7 things I wish I knew before taking the LSAT

Hey all,

I just started a new year of fellowship, this time on the director’s side. I’m instructing as well as studying with this year’s fellows for the upcoming digital LSAT in September. Of course the fellows have plenty of questions, but it seems that they are most interested in the day-of experience.

It makes complete sense. You can practice all you want but you don’t know what the real day will feel like. As I look back to taking my first LSAT, I realize what a mess I was. I had the material down but I wasn’t as mentally or emotionally prepared for the day as I should’ve been. There are definitely things I would’ve done differently.

 

  1. Research and believe the reviews you find about your test center.

My test center was literally hell. It was way too hot and we were waiting for so long. When we finally got into the mini chem lecture room to take the exam, the desks were far too small and the air conditioner was blowing my papers away and my baby hairs in my eyes. I saw reviews saying this wasn’t a good test center, but it was so close to my home and the reviews were quite old, so I thought the convenience would surpass the cons. I WAS WRONG. Pay attention to reviews. People don’t write them unless they feel VERY strongly.

Also, I realize papers getting blown away will no longer be a problem for the digital LSAT, but you’re still going to want enough room for the tablet, your scrap paper, and some pencils.

2.  BRING EAR PLUGS. DON’T TALK TO ANYONE.

People really show up to this exam thinking they can wing it. They show up not having studied for the exam and they WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. This is not your time to be friendly or feel like you have to soothe someone who was irresponsible enough to take this expensive exam without studying for it. Do you. Bring ear plugs. Meditate on your 15 min break. DON’T START CONVERSATIONS. Misery loves company and if you’re already feeling bad about the first half, talking to other people will make you feel WORSE.

 

3. PLAN AHEAD.

It’s 2019 and when I travel without my phone, I literally feel naked. What I noticed when I took my exam was that people brought their phones but either locked it up at the local gym or paid the local bodega/deli to hold on to them. (I live in NYC where this is/was common practice for high school kids who weren’t allowed to bring their phones into school). Go visit your testing center. If you feel that you need your phone on you, plan ahead and look in the area or have a friend tag along for the 4 hours to work nearby so that you’ll have your stuff as soon as it’s over.

 

4. IF YOU HAVE HAIR, BRING/WEAR A SOFT HEADBAND.

Emphasis on soft. You don’t want a headband digging into your head and causing you headaches mid-exam. However, a soft headband will keep the hairs out of your eyes especially if there is a DAMN AIR CONDITIONER NEXT TO YOU.

 

5. WEAR LAYERS.

I did this.. but phew.. the temperature differences on that late September morning were extreme. From the hot and humid hallway to the cold, windy lecture room. Wear layers. You won’t regret.

 

6. This test doesn’t define you or your worth. There are people that have been trained their whole life for this exam. It’s kind of elitist, but it’s still important.

The reality of this exam is that it exists. It’s changed in form and other schools are beginning to accept the GRE, but right now the LSAT is still an important component of your law school application. That being said, how you perform on this exam does not define you. Don’t let it scare you into thinking it does because you’ll let it win. Meditate, observe yourself, be mindful of your emotions but don’t let them make you so reactive that you mess up the exam.

7. Work smarter, not harder.

You can take a thousand PrepTests and still keep getting the same score. Be aware. Recognize what you’re struggling with and work your way to understanding the question type. Work with other people to understand their way of thinking. You’ll burn yourself out trying to take so many PrepTests so take a good amount, but balance it with problem sets for specific question types. This allows you to drill in questions or question types that you are weaker at.

 

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you! I’ll be coming up with more content soon as I continue to study for this exam again. I’m coming from quite a different headspace this year so I’m hoping I can make better choices and observations to get a higher score for this exam!

Some of my stats in case you were wondering:

Diagnostic: 149

Highest prep test: 163

Actual: 154

 

^^ I personally think those are big differences which is why I’ll be taking this exam again.

The one with the month before the LSAT.

Hey guys! If you follow me on Instagram, I said I’d put up pictures of how I plan to study for the LSAT this August. I apologize for not getting that up sooner, but to be honest, I had just started prep testing and I was feeling really sad and down on myself for not scoring much higher than my diagnostic after completing the curriculum.

