Reasons for a Poor LSAT Score

Risk Aversion

This common emotional problem is one I see when I'm tutoring.  The student reads the answers, marks B, and keeps right on reading the same set.  

"What are you doing?"
"Did you read all five answers?"
"Do you know why you like B?"
"Then what are you checking"?

"Making sure" is an enormous waste of time, but it's an emotional crutch many people cannot give up.  Thorough, diligent people often do this.  They seem to forget that a good score requires getting a lot finished as much as it does getting them right.  

Occasionally, a person can be told this and move right on.  More often, they are like people who have to check four times that they locked the door. The problem is an emotional one, a need to be positive, or more often a fear of being wrong that won't let them move on even when they know that they're hurting their score.  

Sadly, I know of no cure for this short of a year or two of therapy or a near-death experience — something to teach you that being wrong just isn't such a big deal.  


No one has ever, ever, in the 30 years I've been teaching LSATs, said to me, "I panicked."  Instead, they say, "I was going too slow," or "I froze," or "I thought it was B, but I wasn't sure, so..." That, folks, is panicking.  

Panic Type 1 -- I Rushed

"I blew the logic games."
"What happened?  You're great at logic games!"
"Well, the first game was an easy sequence, but it took me 11 minutes. I knew that was way too long, so I tried to hurry on the next game.  The game wasn't hard, but I misread a rule and didn't realize it until the 4th question.  Then I had to start over.  So I tried to find my mistake real fast, but I couldn't...."
"Did the first game have conditional statements ("If A then B" rules)?"
"Well, yeah."
"Then it was supposed to take 11 minutes.  I know I told you in class that the purpose of conditionals is to slow you down.  But instead of remembering that, you panicked."
"Well, yeah."
"Okay.  Cancel your score."

There is no way on God's green earth to think faster than you do, except by practicing how to think.  As your techniques improve, your timing and scores will improve.  Trying to think an iota faster then you do is a guaranteed way to reduce your score.

Panic Type 2 -- I Froze

"I was doing fine.  I was down to number 17, and the proctor called five minutes.  Then I don't know what happened, but I didn't get a single other question answered."

Freezing is particularly difficult kind of panic to overcome.  I do know of a few things you can try.  Always practice with a large, loud clock in front of you until you learn to ignore it.  Get your housemates to proctor you, and have them announce the time every five minutes.  Make time so repetitive that it disappears into the background, like people do who live near a train.  

Panic Type 3 -- Second-Guessing

"I thought A was right.  But then I wasn't sure, so I picked C instead."

The underlying assumption to this kind of panic is "I am wrong.  I am stupid, I can't do this, I don't know what they want, so if an answer looks good to me, choose another."  

You can disprove this assumption by repeatedly marking your instinctive choice, your "but maybe it's..." choice, and then looking to see which is right.  You need to do that hundreds of times over several months.  Eventually, you can learn that you do know what they want.  

Why People Panic

The belief behind all these panic responses is that your LSAT score is THE most important thing in the world, and that THIS VERY NEXT QUESTION will make or break your score.  Both of these beliefs, are, of course, wrong.  

Essays reflecting creativity and maturity, recommendations, and life experiences are all part of the evaluation process.  A higher LSAT score will help, of course, but it won't be the sole deciding factor.  So take some of the pressure off yourself, and you may see your score magically improve.

Cognitive Preparation

If your problem is one of inadequate knowledge, you might want to check out our ideas and resources here:

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