Archive for April, 2011

Class 504.30.11

What NOT to do on the day of the test: Wake up with just enough time to get to the test.

I ran into practice test today, right before it was about to begin, and it was pretty much the worst way to start a test.  I was out of breath from running, up and down stairs.  We got new parking passes today, so I had to run back down to put the pass in my car then run back up.  Although it was only a short bit of exercise, it was just enough to dilate my pupils so I had a hard time seeing straight for the first few minutes.  By the time my vision returned to normal, I was in a state of panic because I knew I had wasted a lot of time. When the instructor gave us our five minutes warning, I still had over TEN questions left on my Logic Reasoning section.  I’ve never been this behind.  This bad start haunted me for the rest of the test.

This was only practice test and it put me in total panic, imagine if it was actual test day.  I’ve read about not showing up too early for the test so that you don’t freak yourself out by sitting around too long, I felt it’s so much worse to get there just in the nick of time.  The panic never quite left me until the end of the test, and I got the worst score out of all 4 practice tests that I’ve taken.

So really, if you think there’s even a chance of traffic jam, show up early, find parking early. Don’t cut it too close.

One of my classmates actually had something of a panic attack today.  Today, was class 5 which means we’re past the halfway point so we need to be on the road to improvement. He hasn’t seen any change since the class started, so it was really eating at him.  The instructor had to talk to him out of his funk. It’s hard to see a classmate down.  We’re on this journey together to try to improve ourselves, it didn’t matter that the test is on a bell curve, we wanted to see each other improve.  In the end, he felt better after the instructor asked him if he felt like he was starting to understand how to break down the questions, because that’s what we needed to learn first, the score would come with better application.

A couple weeks ago, I hurried through my copy of LSAT Logic Games Bible so that I could pass it along to my classmates. The first gal that got to look at it thanked me profusely today, it helped her a lot.  I told her to pass it along next week instead of returning it to me.  Our class was doing a great job at getting us to understand Logic Reasoning, but with charting Logic Games, it has been a little light.  Which, honestly, I need a lot more help on Logic Reasoning, so I don’t mind. Not to mention, Logic Reasoning makes up ~50% of your score, so I would really work hard on that.  At this point, I felt I could get through most Logic Games without problem, I missed only 4 today and 2 was from running out of time.

Today, class focused on identifying the question stem and understanding how each type of stem helps you find the correct choice.

One thing I’ve discovered in saving time: do your test with a quality wood pencil that has an excellent working eraser and only use that.  I’ve found by not having to switch between highlighter or eraser to pencil, it has shaved off a minute or so.

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Class 404.28.11

Last night, I went to a make-up class since I was playing around in the snow on Saturday.  Traffic was terrible for the night class because it starts right about peak traffic hour.  Points for Saturday class for no traffic.  I walked in a little late, and for some reason (still haven’t figured out why), everyone in this class avoided the front row seats.  In my class, that’s usually first to fill up.

We focused a bit more on Logical Reasoning, which is good, because this is a section that I feel like I could potential improve the most on.  We went over the different types of questions presented in Logical Reasoning section, and tried to identify each questions from our last test.  I’ve been doubling up on my studies with LSAT Logical Reasoning Bible.  The way the class and the book identified the questions are a bit different, but there’s enough cross-overs that it’s reinforcing what I’ve been learning.

Steven warned us that May is approaching, meaning we have only a little over a month till the test.  Logical Reasoning question types was something we should have down by now.

One thing the book did a lot better than class was explain all the different question types in great details.  I felt that class gloss over some of them a bit.  Most of the book is devoted to explaining the different question types, because it’s an important key to unlocking the mysteries of Logical Reasoning.  Both class and books went over how the the test makers try to trip you up with modifiers by swapping words like many with most in answers to trick you.  It’s evil.

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5 Reasons to Take LSAT Prep Course04.27.11

For some of you, your LSAT score might not weigh heavily on your admission file. Perhaps you were an amazing undergrad student with a superstar extracurricular record.  I was not that person. I was a very bad student in college, I hated admitting it, but I just didn’t care enough about my grade. My focus in undergrad was doing well enough to eek out a diploma and drinking $1 tequila shots.

Ten years later, I surprised myself with the burning desire to go back to law school, this might or might not be related to indigestion. I spoke to the law school admissions office of the two local school I was considering, UW and SU, and they both told me the same thing when I asked them about poor undergrad GPA. They said with each application, there were three different parts they would evaluate carefully: GPA, LSAT score, and personal statement. If any of the two parts were very strong, it could make up for one poor section. With older law school applicant, they would factor in work experience and maturity with age. It was stressed that I should study hard, do well on my LSAT and pour my heart into my personal essay.  My LSAT score would need to be mildly impressive.