My diagnostic score was a 149 and my first prep test after the curriculum was a 152. I felt so disappointed in myself that I hadn’t scored significantly higher than my diagnostic, but it took me a couple preptests to really understand that it’s going to take more than a curriculum to score higher. PRACTICE IS EVERYTHING. With each full, 5-section, accurately timed & proctored (found on YouTube) exam, my score began to gradually increase.

152

154

155

156

159!

On my 5th preptest I had officially scored 10 points higher than my diagnostic. Was I happy? Of course! Was I content? Absolutely not. On the preptest right before that, I had only gotten one question in the logic games section wrong. I had gotten many more wrong on that preptest. I know that if I can increase my accuracy in logic games, I can hit the 160s. If I continue working and increasing my accuracy in both logic games and logical reasoning, the possibilities are endless!

As you can see, I’m feeling much better, and much more hopeful. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m so excited to get there. This is definitely one of those things where you should celebrate your little victories. The process is already difficult and it isn’t conducive to your improvement to be hard on yourself.

I know that’s easier to say than to put in practice, but when I recognized that I was feeling down, I had to check myself. That time I wasn’t feeling my best, I hadn’t been eating as healthy as I’ve been, I didn’t get a chance to exercise as much, and I definitely hadn’t been drinking enough water. Take care of your body, friends! Do everything you can to stay in the best physical and mental shape you can.

More to come! LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY FROM SEPTEMBER 2018 LSAT.

The one with the pre-LSAT checklist.

Hey guys! I’ve been changing my blog up here and there now that I’ve been getting a few more views here and there.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the things I have to/ should do in preparation for my LSAT on September 8th. I’ve done a pretty good job of building some healthy habits this summer in conjunction with LSAT prep, but there’s always room for improvement. They say it takes 28 days to build a habit and there are a few healthy habits I’d like to build leading up to the exam. Some of these healthy habits are to help with memory retention, some to help maintain energy, and some for all over health and peace of mind.

We’re getting really close, so here is the routine I hope to build as I continue prep-testing.

  1. Go to bed at the same time every day.

I really need to train myself to put my laptop and phone away and get in my bed at the same time. Getting enough sleep is SO important for memory retention (a key that will help you for those pesky reading comprehension sections!).

2. Wake up early and go for a run/go to the gym.

I’ve been going to the gym at least 3 times a week during LSAT prep and I can confidently say it’s been helping with my energy in the morning and it’s been helping my overall mood. All those happy chemicals that get released through exercise are worth the sweat.

3. Drink a large cup of iced green tea.

Coffee makes me feel AWFUL. My heart starts palpitating, I get nervous and nauseous, my stomach won’t leave me alone, and I feel borderline panic attack every time….. so I stopped drinking coffee. I stick to a pink blender bottle full of iced matcha. If you’re not familiar with matcha, it’s a powdered, concentrated Japanese green tea. It can be a little bitter but I’m used to drinking tea without sugar so I don’t mind it. It has caffeine without making me feel absolutely terrible. Green tea also seems to come with other great benefits as well, but I just love it as a beverage.

4. MEDITATE!!

I say that aggressively because I’m terrible at doing this every day. My longest streak was a week. I love using this meditation called SimpleHabit because it’s free and comes with some great meditations ranging from 5, 10, 15, 20+ minutes. The flexibility is great. It’s also pretty cool that they have some for commutes, some specifically for focus, and others for just about anything you can think of.

5. Put that all together into a routine.

Wake up at 6am. Go for some exercise. Eat some breakfast. Take a shower. Drink iced tea. Meditate. Preptest. Go to sleep early.

 

THESE ARE MY AUGUST GOALS. I’m planning to incorporate this into my bullet journal somehow, so if you’re interested in that, please let me know! I’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate my bullet journaling with my blog as well so if you have any ideas, I’m all ears.

The one with the law school personal statement.

Hello again! Be prepared, this one is going to be a long one. A little about me, a little about my writing process, and a little bit about where I hope this all goes.

I’ve been outlining and drafting personal statements here and there which is exciting but also scary and draining. I know I’m not the typical applicant. I didn’t even know I’d be applying until a little over a year ago and even then I thought “could this really be a thing?”

