As students become familiar with the LSAT and begin studying for it, they become more aware of what the exam requires of them, and, in the process, they often develop a series of so-called “LSAT excuses” that they use to explain away issues or difficulties they are having with the exam.
Nothing impacts any activity more detrimentally than a negative perspective or attitude. They create artificial walls behind which people can hide when it’s convenient. On an exam of this magnitude, such an attitude can exact an even more devastating blow.
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When students encounter these LSAT excuses, they need to find ways to combat them, overcome them, and ultimately eliminate them from discussion. Sure, it’s easy for an instructor (or anyone) to respond to these excuses by saying they simply need to stop. However, that kind of response is often inadequate and unproductive.
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There should be more substantive responses to these LSAT excuses – advice that helps a student address and overcome an excuse in a positive and productive way. Below are LSAT Freedom’s responses to the many LSAT excuses we’ve encountered in our experiences with students.
9 LSAT Excuses
1) “I don’t do well on standardized tests.”
This LSAT excuse is probably the most common excuse bandied about by LSAT test-takers. They believe they performed poorly on the SAT or ACT, and now they believe they are performing poorly on practice LSATs. Instead of attributing the low practice score to a weakness on the exam or some other difficulty or obstacle, they immediately chalk it up to the grand conspiracy of standardized tests and the illusion that there exists a class of unfortunate souls who will never be able to perform well on these tests.
As Lord Business famously declared . . . “What a bunch of hippie, dippie baloney!”
There is no such thing as this daunting wall of “standardized tests” that a certain group of dummies can’t overcome. It is such nonsense. Do you know how we know that? Do you really want to know??
Because these standardized tests actually test you on substance. The LSAT, for example, tests you on your understanding of logic and specific logical concepts. If you learn and understand those concepts, you will be able to recognize them on the LSAT and answer questions correctly. Doing well (or not) on the exam has nothing to do with whether or not you belong in some privileged class of people that performs well on standardized exams. Instead, it has more to do with whether you know the stuff you’re being tested on.
It has nothing to do with the test. Saddle up, and learn the logic, and . . . surprise! . . . you will begin to perform well on standardized tests.
2) “It’s an IQ test, and I’m not that smart.”
Understanding how conditional reasoning works, learning the difference between correlation and cause-and-effect, and discovering how the negative proof fallacy rears its ugly head in everyday conversation does not prove you are smart. Nor does finishing four Logic Games in 25 minutes.
The same principle applies to the exams you took in high school and college: Getting an A or a B on an exam doesn’t prove you are smarter than anyone else. Nor does the fact someone else got an A or a B on an exam prove he or she is smarter than you. Doing well on an exam simply demonstrates that a person has the knowledge necessary to answer questions on that exam that tests the recall and application of that knowledge. It does not demonstrate intelligence.
If you dedicate the time to learn the logic on the LSAT and then practice consistently for a specific period of time, you will develop the knowledge necessary to perform well on the exam. It has nothing to do with intelligence.
(Well . . . maybe it demonstrates intelligence in some other way: You had the smarts to prepare for the exam while others didn’t . . .)
3) “You can’t study for the LSAT.”
Yes, you can. We understand where people are coming from on this one: It’s not an exam that resembles those exams you took in high school or college where you were required to memorize a bunch of useless information, and then you were tested on your ability to be able to regurgitate that information onto a piece of paper.
However, as we’ve emphasized before, you can prepare for the LSAT, and you can do so in two ways:
First, as explained above, you need to learn the logic that the exam tests.
Second, you need to practice and apply these principles by taking past LSAT exams.
Studying and preparing for the LSAT isn’t rocket science. It doesn’t require some inherent ability to do well on this particular kind of exam. It merely requires good, old-fashioned focus and hard work.
4) “It’s a logic exam. You either know logic, or you don’t.”
That’s not the way logic works. Guess what? No one knows logic going into this little LSAT game. The people who know it on the way out took the time to learn it. This excuse is no different than #3 above. You can learn the logic, just like you can prepare and study for the LSAT in general. You just have to do it.
5) “You won’t use anything from the LSAT when you’re a lawyer.”
This is a huge myth. The logical principles you will learn and apply on the LSAT, the arguments you need to evaluate on the Logical Reasoning section, and the reading and understanding you need to demonstrate on the Reading Comprehension section all have value in the legal field.
