Three weeks

It’s been three weeks since I looked at my LSAT stuff, and it shows. I’ve forgotten a lot and am struggling in areas I haven’t had trouble with in months. Fortunately, I have the notecards and notes I took before I took a little break, so they’ve helped me limp back into the race.

Also, the break is justified: I got a part-time job, which required two weeks of desperately searching for childcare, and then it was Thanksgiving. Which was also the same week as my first days of work. So I’m not just lazy, I’m also ambitious!

Only 68 days til it’s over.

Procrastinating

How many times have I used that as a post title or mentioned the word in a post now? Three? Four? A dozen? I don’t know and I don’t think I want to, but I’m going to do it again.

I have about thirteen weeks until the test, and since most pre-made schedules are for twelve weeks, bad reasoning says I have a week of “LSAT vacation.” I know it’s bad reasoning and really just flat-out stupid, but I’m doing it anyway. I’m not going to take the whole week, just today.

Yesterday I took my husband for his Birthmas (Christmas+Birthday) present, which was him getting to fly a small plane. As an added bonus, the instructor let me ride along for free in the back seat of the tiny plane. The husband is a great pilot and the instructor was incredible, but it was still a lot of work for me to be personally responsible for willing the plane to stay in the air.

We had intended to go to dinner and then some Christmas shopping afterword and not be home til late, but what really happened was a little dinner, walking around a mall that it turns out closed at about six thirty, sharing a small ice cream, and being home by around seven. We said thanks to the babysitters (the husband’s parents), put the kids to bed, started a TV show, and I was out cold by 9:30. I barely woke up at six this morning.

So I’m still tired. Both kids are teething, with something like ten teeth coming in between the two of them. They’re also both potty training, though the older one used to be fully trained, but has had some trouble in the last few months. It was a long day. So tonight I achieve nothing that involves much brainpower. I have two work projects due by Wednesday, but they can get done tomorrow. I also really should study since we have a friend coming to stay with us for Thursday through Saturday.

I’m not going to do any of that grown up responsible stuff. I’m going to pretend to run and watch some Supernatural, then when the kids go to bed I’ll try to watch a show with the husband again and probably be asleep by 930. It’ll be ok.

No. It’ll be great.

A Real Time Line

Now that I have a definite deadline I can make a plan. Since there are so many of these available online and in print, it doesn’t make much sense for me to try to cook my own up. No need to reinvent the wheel.

However, the assumption (oh yes I used that word) of most or all of these is that the test-taker is new to LSAT material. This means that these schedules are created with the first several weeks introducing the user to the World of the LSAT: How to do the games, how to read the logical reasoning, the different types of questions and how to attack them, the mindset and assumptions of the logical reasoning question authors, and other things you need to know if you’re going to stand a fighting chance on this thing.

I’m not one of those. I’ve read the books and the blogs and the essays and watched the videos. I’ve heard pretty much all of it, so I don’t need to spend weeks studying up on it, taking the time again as though this is my first time seeing it. So far my best score is 171, untimed, so I am getting a lot of it. I just need reminders. These things, my months of studying already and the fact that it is at least to some degree working, mean that the pre-made schedules aren’t going to be quite right for my needs. They will work as a great starting place and way to figure out how to organize my time and practice.

Most of them seem to want you to study hard on a single thing for a few days or a week, with small pieces of the other sections spattered in there so you don’t forget those things while you’re intensely looking at the other. For example, many will have you doing only one type of logic game for several days, but to make sure you don’t lose what you’ve learned about the other things, to do a few of each type of logical reasoning and a couple reading comprehension passages. That seems like it should work for me, so I’m going to give it a try.

There are obstacles to this for me, things that make my schedule erratic and difficult to even really call a “schedule,” such as my kids, work, home, family, and husband, most of which I did not have five or more years ago (the age of most test-takers and the age group for whom many of the schedules are developed). So it’s going to take some doing.

I think it’s going to be worth it. At least it better be. It’s going to cost me around $100 in books by the time I’m done, and the test itself is $175, a lot of money for me.

On another note, I finished Grey’s a long time ago, then finished Scandal, and have moved on to Supernatural. This is yet another show people have been telling me to watch for years and I don’t know why I held out. It’s good. Even if it is scary and  I generally don’t care for scary, I can handle this one.