But it is a thing. I’ve made it a thing. I’m taking my LSAT prep, I’m networking with other attorneys and law students, I’ve been to an LSAC forum, I’ve registered for another LSAC forum, I have drafts for my statements, I’ve reached out to professors for recommendation letters.

This is really a thing.

So I wonder why I still have all this self doubt about whether I should even be applying. I look at myself and I don’t see the typical law school applicant, but isn’t that beneficial for me? Won’t my journey make it that much more interesting for how I got here and where I want to go?

I’ve been trying to articulate that in a personal statement and right now I’m finding that the most important contribution to me and the contribution that I would like to make involves community accessibility.

I never thought this career path was accessible to me because I didn’t see anyone who worked within the legal system in my community. I saw teachers and I saw nurses, all wonderful and educated, but neither seemed to really appeal to me. I also grew up in a community of immigrants. I found that story much more interesting. To be raised by a community figuring out their way in a new space is fascinating to me and gives me a different perspective on life, work, family, and community. These communities developed because everyone left their families to come here and work.

Community accessibility. When a new owner bought the nursing home where my mom and my “aunts”(the other Filipino nurses that my mom worked with that became our family) worked, they all lost their jobs. Suddenly the accessible and safe career choice wasn’t safe and I freaked out. I was convinced healthcare was the only career option. What was I supposed to do now? I stopped taking all the science prerequisites and focused on the subjects I was truly interested in. I took more literature classes, more Asian-American classes. I read more about immigration stories and I ended up taking a law class.

Asian-American Civil Rights and the Law taught by my Filipino-American professor. A Fil-Am lawyer! Who grew up in the states? Who didn’t have a stellar academic record? Who didn’t know he wanted to do this his whole life? Who is KILLING the game now as a lawyer and the creator of a non-profit organization for Queer Asian Americans? I was amazed. He was a tough professor and it was a tough class, but I was so determined to do well. I taught my self to work smarter, not harder for this class. I got an A at the end of the term after many classmates dropped out of the course. I was sure this was what I wanted to do. I want to be like him.

When I told one of the men who came during the retreat to help us with our statements, he said that this was exactly what I should write about. I should write about how I never thought this career was accessible, but that seeing someone that looked like me in the space allowed me to see myself in this space, and how I want to be that person for someone else.

I’m having a little trouble figuring out how to articulate how I want to be that for someone else or even who I want to be, but I think it’s so important to be able to see yourself in different spaces. If we don’t know what’s available to us, how do we know what we want?

Anyway, this clearly isn’t my personal statement. That’s still in the works. This is just me trying to mind map the ideas and the experiences I’ve had to come up with my compelling story for an admissions committee…. which is kind of terrifying. Is that good enough a reason to want to go to law school? I have plenty of other reasons. But this seems to make sense out of some of my experiences that are briefly outlined through my transcript and resume.

How are your personal statements going? Which one of your stories do you want to tell?

The One with the LSAT retreat (Part 2).

Hey guys! I’m happy to report that the retreat was a success and it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be. I guess it was just one of those things I built up in my head but it was a productive weekend with some games and a lot of writing.

They had professionals who assist people with applications come and help us with our applications. Since it was part of our program, it was free for us, but they told us they charge about $350 per revision! That’s crazy!

They sat us down and had us do a few charts and free writes to get ideas out of our heads. Then they came around at each table and had short conversations with each of us. Before lunch on the first day, we all knew what we were writing our personal statements about and it was time to outline.. Throughout the course of a weekend we had solid outlines and some people even had drafts.

They also helped us on our diversity statements! Some of the ideas I ended up with are things that I either wouldn’t have thought of on my own, or would have taken me much longer to get to that point.

The professionals flew to NYC from California, so it was a blessing to have them and to work with them in person. Even though they flew back, they’ve made themselves accessible to us and we are to send them our drafts before September so get feedback while their season isn’t too busy.

We had a lot of food, slept in sleeping bags and on yoga mats, and got to hang out on an NYC rooftop and fire escape for what will probably be the only chance I get to do any of those things in my life.

It was definitely draining, but it was also worth the experience.

If you’ve come to read those post after reading my last post, thank you! My blog has been growing a bit each day and I’m always surprised and thankful. Reach out if you’d like a post about my personal statement or diversity statement process!

