I’m consistently struggling with the same logical reasoning problem type, so I’ve decided to suck it up and go back over a few chapters in the Logical Reasoning Bible. I’m reading all the text and doing all the exercises so I can get this down pat. I’ve gotten to the point where I can do the Reading Comprehension timed and score over 90% and the Games are getting faster and more accurate as well. It’s just the LR holding be back now and I’m not going to let it. I will win this thing!
I finished preptest 10 today and it was a disaster. High-150s disaster. By the time I finished the test and tallied my raw score, though, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. I was missing way too many questions in a row in each section for it to be a good thing and I suspected the final result would be disappointing. I was right.
I’ve decided to celebrate the peaks (the high scores) and use the valleys (the low scores) to highlight what I need to work on. Nothing else. The valleys are not worth worrying about and so far are just anomalies. The peaks are very good and I am choosing to focus on the fact that those are even possible for me and use them as something to strive for. The important thing with my high scores is that I hold onto them as something that I am capable of, and compare me only to myself, not to others.
I’ve moved on. As soon as I finished that test I moved on to the next one. I know what I did wrong on the last one, which was keep too close of an eye on how well it was going, so that by the time I was about halfway through I knew that it was no longer possible for me to get a score anywhere near what I wanted. So I more or less stopped trying. I just could not force myself to dig into the questions and care the way I needed to. I did still approach them a few at a time and go over the ones I got wrong kinda carefully so I could attempt to learn from them, but I wasn’t doing enough. I still needed to finish it for the practice, even if it wasn’t good practice, though, so I finished even though the test’s value was diminished.
For this next one, I’m going more slowly. Even though I find it difficult to check my answers one at a time because I can always get a slight glance at the correct next answer down and have that affect how I process the next questions, I’m going to do that for these (except the logic games, because those should be graded as a whole, as far as I can tell).
I’ve done about a dozen logical reasoning questions of this test. I’m going through them more deliberately than I have any others before. I’m taking them one at a time, some of them one word at a time, and digging into the content and question type as well as I can. For each question I’m going back to my book and notes to review how to do it before I answer. Once I’ve answered, I check it, then even if I got it right, I go find the question HERE, and if I still need more, compare that back to the book again. The method is slow and tedious, but so far I like to think it’s working. What will ultimately show if it works is how well both this test and the next one turn out.
I finally get it.
In the beginning it was the games that were getting me. I’d miss every question and not know why. I’m getting better at those now (I got every question right on the first two on preptest 9), so they’re not what’s slowing me down as much anymore. They still need some work, but other things as keeping me from my goals.
Now it’s the logical reasoning. I’m doing well enough on each section, but not as well as I need for my goals. I know enough to know what I don’t know and go back to the book to review, but with some of this stuff it’s just going to take a lot of repetition before I really get it. Lots and lots of repetition. So I keep doing the tests. Everything I’ve read has said to do as many preptests as possible. I have done four and a half and own thirteen. By November I plan to have done at least ten more than that.
With the necessary assumption, I think I’m finally getting it, and that’s going to help me quite a bit. I’d put something here about it, how to do them, but I don’t think I understand it well enough to attempt in any way to teach it yet. I will say that this was very helpful. Even though it says basically the same thing as my book, for some reason seeing it spelled out in this way and this context got it to gel for me.
Having finished both of my PowerScore books, it was time to take a new preptest. I took preptest B out of my first book and ended up with a 161, which is a pretty good improvement over my initial diagnostic score of 156. It’s not stellar and it won’t get me what I need, but it’s a great start. If I can continue with this progress, I should be doing ok by December (or February if I’m a weenie).
As I checked the answers, I made sure to mark what I need to look up in my PowerScore books. Ideally, this will help me improve on those types of questions. I did feel good that even though I wasn’t able to come up with the right answers I was able to identify the question types. This seems to be a step in a positive direction.
The logic games are going well now and I’ve even started to look forward to them. What I’m frustrated with now is the reading comprehension. Even though reading is my thing, I haven’t read in this way or for this purpose in a long time and it’s more challenging than I expected. It’s been difficult to get into that sort of analysis. Hopefully I can pick up on it. I need that section to go well to compensate for the logical reasoning one, which I still don’t have a lot of faith in.