In February, I bought over two hundred dollars worth of prep books to study for the LSAT. I did one self-timed LSAT test to gauge where I stood before studying. This test score should henceforth be the known as The-Test-Score-That-Must-Not-Be-Mentioned-Again, I didn’t want to throw numbers around, but let’s just say if this was an actual test, almost all my points came from writing my name on the test.

I started working my way through The PowerScore LSAT Logic Games Bible.  Less than halfway through the book, my score improved by at least 10 points so I felt I could get through this test just fine on my own.  Why should I bother wasting another $1095 for a class when I’m awesome on my own?  Was an LSAT prep course even worth that much?

1) Practice, practice, practice!
Back in high school, I took a SAT prep course. It was paid by a program that I was in so I saved myself $500, but I never felt like I got $500 worth of improvement out of it.  With that in mind, I felt that an LSAT prep course was definitely not worth considering. I updated my best friend, Brian, about my law school applying progress and he stopped me with, “Wait, you’re not taking the LSAT prep?” Then he continued with a little story. In high school he was varsity track captain.  He was fast and he ran a whole lot of tracks.  With tracks, if you ran one, you’ve ran them all, they’re not that different. So for local track meets, they would show up and race. However, when it came to regional championship races or higher, his team would get to the race early and take turns running that track. And while all tracks were alike, having the extra benefit of being familiar with the actual environment helps. Because when it mattered most, they wanted every bit of advantage they could get.

The course I’m taking offers 9 proctored exams.  My buddy is right, it helps knowing what it’s like to sit in a room with a bunch of people taking a timed test.  I like having that process repeated each week so that it’s familiar to me.

2) Show you the errors of your way.
The class goes over the previous week’s practice test. If you have any question, the instructor will go over it in class. In teaching myself, whenever I didn’t quite get something, I simply have the answer given in the back of the book, I don’t always understand why it’s that answer.

3) Study schedule.
Studying seemed like a straightforward thing: set a schedule, put in your time, be disciplined and profit! It wasn’t that I lacked discipline, I studied constantly when I first got my books.  The problem was that when the material got more complicated, I didn’t have someone to talk to.  This slowed me to a crawl which silently halted progress after a couple weeks.  Looking at the books made me want to update my Facebook page. Pictures of my friend’s miniature schnauzer sitting in her yard for hours felt more rewarding to look at.

I’m back to hitting the books hard after class started.  There’s a sense of encouragement knowing that even if I get stumped by a problem, instead of bashing my head against the walls to pry some answers out of the folds in my grey matter, I know I can ask about it in class.  Also there’s homework assignments to keep me honest.

4) More active learning.
I bought 3 books of practice tests. After the first two tests or so, I was bored of them.  Ink on paper was only teaching me so much.  The PowerScore books I got on Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension emphasized active reading.  Studying alone is very passive. It’s a little easier to be an active reader with an actively gesturing instructor teaching you, and also he’s using you and your classmates in his problem examples and also we are now talking about golfing instead of LSAT. Wait. What? It happens, real life examples goes off on crazy tangents but it makes learning just a little more interesting.

5) Extras.
Depending on your prep course, you will get different bonuses out of it.  The Steven Klein course that I’m taking has extra tutor sessions, and his many years of experience in helping students apply for law school.  We are told that the program will help us go over our personal essays and guide us in the application process even after LSAT is over. English is my second language so I know I will need some help in going over my essay and honestly having someone to talk to will greatly help.

As I’ve mentioned throughout this article I’m doing a lot of studying on my own with PowerScore books and they are very helpful to me, but the course gives me a different approach to the test.  I take the parts that I like.  I’m only week 3 out of 9 into my course and there are few deviation from the books that I really like.

In Logic Reasoning, the book teaches you to work all your problems out in the spaces next to each problem which means you often have to chart the answers over and over again, this is very time consuming.  The class teaches you to bring a highlighter with a more visible color (I use purple) and chart known parameters with the highlighter.  Work out the problems on the permanent chart and erase to save re-charting time.  The book said erasing is bad because you sometimes lose info learned from previous questions, this is sometimes true, so it’s a trade-off.  I try to compromise by not erasing everything.