The one with the LSAT retreat (Part 1).

Hello again! Every time I open WordPress, I’m surprised that people visit my blog (sometimes more than once! Shoutout to you guys!). I’m grateful, and I hope that I can keep putting out content that interests my readers. If you’re reading this, and you’ve been here before, please don’t be scared to reach out! When I first started my blog(Ha I say that like it wasn’t just a month ago), I reached out to Brazen and Brunette to ask for some advice and she gave me great advice. I might not be able to give advice on anything just yet, but I’m open to hear what you’d like to know about me or my experiences!

Okay, on to the serious stuff. My LSAT fellowship has planned a “retreat” for the weekend. It’s basically a sleepover with pizza and probably watching My Cousin Vinny while working with some professionals on our personal statements. That sounds like a lot, yes. I’m not too sure what to expect which makes me quite anxious. I love being able to come home and be alone in my room at the end of a long day, so to have class all day Friday, have a sleepover, and then have class all day Saturday already sounds really draining.

To top it all off, I have a Christening to attend on Sunday morning (I’m the Godmother!), followed by a big lunch with family at my house, so there goes any chance I had at having alone time.

It’s intended for bonding and to really get a chance to start working on our personal statements. I have slight social anxiety, so sharing a space with people I’m not particularly close to or comfortable around is making me very nervous. Also the thought of being vulnerable and talking about the emotional reasons behind wanting to go to law school is easy when you’re typing it out to an unknown face that you’ll never meet or have to talk to, but it’s a whole other ball game when there are professionals in there asking you for your “story.”

I have a tendency for panic attacks when any combination of lack of sleep + uncomfortable & forced social interactions + hunger + lack of personal space are combined, so I’m hoping and praying I can hold myself together for this retreat.

Will post part 2 once I survive it!

The one with the 3L.

Hello again! So last Friday, the speaker that came to visit us is a 3L from Yale that graduated from my university and attended the same fellowship program. (If this is your first time reading my posts, then my fellowship is a 2 month long LSAT prep course that brings in public interest lawyers and law students to talk to us about their experience every Saturday.)

It was nice to hear from someone that’s still a law student because many practicing attorneys don’t remember a lot of their law school experience. She was very honest and told us that she hates law school, that she feels like an outcast because she is a child of undocumented immigrants and came from a city university, and how she finds things she likes to do in law school. She’s dedicated to public interest, which is awesome, but also addresses the fact that there’s just not enough money in public interest law. This causes some of the greatest minds to work for big law firms because the reality is, people have bills to pay and lives to take care of.

Of everything she said, I appreciated her honesty and her shared experience. We all know that many people that attend law school come from families with lawyers, so hearing from someone that didn’t have any lawyers in their family was refreshing. Her best advice was to accept the role of the outsider and play on your strengths. It’s too exhausting and not worth your time to try to fit in with groups that grew up in an environment where lawyers were readily available to them.

There are plenty of people that hate their law school experience and love practicing as lawyers. I can only hope and pray that I will love both.

The one with the Public Defender.

Hey all! It’s been a super long week of LSAT Prep, but one of the cool perks of the fellowship I’m in is that they bring public service attorneys in on Saturdays after class to talk to us about their experiences.

This week we had a Supervising Attorney from the Bronx Defenders and it was interesting to hear his experiences. He talked about his work in immigration, housing, police brutality, “qualified immunity” and how it affects his line of work, how police presence in certain neighborhoods determines which communities are most affected by certain policies. He also acknowledged his privilege and how his working experiences changed his perception or understanding of how people live.

It’s great having access to these conversations. We’re told to prepare at least 3 questions before each speaker comes so that the conversation never dies out, but so far the two speakers have been incredible at sharing their experiences and our questions end up developing more organically. It’s also great having access to these conversations because none of us have lawyers in our families and we don’t know what that environment is like. It’s awesome to see people who are passionate about their jobs, passionate about helping people, and passionate about changing our current system, even if just incrementally.

It’s also just really cool to be able to nerd out about the academics behind law. We talked about the law, past cases, and past sociology and psychology studies that have been used in cases. Meeting people that are genuine in and passionate about their work is so satisfying and breaks down the idea that lawyers are lying manipulators.