I’ve reached a point now where I’m starting to get more and more questions right per “game.” There have been a few games now that I’ve scored perfectly on, and several others where I’ve missed only one or two.
The ones I fail miserably at, though, are standing out most in my mind. There’s celebration when I “win,” but it’s nothing compared to the panic when I “lose.”
I’m seized immediately by fear that I’m too stupid for this. That I’m wasting not only my time, but my family’s time as well. All the time and energy I’m putting into this project is time and energy I am necessarily not spending with them. That little voice in the back of my mind nags that I’m a selfish fool, so If I’m going to do this, I had better do it well. “Failures” like this make me doubt that I can.
It’s ridiculous, I know, that such small failures (if they can even really be called that) cause me such dramatic doubt, but they do. I’m horribly insecure about my intellect. I’ve been a slightly-above-mediocre student my whole life (top half of everything except math and gym), though I’ve always known that if I had put in more effort I could’ve been a top student.
Or so I’ve always let myself believe. I don’t think I ever didn’t really try that hard because I was afraid that if I tried and failed it would prove I really was as mediocre as my actual performance indicated, but that I didn’t put in the extra effort because I am lazy. I will admit that: I am lazy, and it more than likely is the root of my mediocrity.
But what if I’m wrong about that? WHAT IF I’m not mediocre because I’m lazy, but because I really am mediocre or less?
So I’m nervous for that reason (in addition to others) about this whole endeavor, and any setback feeds that insecurity. When I “fail” I feel like I’m “caught” pretending to be something I’m not, where the thing I am not is “smart” and the thing I’m “caught” at is being “stupid.” A wolf in sheep’s clothing, who, to mix metaphors, discovers the clothes never existed. (Does that make any sense? I’m not sure anymore.)
The big problem is now that the games are starting to click, I’m starting to expect more of myself. In the beginning I knew I would get most of the questions wrong because these things are hard for me, but now I know I can get them right. When I go back to the explanations of the ones I get wrong, more often than not now the right answer is obvious. This was not always the case, and that progress both thrills and frightens me. If they’re so obvious, why am I getting them wrong? If I’m going to get these things wrong, then why am I doing all this work and making these sacrifices (and putting them on my family as well)?
And now I’m into the logical reasoning. This is harder for me than I thought it would be. In the initial practice test, I did fine on it. Not a stellar score, but better than 60%, so I didn’t worry much. Now that I know more about them but haven’t worked as extensively with this new understanding, I think I’m overapplying too much of my new arsenal of help and sinking my own ship. As I progress through more and more of these questions, I think I’ll be able to scale back what I bring to each question and not overwhelm myself into failure. It happened with the “games” so I think it can happen here.
Honestly, though, I’m not entirely sure. As I said, I’ve never really put this much effort into anything like this before. I didn’t have to; since I could do well enough to suit myself without it, why bother? So I didn’t. The one other thing I studied for, though not nearly to the extent to which I’m studying for this, was the math portion of the GRE, which I did horribly on twice, though my final score was satisfactory.
But that didn’t work, so how much can this? Stupid question, since evidence from the “games” is that it can work very well for me. But I’ve never really done this before, so I’m nervous.
Hell, I’m scared.
Yesterday I was supposed to meet a client at a local coffee place, or so I thought. I wasn’t sure she had gotten the email, but I decided to go anyway. I figured I could arrive early, study til she came, then keep studying until they closed after she left. Or, if she didn’t come, I’d just study until they closed.
It turns out she didn’t get the email, so I texted her and we rescheduled. This gave me, in theory, several hours of uninterrupted study time since it turns out coffee shops, or at least this one, aren’t very busy and are actually pretty quiet at dinner time.
So I ordered myself a way overpriced chicken Caesar wrap and set to studying. I made it through several pages of the logical reasoning book and felt like I made some progress, even if it is very slow. I planned to stay long enough to finish a chapter of that and do a “game” or two, but it’s just too cold there.
