This is the third in a series of articles about what to do if you find that you are running out of time on the LSAT test. This article includes suggestions for LSAT time management. This article series covers the following articles:
LSAT Time Management
Timing is the key to a higher score on the LSAT. As you saw in the first article in this series, you can get from a 145 to a 160 simply by eliminating three wrong answers and making a guess between the right answer and the next most tempting answer. That’s exciting news, but you may be saying, “the reason I got a 145 on my last practice test was not that I didn’t know the right answers, it’s that I didn’t have time to get to half the questions.”
This is typical for new TestSherpa students. Some of the questions were straightforward enough that you confidently answered the right answer and moved along. Some of the questions were difficult enough that you struggled between two or three answer choices and finally marked one of them. Taking the extra time with those tough questions means you probably got them right too. Unfortunately, taking the time with those tough questions means you missed out on some other easier questions elsewhere in the exam. Here are some simple tips for time management on the LSAT.
No Order for Questions on the LSAT
The LSAT does not present questions in order of difficulty. You could have a couple really tough questions right off the bat, and have two of the easiest questions tucked away at the end of the test. So if you answered the questions in order, it means you spent a lot of time struggling on a hard question at the expense of some easy questions you didn’t have time to read. You must learn to quickly guess through the hard questions so that you have time for the easy questions. You might even need to skip the hard ones entirely.
Skilled TestSherpa students realize that guessing between the right answer and the next most tempting answer is like getting half a point right. That starts to add up over time.
Scan the Section
Since the LSAT is not in order of difficulty, take a moment to scan each test section before you start. With Reading Comprehension or Analytical Reasoning, start with the passage or game that looks the least intimidating. With Logical Reasoning, start with a few short easy questions. This is a great way to rack up points early while gaining confidence in your TestSherpa-abilities.
Skip the Hard Questions
You must learn to skip the hard questions. As a pre-law student, you’re used to striving for perfection. You would never think of skipping a test in one class so that you could positively nail a test in another class. No, you would probably study twice as hard to nail both tests. Unfortunately, the LSAT only gives you 35 minutes per section. You don’t have time to work twice as hard — you have to make some hard choices.
This is a deliberate move by the test makers. Remember, everything on the LSAT relates to your success as a law student. Part of succeeding in both the LSAT test and in law school is prioritizing your time in the most effective manner. Unlike your undergraduate career, you may not have time to read every single case and briefing before a class. Can you identify the most effective use of the time you have and still get ahead?
Are you still not convinced that skipping hard questions is the greatest key to success in the LSAT? Think of this analogy. Imagine that those 35 minutes you have per section are actually 35 dollars. You have $35 to spend on points, and you want to buy as many points as you can. Some questions take you one minute to answer, costing you $1 for that point. Others may take three minutes, or cost $3 for that point. Others may take you 30 seconds and are an amazing bargain at 50 cents per point. Since the LSAT doesn’t present questions in order of difficulty, but mixes easy and hard questions together at random, you will face a mix of $1, $2, even $5 questions strung together.
Why would you spend $5 on a point when there are 50 cent points somewhere else in the test section? You wouldn’t turn down a 50 cent apple in the grocery store in favor of buying the same apple for $5 would you? That’s essentially what you’re doing if you answer the questions in order. You must skip the hard questions so that you have time for the easy questions. If you run out of time and all you have left to guess on are a couple of questions that would’ve taken 10 minutes to answer, then no harm done. That’s a lot better than taking the 10 minutes to answer those two questions at the expense of 9 or 10 easier questions.
Use your LSAT Test Booklet
If you’re going to recreate the order of the test on the fly so you can answer all of the easier questions first, you’re going to need a plan to keep track of all of the questions. Here are a few tips for using your test booklet.
- When you answer a question and mark it on the form, put a scratch through the question’s number on the LSAT test booklet.
- When you decide immediately that a question looks too long, confusing or has a question stem you don’t like, circle the number and move on.
- If you eliminate a wrong answer, cross the letter out of the test booklet so that you don’t have to re-read the answers if you need to return.
- If you made an attempt at an answer but didn’t decide conclusively (e.g., you eliminated two answers you knew were wrong, but couldn’t decide on the best answer), put a big question mark by the questions. Then you can find it if you have time at the end of the LSAT section.
- When the status of any of the above changes because you had time to return to the test, cross out your prior marks and cross out the number when you finish the question.
- If you totally run out of time, you could always make random guesses on the test form itself – any guess is 1/5 of a point better than no guess.
I Still Ran Out of Time
Running out of time is not as big a deal as you might think. Only a handful of students finish every section of every test with complete confidence (i.e., no guessing). Only one candidate out of 1,000 will get a 180, and even then, they might have missed a few questions. By using the right guessing and skipping strategies, you can be confident that you maximized your score for the test.
If time is called and you have blank answers, quickly fill in guesses. Remember, there is no penalty for wrong answers, so you’ll get about 20% of those blank questions correct.
LSAT Time Management Summary Tips
- There is no penalty for guessing on the LSAT. A good guessing and skipping strategy can add 25 or 30 points to your raw score.
- The LSAT is not in order of difficulty. Skip around and get all the easy questions bagged before you worry about the harder questions.
- As you study the TestSherpa method, learn the wrong answers. No one cares if you understand why the right answer is the right answer–they only care about your score. Eliminating the wrong answers is every bit as valid as knowing the right answers.
- Guess any letter you want, but never leave an answer blank.