I’m sure there’s definitely some manipulating (of words at the very least) to get your point across, but lawyers and judges are responsible for so much of what we experience today. From who gets to become a US citizen to whether or not a baker has to bake for a gay couple, the judicial system has effects on our society socially and economically.

If anyone is out there reading any of this, thank you!  I love nerding out and listening to other peoples’ experiences, so please reach out if you have any stories/questions/concerns/suggestions. I’m really new at this and I appreciate any and all interaction(I’d never say that in person, but for this blog I mean it).

The one with the “What’s in my Bag?”

Hi again! I really need to figure out a new greeting. I can feel myself nervously waving at you guys through my screen.

Anyway, if you’ve read my previous posts, you’d know that I commute through NYC for LSAT prep. Our days are long, you don’t get to run home really quick for lunch and EVERYTHING IN THE AREA IS EXPENSIVE.. except for the one bodega a few blocks away and your handy $1 pizza.

Because of this, I usually bring two bags along with me every day. I bring a cute Anello backpack for my study supplies and a tote for things I need easy-access to. Here’s a comprehensive list:

Backpack:

  1. I use an Anello backpack I bought the last time I was in the Philippines. It has a secret zipper that lets you reach inside, so it makes it easy to keep my wallet safe while also having easy access to it for my Metro card.
  2. Laptop. I carry around my new Macbook which I love because it’s so light. I don’t love it because I need to bring an adapter with it to print.
  3. This file folder that I bought off Amazon. It fits A LOT of paper, it’s cute, and keeps everything organized.
  4. A bag of toiletries
    1. One of those new Secret deodorant balls because summers in NYC are rough.
    2. Gum
    3. Pads
    4. Tissues
    5. Lip balm
    6. Oil blotting sheets
  5. A pencil case
    1. Muji colored pens
    2. A Faber-Castille black pen
    3. No-skid 6in ruler
    4. Post-its
    5. Scissor
    6. Pencils
  6. Prescription glasses
  7. Hand fan and handkerchief (Habits brought over from my Filipino family. These are hot weather necessities.)

 

Tote:

  1. Blender bottle filled with ice cold green tea (I don’t drink coffee).
  2. Ziplock filled with my lunch and snacks for the whole day.
  3. Wallet
  4. Sunglasses
  5. Headphones

 

What do you take with you to class? Do you have to commute to class? Do you do online classes and chill on your couch? I’d love to know how other people are preparing!

The one with the real(est) NYC experience.

Hey again! So if you’ve ever been to NYC, know anyone from NYC, or seen anyone from NYC post on social media, you know that our public transportation is SEVERELY outdated.

NYC is made up of five boroughs (surprise! most of us don’t actually live in Manhattan). I commute from the outer boroughs to my LSAT prep right smack in Midtown (close-ish to the infamous Times Square). As beautiful as it can be to be in the middle of one of the greatest cities in the world, commuting can get really draining. This is especially true when there are delays. If you’ve ever been a commuter student, you can probably feel my pain.

It usually takes me an hour to get to class which isn’t so bad, but this morning my EXPRESS train decided to go slow AND stop at a platform for twenty minutes and then another platform for fifteen minutes. Luckily, I was only 10 minutes late for class and walked in on my prep fellowship mid-meditation(more on that later. Ha! Now you have to come back later).

After that not-so-great start to my morning, I was working in prep and felt that I was doing really well on strengthening and weakening questions, only for my confidence to be DESTROYED while practicing timed question sets. I’ve been finding that if you skip even one word while reading to save time, it can change the whole premise. Also, I know I need to practice not inserting my real-world assumptions and rather applying the logical assumptions to see which answer choices are supporting or weakening the conclusions. AH! Having to unlearn your normal thought process and replace it with the thought process required to do well on the LSAT is proving to be difficult, but certainly not impossible.

This was then followed by more delays on my way home.

Feeling a little discouraged today, but it’s only the beginning and it’s all part of the process. Wishing everyone else studying for the LSAT luck in their studying endeavors. I’m not giving up yet and I hope none of you are!

 

P.S. That’s my notebook and my obsessively color coded LSAT notes!