Saturday, July 3, 2010

In which Gulawger improves by 30+ points on the LSAT.

Okay so part of the motivation behind starting this blog is that I've been in equal parts assisted, inspired, and terrified by the LSAT experience testimonies of  law student blogs that I've read during the course of my own personal LSAT preparation/law school application process. I was so inspired/shaken to the core that I  would like to do the same for others. Let me tell you a story:
Once upon a time in 2007, there was a beautiful Ivy League undergraduate princess who signed up to try to slay the evil LSAT dragon. This regal princess was a rising senior living and working in the kingdom of Manhattan for the summer. She was having F-U-N and started dating a laid-back Brooklyn hipster prince. To her, this LSAT dragon was no monster! "I'm smart! I'm a great standardized tester!" she thought, "It will be like the SAT when I just showed up without even my own pencil and got a score of which all the court was proud!" A sage elder had advised her to enroll in a Kaplan LSAT Prep class, for, the sage one warned, this was a formidable foe of a beast and mercenary assistance would be of vital aid. The princess sat in an auditorium with 75 other aspiring LSAT slayers two nights a week, yawning, twirling her hair, jeering at her daft classmates and their asinine questions in her head, and running with untouched homework assignments in tow toward her valiant steed, the L train, for her journey onward to her prince awaiting in fair Williamsburg. After a few weeks, the princess deigned not to attend class. In fact, she stopped thinking about the reality of the LSAT dragon at all. Summer ended. The princess returned to start her senior year, her hipster prince revealed himself as merely an incompetent yeoman, and suddenly the date of fighting the LSAT dragon presented itself as only 3 weeks away. In the chateau library, the princess toiled for hours under stacks and stacks of class books and LSAT books. Kind of..The charms of the last year at the ye olde pub dazzled her nightly, and the fair maiden soon realized she did not understand anything about the LSAT beast. A practice test revealed the worst. Over 50% of aspiring slayers would fare better. "This cannot be," said she. The princess tried again. Her score decreased by 2 points and her kingdom was covered in ominous shadow. The maiden panicked. She screamed into the night sky from atop her high castle balcony. She cancelled her spot for trying to slay the September LSAT dragon immediately. 
Isn't this story truly bone-chilling? Truly unsettling, right? SPOILER ALERT (NSFW): This regal princess was I, and Gulawger now I am. I'm not quite sure what I was thinking. Actually, that's a lie. I was thinking almost nothing. If my brain were attached to one of those monitors on a medical drama, there would be hardly a beep to be heard. I didn't respect the beast and my frightening practice test scores basically scrawled my grim reality in animal blood on the wall. A good LSAT score was not going to come without actually, legitimately, not half-assed, trying. 

The fall semester of senior year trickled by and I decided to sign up for the June 2008 LSAT. I have no idea why I thought I'd have enough time to study and also care about the grades that would forever appear on my transcript, but I did. In the mean time, I applied to a program to teach English in France for the next year. "I'll just take the LSAT in June, do wonderfully, and apply to law school from France," I thought to myself. Surprise, surprise, I didn't even crack a book until May when I graduated. "Ain't gonna happen," I think were my exact words after 30 minutes of looking over the mountain of unanswered Kaplan workbook questions. Then I did the obvious and booked a two month backpacking trip and then moved immediately to France. I made a mental oath not to think about the path to law school during my time there, and for the most part succeeded... until I moved back home.

Scene changes back to Gulawger's house in the summer of 2009. Feeling re-focused. Newly confident. Sign up immediately for a TestMasters course. Kaplan was too gimmicky for me, so I switched. At the time I haven't really spoken, listened to, or read English in over 9 months. Take my first diagnostic test on the first day of class. ::sound of nuclear bomb falling and liquidating the Earth:: Yeah, that bad. Even worse than my 2 practice tests the year before when I cared way less about the test. 10 points worse to be exact. That night I drank a bottle of wine alone and reached a mental crossroads. Either really study and work for this or just fuckin forget about it already. I chose option A. Unemployed and with nothing but time on my hands, I started working my ass off. Did all of the homework. Went through all of said homework and more importantly, worked through everything a second time to understand why I got questions right and why I got questions wrong. This took frequent mental health breaks and a lot of time. Next diagnostic test 3 weeks later, 10 point improvement. Drank another bottle of wine alone. Decided to keep the faith and keep on truckin. Next diagnostic test 2 weeks later, 10 point improvement over Diagnostic 1. 

Finally, I felt on track and like I actually understood the logic. I became a wolverine on a feeding frenzy and started creeping toward my goal score about a month before the September test. I actually hit my goal score 3 days before. In retrospect, that wasn't really a good enough indicator that I was ready to hit a home run on test day, but at the time I was AMPED. The way I felt on test day is fodder for a different post, so I'll leave that be for now, but it came and went. Felt good. 3 weeks later, I see that my score was ehhhhh okay good. I was devastated. I happened to be riding the escalator at Penn Station in New York going to visit some college friends when I received the e-mail from LSAC. Saw the three digit number, put my phone back in my bag, and calmly decided that I deserved to go an a short bender. That night I drank many bottles of wine/vodka/sewer water, but this time in sympathetic company. The next morning I got talked into/forcibly dressed in men's collegiate rowing swag/physically dragged to a day of drinking heavily and pretending to watch some horse races while falling in mud and sprawling in self-pity on decorative bails of hay. Self-pity party continued for another 2 weeks until I made the decision to sign up for round 2 with the December LSAT. I had to erase all the hours and hours and hours of work I put into my TestMasters workbooks and I actually caused friction blisters on my hands. Partly because I was erasing in a rage blackout fury and partly because there were hundreds and hundreds of pages that needed to be scrubbed completely clean in order to start anew. Mental anguish! Ennui! Despair! I also did about 15 practice tests between the start of October and the end of November, and finally I started to score consistently THIRTY TWO or more points better than I had on my most bottom of the soul-scraping barrel of a diagnostic just 4 months before. Test day (again to be discussed in a later post) came along and I felt great. Test results were released cruelly 3 days after Christmas (that's not to say that I wasn't compulsively checking for a week before, just in case the fully automated system forgot to notify just me). Finally, happiness.

I actually Google searched "possible to score 30 points higher on LSAT?" when I was at the pit of pits, and I write now, here today, saying yes. It is possible. But only after (for me) literal blood, sweat, and tears. And also the shedding of total apathy and false confidence. For some of my friends (now 3Ls at the creme de la creme), the LSAT wasn't a thang. Their brains just worked in ways that ran at least parallel to the test. Not so for me. So if your way of thinking suits the test right away, good for you. Ku-fucking-dos. But if like me, you gotta work for it even though you've never before had to work and fail and work and fail at something academically... there is hope. Soldier on, brave LSAT takers. The Gulawger is living proof that (to borrow the words of the infallible Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame) you can make it work. 

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