As a lawyer who litigates cases, you will be reading cases, understanding the arguments and holdings of those cases, drafting your own arguments, and analyzing and challenging an opposing attorney’s arguments. Frequently, the arguments you see – even those by a judge – will have logical flaws. Your ability to identify, isolate, and address those flaws will impact your success as a lawyer.
As a transactional or corporate lawyer, you will be preparing and reading contracts and similar documents. You need to understand what specific language means and how it will impact your client.
Don’t dismiss the LSAT because someone told you it has no application in real life. It certainly does, and your law practice and career will benefit from doing well on the exam.
6) “I’m too slow, and the LSAT is timed.”/”If I had more time, I would do better.”
This is a common excuse. We’ve heard from so many students who have told us that, “if only I could have more time, I’d finish all four Logic Games in 35 minutes.” Or this one: “When I do them without worrying about the time, I get them all right!”
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That’s just silly. It’s like saying, “If only I was as tall as Lebron James, I could dunk.”
Most of you are not as tall as Lebron James.
And none of you will have more than 35 minutes to complete a section on the LSAT.
Instead of dwelling on these limitations, however, focus on how you can use them to your advantage.
On the LSAT – believe it or not – a limited amount of time can help you.
Let us introduce you to Parkinson’s Law. You don’t need to know where that comes from, or who came up with it. You just need to know this basic principle:
A task will swell in importance in direct proportion to the time allotted to it.
Said another way: Work will increase so as to fill the time available for it to be completed. We tend to fill the time we have. For example, if you have two hours to write a research paper, you’ll use two hours. If you have four hours, you’ll spend four hours. If you have 24 hours, you will spend every waking second you have, and the project will become an unmanageable monster.
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The lesson: If you have less time within which to complete a task, you will be more focused and work more efficiently. You will dispense with unnecessary details and distractions.
On the LSAT, 35 minutes is a blessing in disguise. On the Logic Games section, that corresponds to a little over 8 ½ minutes per Logic Game. When you are practicing, find ways to focus your effort and work more efficiently. Eliminate wasteful thoughts from your head. Don’t day dream. Focus on setting up the Logic Game properly so as to reduce maneuvers later on with individual questions. If you find the correct answer on a question, move on. And so on and so forth . . .
Don’t think of time on the LSAT as a detriment. It’s an advantage and a helpful tool for you to unleash your uber-efficient test-taking ability. A sufficient amount of practice will enable you to harness this ability and apply it effectively.
7) “I get really nervous.”/”I have a lot of anxiety.”
Nerves are the result of lack of preparation and experience. The best way to overcome a bad case of the nerves is to practice as much as you can under timed conditions. The more you practice, the more familiar you will become with the exam and how to deal with its many twists and turns. You may not be able to wipe it all away, but a sufficient amount of practice with actual LSAT exams will go a long way towards reducing the anxiety you may experience on the exam.
8) “I don’t have time to study for the LSAT. I have [a job/a family/school work/a date/to take a nap].”
Everyone is busy. Everyone has commitments and obligations. So this excuse just doesn’t work. If you want to get into a good law school, you need to restructure your life a bit so you can prepare for the LSAT and do well on it. If you can’t carve out time in your schedule to prepare for the LSAT, you will not get the score you want, get into the law school you want to get into, or obtain the job you desire.
The best way to make the time to study for the exam is to create an LSAT study schedule, and then hit it consistently. This will create a productive habit of preparing for the exam at a specific time and for a set period of time.
The bottom line: If you want to do well on the LSAT, you need to make the time for it.
9) “I’m so afraid I’m going to fail.”/“I’m scared of failure.”
You’re afraid of failure? What are you going to do? What’s the alternative? Not taking the LSAT? Not going to law school? Not becoming a lawyer? If that’s what you want, that’s fine. However, if you want to become a lawyer, not taking the LSAT or not doing well on it because you’re afraid of failure isn’t the answer.
Samuel Beckett once said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
You wouldn’t believe what you can accomplish if you just tried and – in many instances – tried to achieve what some might consider the “impossible.”
The worst thing that can happen isn’t crashing and burning. It’s the inaction or the boredom that might result from not pursuing and achieving your goal simply because you’re afraid of some abstract “failure.”
Failure should never be an excuse.
Nor should any of the other LSAT excuses above!
They are just that: excuses. They are self-defeating statements that prevent you from performing the actions necessary to score high on the LSAT. They represent attempts to justify inaction. The advice above should help you eliminate these LSAT excuses from your vocabulary and focus on preparing for the exam.