Is LSAT Prep Course Worth It?
Your miles will vary depending on the class you choose.  At the end of the day, another thousand odd bucks is a drop in the bucket compared to law school tuition, if you have the means, there’s not a whole lot to lose and potentially a lot to gain.

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It’s the Little Things04.27.11

During class one day, Steven pointed at a box of #2 pencils a student had out and said, “Those are some nice pencils.” He goes on to tell us, it’s not that he’s trying to get us to spend a bunch of money on pencils or anything, but having quality pencils is nice. With better quality pencils, the writings are easier to erase. The real LSAT booklet is printed on cheap newsprint-like paper, so it’s a good idea to be gentle with the pages. Another thing nice pencils have is a good eraser. I was sold.

I bought a pack of nice pencils at the U Bookstore. While I was at it, I picked up a good pencil sharpener.  The pencils weren’t even that much more expensive. Pencils were cheap. Paying two/three times more for pencils would not break the bank.

Looking at my old #2 pencils, I don’t even know how old they are.  The exposed wood is all brown and grubby, and I see bite marks on them which indicates carbon dating back to high school. I bite pencils in high school, pen caps are not safe either. I sharpen new and old pencils to do a compare.  There isn’t a noticeable difference when it comes to which pencil’s writing is harder to remove. When it comes to eraser however, there really is no comparison. New pencil’s eraser actually erase things.  Old pencil’s eraser pushes smudges around the paper. I remember not trusting wood pencil’s eraser because of that old thing, and having to always carry a separate eraser.

Is this the very best pencil out there? No, I’m sure there are better, but this serves me very well. Is it really worth dedicating an entire post to pencils of all things? Yes, because I do love my new pencils very much. I like that the eraser does erasery-things. I like that I don’t have to fish around for my click eraser when I’m studying on the couch. Sitting on it again? Yes. And lastly, I like that the pencil is all dressed in fashionable black.

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Practice School04.24.11

I skipped LSAT Prep class yesterday in favor of a mountaineering course.  Steven Klein’s class offer 3 sections total, so I will be going to the Wednesday section this week to make up for it.  I will also have to do a self administered time test.  I don’t feel like I’m improving, I really need to get my act together for Logic Reasoning.

The mountaineering class was a refresher course for glacier travel for people that want to climb a mountain but forgot how.  And I forgot pretty much everything.  You don’t want to be on my rope team right now, I would drop you by accident and not know how to rescue you.  The only thing I seem to remember from 2008 was how to walk on snow and even that is rusty at best.  Ice axe, then left or right feet?  I can’t ever seem to remember.

The hardest part of the mountaineering class that scares me still is the part where we’re walking up or down a snowfield and the instructor pulls the rope from underneath you to simulate a slide.  I pulled every arm muscle trying to keep my ice axe on the snow, meanwhile the lower half of my body that is attached to the rope by my harness is tearing away from my upper half.  It’s paying someone to use medieval torture on me, I consider this good practice for law school.

I am in all kinds of pain today.  My rotator cuffs don’t seem to be helping in rotating seeing as to how I have the arm extension of a T-Rex today.

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Happy 4-2004.20.11

I turn 35 today.  When I was 24 I made a pact with an ex that if we were both single at 35, we would get married and have kids.  At 24, 35 sounded incredibly old, and wow, really if I hit 35 and I’m not married and didn’t have kids, surely that was a sign of failure and needed to be corrected ASAP!

Sorry, I’m not married, and I really don’t even want to think about kids during law school.  I’m happy with the boyfriend right now.  Plans change, and for the past couple years, I was a bit depressed during my birthday because I was drifting, unsure of what I wanted to do.  This year, I have a plan, sure it’s a list of goals that I have yet to achieve, but having a list to work on was more than enough to keep me wanting to keep turning the page to see what this year will bring.  Will I close on the mortgage loan and move into my first home next month?  How will I do on the LSAT in June?  Will I manage to summit Mount Baker?  Will I get into a decent law school, despite my terrible terrible undergrad grades?  Will I learn how to swim well enough to get SCUBA certified and dive at Great Barrier Reef? I’m very excited about the year to come.

I’ve read an article about how money can in fact buy you happiness, you simply need to know how to spend it.  One thing mentioned is, instead of just buying stuff with your money, buying experience with your money will lead to prolonged happiness.  New stuff becomes old stuff and you might get buyers remorse by thinking you should have bought this other stuff, experience enriches you.  Another big thing I like is the joy of anticipation, your brain gets that much more pleasure out of anticipating a certain outcome than obtaining the outcome.  Tis the year of anticipation and experience.