Necessary Assumption

  • Necessary Assumption Questions, Negation Test, and Must be True Qs from “LSAT Blog: Ace the LSAT”
    • Discusses a “common and effective strategy” for attacking these questions
    • The “Negation”/”Denial” Test
    • “As the name implies, this “test” requires you to negate each of the answer choices. The correct answer choice, when negated, renders the argument invalid. The argument cannot be valid if the necessary assumption is not true. After all, the necessary assumption is, in fact, necessary for the argument to work” [emphasis mine]
    • “Ask yourself as you read each answer choice, does this *need* to be true for the evidence to require the conclusion?” [emphasis mine]
    • Negate the answer to the logical opposite, not polar opposite (“All people are standing” –> “Not all people are standing”)
    • Necessary Assumption questions are in the Must be True category
    • Correct answer does not bring in any new information
  • What is a Necessary Assumption? from Manhattan Prep Forums
    • “A necessary assumption is something that is REQUIRED for the argument to be true, meaning if this assumption is false, then the argument CANNOT be valid. The conclusion WILL not follow given the evidence.”
    • “Necessary assumptions, when negated, will destroy the argument (meaning, you can’t definitively draw the conclusion given the premises).” [emphasis mine]
    • “You negate the answer choice, and then add it into the argument. If it’s truly a necessary assumption, you should find yourself saying “Well, how can we draw that conclusion then?!”” [emphasis mine]
    • “If it’s not a necessary assumption, the negated form should be irrelevant to whether we can draw the conclusion or not.” [emphasis mine]
  • How to Master LSAT Logical Reasoning Necessary Assumption Questions by Lawschooli.
    • “When you hear the word ‘assumption’, I want you to just think ‘premise’. In an LSAT LR question, a necessary assumption is just another premise that supports the conclusion, only it goes unsaid. Commit this to memory: a necessary assumption is really just an unstated premise.”
    • Look for leaps and assumptions
    • Watch for leaps between cause and effect. Does the stated cause necessarily or only cause the effect?
    • “Spotting assumptions can be tough. The truth is that your brain is probably so good at understanding unstated assumptions that you don’t often even notice them.”
    • “…you are trying to identify the passage author’s assumptions, not make your own. Remember that.” [emphasis mine]
    • “You simply see what would happen to the argument if the assumption you are testing is not true. If the argument gets blown all to bits by negating an answer choice, then bam, you know that assumption was necessary. It’s the right answer.” [emphasis mine]
    • Excellent demonstration of negation!
    • “If you can imagine any reason why the argument can survive without a premise, it’s not that right answer.”
  • How to Approach Necessary Assumption Questions by 7sage
    • “Necessary assumptions can wreck an argument.” [emphasis mine]
    • “Argument (valid) –> Necessary Assumption (true)
      /Necessary Assumption –> /Argument” [emphasis mine]
    • There are two types of Necessary Assumptions: Shield & Bridge
      • “Answers to shield type necessary assumption questions protect your argument from being wrecked.” [emphasis mine]
      • Bridge: “these answer choices point out gaps in the logic of the argument.” [emphasis mine]; “Bridge questions trade on your inclination to conflate two different ideas“; you must make the connection, and that connection must be vital to the conclusion; “It’s your job to find this bridge in the answer choice that takes you from the premise to the conclusion.
  • What Necessary Assumption Means by Foxlsat.com
    • “Your task is to identify an answer that must be true, in order for the argument to even conceivably be true. In other words, it’s asking you to identify an answer that, if untrue, would cause the argument to fail. In other words, it’s asking for a necessary condition.” [bolding mine, italics and link theirs]
  • Necessary Assumption Questions Suck Ass by thedreadedlsat.tumblr.com
    • “I think of Necessary Assumption questions as Weaken questions. I look for ways to weaken the argument and then search the negated answer choices that weakens the argument.” [emphasis mine]
    • Pay attention to the scope of the stimulus and the answer choices, gives a good explanation of negation