I learned the hard way that when I’m so cold my jaw is chattering and my nose is dripping I can’t focus. I read things over and over and they weren’t sinking in or sticking like they usually do.
There’s a reason grad students flock to these places (there was a medical student next to me and a theology student a few tables over), and there’s a reason they’re all wearing layers and drinking hot beverages.
One of the friends I contacted about my pursuits said that one of the hardest parts of the LSAT was the mental endurance. It’s hard to sustain that kind of focus and intensity for hours, especially when the weight of the outcome is so significant.
I haven’t even gotten to that problem yet. I’m finding that I can barely focus on reading the logical reasoning text or doing a game for more than a few minutes or sentences at a time. This is not good, not just for LSAT purposes, but in general, so I’ve decided to fix it.
Now I use a timer, a free app on my phone (see picture above). I set a timer for 20-30 minutes and read nonstop during that time. I fight all urges to look around, skip ahead in the book, check the time, look at my phone, or think about anything else at all. These 20-30 minutes have already been set aside for this one thing and nothing else matters during this time; nothing else is as important or allowed to intrude. After some reading or studying time I give myself time to do something else, usually read whatever book I’m reading (currently Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir), facebook, pinterest, or lawschoolnumbers.com. I get these breaks and indulgences for exactly 20 minutes, and then it’s time to study some more.
I’m planning to increase the time on work and decrease the treats as time passes, slowly working toward full, timed preptests by the end of summer. For now, I only time the logical reasoning reading and my “free” time, but not the practice logic “games,” which I still try to do daily. I’m not ready for those to be under time constraint yet; I need to be good at doing them period before I try to get good at doing them fast. Hopefully I’ll be ready in time.
I’ve been doing it for about a week and it seems to be working. At first I had a hard time ceding control to the timer and trusting it, but I’m slowly giving over to it. I think I was afraid that I’d get too involved in studying and too much time would pass. The library would close and I’d be stranded in the middle of a difficult section, forcing me to start the whole section over again next time because there’s no way I’d adequately remember or understand the section doing it piecemeal. But I always make sure that I have plenty of time, so I’m learning to let go.
So that’s my new strategy, my new discipline. I hope it works not just for the LSAT, but for school, work, and other things in general.
I finally got to the library to start on my new book, and it is a challenge.
It’s not a challenge like the first book was; it’s something different. With the logic “games” book, I more or less had no idea what I was doing when I went into it. I had to learn (or re-learn, because I’m pretty sure we did those games in TAG in elementary school) something new. All the processes of getting those things done and done (mostly) right was hard, but after a lot of work I think I was able to do it.
This new section, though, I think I mostly can do. I did well enough on it in my first preptest, probably better than many do on the real thing, but not well enough for what I need. So I bought the book to help myself out. I need to know an efficient way to tackle this to ensure the best score I can possibly get. This means that although I probably am mostly capable of these things, I still have some work to do and need some help.
The approach to doing these things is not completely foreign to me. I have seen most of the language and logic ideas before in my ethics and religion classes (one of my minors and my major, respectively), but I’ve never applied it to constantly changing brief topics or in a timed setting. With enough study time, if I had nearly unlimited time to do the sections, I think I could do very well on the final test. But I don’t. I have 35 minutes, so I need to be efficient. Therefore, book.
What’s really different about this book is how much reading there is to it. It’s silly that it’s the first thing I noticed when I first opened the book, but there are a lot of words in this thing. The first book was full of diagrams and the pleasant white space around them. There aren’t so many diagrams in this one and nearly every page is grey with text. The writing is dense with complicated ideas spelled out in simple terms, so the going is slow. I appreciate that the writers took the time and words to slowly draw out all these complex ideas in a away that’s easy to follow, but, I know I already said it, it’s slow going.
Ultimately, though, I think it will be worth it. I’m less than a hundred pages in and I already feel like I’m making progress. I’m getting the sense that I understand the construction of the questions better and by the time I finish I will be able to approach the sections confidently.
Let’s see how this goes.