hasn't changed too much in the last half a dozen years, I'm guessing there are still four games. I would say your goal should be to do three games, or if that's truly impossible, then two complete games. If certain styles of games are easier for you (I had some I liked and some I hated), your strategy when taking a practice test (and on the real test) should be to take a quick look at each of the games at the start, and then (without wasting much time) pick the two (or three) easiest.

If you don't have a preference among game-types, or if you think this would be too much of a time-waster, then just do the first two (or three).
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:43 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Take 30 seconds and review the questions before you start on the section, then pick one of the games and blow it off, spending the saved time on the remaining games/puzzles. If the one you ignore is one of the variety of which you are less confident, so much the better. Given the scoring penalty for guessing wrongly, focus your energies on getting right answers. With the additional time, maybe you will feel less stress about finishing.
posted by mr_felix_t_cat at 11:48 AM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Learn how to identify the types of games (if you haven't already) and have a plan of action for how to attack a given type of game. If you have a procedure to follow, it's easier not to freak out about the timing and your progress. Games was my hardest section, too, and like Conrad... said, it seems like most people, especially people with liberal arts backgrounds, have the hardest time with that section.
posted by ishotjr at 12:19 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also anecdotal, but games were my best section because all they took was practice. The first practice test I took I got 0 correct, though. The Princeton Review's Cracking the LSAT helped me so much that I ended up missing none on the actual LSAT (reading comp was a different story...). I was able to buy it from a local bookstore. I used old LSATs to practice on, which I can't recommend enough.

I would maybe practice it untimed first, and once you start to get the hang of it do them with the timer.
posted by andlee210 at 1:30 PM on November 28, 2009

I'm at a top-tier school and know plenty of people whose LSAT was in the 150s (including me). Just remember that it's not the only thing they look at. Do your best to show your personality in your essays, even if it requires sharing information that you wouldn't usually share. Your LSAT is just one of many factors that they'll take into account.

Good luck, you can do it!!!
posted by Neekee at 3:07 PM on November 28, 2009

I personally don't feel that the advice just above is on the mark, but I don't want to derail. Suffice it to say that I think LSAT scores are extremely important (the data bears this out), especially given the surge in applications thanks to the recession. This is why I would encourage the OP, if he is unhappy with his current scores, to consider waiting for another sitting, if that is feasible. Otherwise, just buckle down & practice games, games, games - but don't go crazy, and do the best you can.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:03 PM on November 28, 2009

Conrad et al.,

Thanks for your helpful advice. I just took two timed game sections back-to-back with the following rules:

1. Spend exactly fifty seconds assessing game types. Pick one, X it out, and fuhgedaboudit. Fill in all D's on the appropriate scoresheet section... the PowerScore way.

2. Go to town on the other three, moving on at the 12 and 23 minute marks.

RESULTS: Took out grouping games both times. I'm embarrassed to admit that I peeked back at the grouping game the first time, when things got dicey. Three wasted minutes later, I was scrambling and soon ran out of time. Including the crossed-out section, 15 out of 23.

I learned my lesson for the second go around. Placed a huge X over the grouping game and never looked back. Verdict: 17 for 23; three missed from the sacrificial game, two in the second, and one in the last. The best I've ever done!

If anyone has any comments on finessing this strategy or general pointers, I'd love to hear them!
posted by AAAAAThatsFiveAs at 10:12 PM on November 28, 2009

It sounds like you've isolated a tactic—and particularly, a time-management tactic, which I think tend to be best for standardized tests (and law-school exams). That's how you're going to solve a problem like this.

I would only add, re:

There's just something about the timer running in the background that causes me to panic.

This happens to musicians, too. The red light alters the dynamic. You can't practice for recording by not recording. The only way to get comfortable is to record, and record, and record some more. You see a similar phenomenon with guitarists who use effects: They practice a piece clean until they know it cold, but then they get onstage to perform and they plug in an effects box, and suddenly they're all thumbs. The thing to do is to practice under performance conditions. And it sounds like that's what you're doing.

You also asked for general pointers. It may be obvious, but I needed to be told: Work out all the questions on the two open-facing pages, marking correct answers in the test booklet—then transfer those answers onto the answer sheet, and turn the page. I think it saved me time; but again, just in general, I think having clear time-management tactics helps to navigate the LSAT. It's a way to impose structure and take some control. As you say, it's psychological.

Good luck!
posted by cribcage at 10:46 PM on November 28, 2009

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