Context

  • Still watching Grey’s, now into the ninth season just after the plane crash. They brought in this new herd of interns probably hoping to keep the series going smoothly with a new cast, probably what ER did, but I don’t think it works. I just really do not care about these new characters. They’re for the most part not compelling or interesting.
  • I just finished Matt McCarthy’s “The Real Doctor Will See You Now” and I loved it. I felt there could have been more to tell about that year of training and living that got buried in trying to keep a narrative going. I understand that personal nonfiction requires an ongoing story in order to make it readable, but in this case it overwhelmed the general idea. At least I thought so.
  • I bought another new book, this one the most recent book of 10 LSATs available, and I plan to start doing those sometime this coming week. I have two games and the three other sections left to go in the last test of my old book of old tests first.
  • My LSAT progress is still disappointing. I’m averaging low 160s still, so I’m plateaued and it’s frustrating as hell. I just want my scores to improve already! I’m consistently scoring 95% or better on the reading comprehension and logic games parts, but the analytical reasoning just isn’t good enough. I’m still reviewing my Logic Games Bible and reading other things online as I come across them and reading answer explanations on Manhattan Prep for each question, but so far it’s not quite good enough. I’m not sure if I need to do more and if I keep doing it, it will eventually just click and sink in, or if I need to go another route. Advice?
  • I’ve spent the last two weeks trapped inside and it’s making me a little nuts. I was sick for the whole week two weeks ago with headaches, exhaustion, and light sensitivity, so even though the weather was great, the kids and I were stuck inside. For this past week it’s been over 90 by noon every day with a bazillion percent humidity, so we’ve been outside all morning until naptime, then trapped in here all afternoon and evening.
  • Only three weeks til our big trip! and I turn thirty… Excited to go be somewhere new with little responsibility and to have the kids spend some time with their grandparents, who are coming to the house to watch them.

Back at it

I had to take a few days (ok, a week and a half) off because I was getting too stressed about this whole thing. Also, I was sick, but that’s just a convenient coincidence. The sick allowed me to feel fine with the not working. Sick allowed me to forgive myself for not punishing myself for my laziness and fragility (as demonstrated by the panicking). Sick sucks, but it was exactly what I needed.

Now that I’m fewer than 100 days from the test and home from a weekend with my family for a wedding, it’s time to get back at it. It’s time to get back to work and get things done.

I think I’m going to give myself the rest of this week to finish re-reading and highlighting my Logical Reasoning book, then get back to the preptests. I’ll finish the last two or three of the really old ones (1990s tests) I bought earlier this year, then move on to the much newer ones I bought last week, which i think also include the Comparative Reading section.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

Back to the books

I’ve now re-read the chapters on conditional reasoning and justify questions and I’m feeling better. I think I’ll need to read them again and again, but I’m getting there. I’m feeling a little better about this whole thing, or at least the panic is a little better today. I don’t know if the relaxing is a result of the preparation or the fact that I’ve started ellipticalling again in addition to biking several miles a day with both kids in the trailer. It seems most likely that it’s a combination of both.

Either way, today I’m feeling less insecure, less stupid, and more capable. I can totally do this.

Rereading

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!

More steps forward

Yesterday evening the boys and I walked over to a neighbor’s house to check out their in-home daycare. I’m considering sending them there for the week immediately before the LSAT so I can study intensively without distraction.

This is big step for me because it’s the beginning of a real commitment to taking the LSAT this December instead of chickening out and waiting until next February or even June. I’m making a financial commitment to this neighbor (about $350 for two kids under three for five full weekdays) and letting more people in my immediate life know about my plans, thus upping the accountability.

The daycare seemed like a great fit, even if the kids are going to be there for just a week. They’ll have fun and the lady who runs it seems great. But I’m still scared. Committing to this means committing not only to this administration of the LSAT, but, because the sole reason I’m doing it is to spend a week studying intensely with no distractions, I need to make this additional (and technically not required) investment worth it. There’s pressure now to get as much out of this free time as possible, not waste a single second (or penny) being distracted or practicing inefficiently.

Yet more fear. Part of me wonders if I’m this freaked out about just the LSAT, how will I fare in actual law school, where every day will entail classwork or prepping for tests, all of which will seem as significant as this one? How will I do when I’m not just giving up my evenings with my children, but weekends and some weekdays (though they will be in school full-time when/if I do go to school) and the stakes, the need for success to prove that this isn’t some horrible selfish thing, are so much higher?

I am not stupid

I have to keep reminding myself this over and over and over and over….

Just because I missed one I felt certain was correct does not mean I am stupid. It means I need to review that concept to figure out what I misunderstood and use the new information to do better next time.

Just because I missed several in a row does not mean I am stupid. It means I have a few concepts I need to work on yet, that I need to take more time, that I need to read more carefully, that I need to relax, that I need to focus…

Just because I missed some that the answer helper sites say are “easy” does not mean I am stupid. It means my strengths lay elsewhere and I have found something new to work on.

I am not stupid.

I can do this.