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On Housing and Things04.19.11

I am still trying to close on the loan for my condo that is supposed to bring me about a block away from my future law school.  I’m sure most of you will not have dealt with mortgage loans yet, lucky you.  Because I am trying to finance a condo in the midst of a recession created by defaulting mortgages, the whole process is a lot like punching yourself in the nuts.  I know it will all be worth it when I’m sipping champagne in my new place, but right now it hurts.

I’ve been doing a ridiculous amounts of studying.  Really, if nothing else, taking a course got me on track for studying more constantly.

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Class 304.16.11

Today was practice exam 2 day.  I didn’t improve much, I went from 152 to 153.  I worry once more that I am hitting a knowledge wall.

Two big tip that I got from class today, in which we covered mostly Logical Reasoning:

1) Always read the question first.

2) When in doubt, try to find all the wrong answers first.  It is much easier to prove things false in general.

The book LSAT Logical Reasoning Bible tells you to definitely NOT read the questions first because you’ll end up wasting your time trying to remember the question when you should be trying to understand the stimulus.  I feel like knowing the question first teaches me how to be a better active reader.  I like knowing ahead of time if I should be looking for a conclusion of some sort or supporting information first.

We went over last weeks test to answer and questions people have.  We’ve been getting  a steady stream of logic games homework that we also worked on.

I powered through the remaining third of The PowerScore LSAT Logic Games Bible because I really wanted to share it with a couple of my classmates. I love the class, but I feel like the structure of book is a bit better at teaching logic games.  The thing to watch out for with the book is all the rules can get a bit more complicated than it needs to be. Steven tells you not to sweat the little details too much, read it and mark it for checking back on later.

One thing you have to note about this prep course is that Steven likes to use examples based on students’ lives, this makes the subject a little more interesting to study, but at the same time, we can go way off topic at times.  This really bugs one of my classmate, he’s a young college student with his college-studently life so he has a lot of other things going on.  I’m fortunate enough that while I have some things going on, going to law school is my focus, so I don’t mind the going off topic.  For my classmate he said he would so much prefer if the teacher cuts the chitchat so that class is much shorter so that he can save that time for his many interests.

So if you are a student overloaded with things you have to do already, you might not like Steven Klein’s class that much.  Again, I like him just fine, I think his class is interesting for me, but he definitely does not follow a rigid schedule.  If you need that in your life, maybe consider another class.

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More PowerScore Books04.10.11

I had my trusty LSAT Logic Games Bible at work when some girl came up to me to talk to me about it.  Apparently she had just taken the LSAT in February and she got the same book.  She told me she loved the book and got the other “Bible” books by PowerScore.  I didn’t know they had other books.

I mentioned to her that I was going to take the Steven Klein prep course, and asked if she took any course.  She said she took the Kaplan course and she thought it was okay, but she heard Steven Klein was the better class.

I went home, looked up the books on Amazon and put it on order.  The one book didn’t review as well as the Logic Games book, and now that I’ve read through them a bit, I can see why.  The problem is, it’s really hard to teach reading skills, so I’m not sure there really is a great way to go about this.  They can’t just give you a list of hard and fast rules you should do fine.  You have to actually be able to digest a lot of dry material.

The new books I picked up are LSAT Logical Reasoning Bible and The PowerScore LSAT Reading Comprehension Bible.  I will do a better review on them once I’ve had a chance to work through them.

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Class 204.09.11

Saturday of class 2 was our first practice timed exam.  It was 3 hours long, containing only the scored sections and no written section.  The test was from 9 to 12 then class from 1 to 5.  The boyfriend brought it up to me that is must have been an incredibly long day that felt like it would never end because that’s how he felt back in his college days.  It’s not.

I remember undergrad school, even on two hour days it felt long.  I wanted out, I was only going to school to get that piece of paper coming between me and my first real job.  Attending school in mid-thirties is a privilege. I wanted to go back to school to learn. Class felt really short.

The thing that I picked up from Class 2, even though it was mentioned in the first class, use a highlighter on your test.  You are allowed pencils, sharpener, eraser and a highlighter.  This class recommends that you bring a highlighter, preferably one that is a bit more legible (I use a purple one) to diagram the charts for logic games.  This way, as you proceed through the game, you can erase the chart and reuse.  The book said NOT to do this because it’s time consuming to erase, plus you might be able to use the charts for later questions.  Problem with the book’s recommendation is, sometimes it takes too long to redo the chart for each question.  Sometimes, it really is faster to just erase and add the new info.

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