Taking The LSAT Cold: Our Intrepid Reporter Does It


I was supposed to take the the test at the University of San Francisco (USF), a private Jesuit school. I tried to walk and eat at the same time; my turkey sandwich felt slimy, and I started worrying it was going to make me sick. When I got to campus, I realized I had no idea where the test would actually take place. All around me, students sat serenely on the lawn and painted. I kind of hated them for it.

Finally, I gave up and called USF’s main number. “I’m here and I have no idea where to take the LSAT,” I told the man on the phone.

“Oh,” he said, “you need to go to the Lone Mountain campus.”

I felt like I was going to combust. “There are two campuses and I’m on the wrong one?!”

“It’s just a few blocks away from here on a huge hill,” he replied calmly, humoring me. “You can’t miss it.”

I really couldn’t: The building was beautiful. Walking up the hill felt like making an otherworldly pilgrimage. With sore calves, I finally reached the testing zone. It was noon, and I was there 30 minutes early. Phew.

This is the part where LSAC’s note about ziploc bags started to make sense. The other test-takers, my comrades, began filing in, each carrying a large ziploc bag full of LSAC-approved test-taking necessities. I saw everything from bananas to miniature bottles of hand sanitizer. My plan—walking in with some pencils, an eraser, and a Lemon Zest Luna Bar—seemed pretty meager in comparison. Even the woman who checked me in gave me some side-eye.


I also realized I’d assumed, foolishly, that I’d have somewhere to put my backpack, which contained my laptop and my phone (i.e. two of the most expensive things I own). A different woman took pity on me. “I can’t technically tell you this, but if you leave your backpack by the table, there’ll be people watching it,” she said. I gave her what I hoped was an intensely grateful look and walked into the testing room.

White walls and grey desks, all connected in rows—pretty typical. Two other test-takers were already there, and tension hung thick in the air. One of the two women administering the test (why was everyone working that day female?) gave me a strained smile. I tried to sit somewhere in the middle, but the woman quickly told me I had an assigned seat and placed me next to a window. The beautiful view served as a nice reminder that on a breezy, sunny day, I’d be filling in bubbles on a scantron. Cool.

More people filed in. Eventually, there were about 9 of us: two men and seven women. It was a pretty ethnically diverse group (diversity! Yay!). Keeping Anna’s comment in mind, I tried to meditate until the test began, but I eventually got so nervous and bored that I started eating the Luna Bar I was supposed to save for our 15-minute break. It was almost a relief when the test actually began.


At first, I felt good about this part. The questions mostly involved dissecting other peoples’ arguments. What statement would support Argument X? Where’s the biggest flaw in Argument Y? What assumption does Argument Z make? Some parts seemed like gibberish, but they were few and far in between.

The positive feelings didn’t last long, though. Suddenly, one of the proctors said we had five minutes left. I thought I’d only have to rush through a page… until I realized there were two more left. Uh oh. That’s when it hit me that LSAT classes were probably less about understanding the material and more about being familiar enough with these kinds of questions to get through them quickly. (Everyone who has ever taken an LSAT class: “Duh.”)  


The next section involved boring chunks of information followed by multiple boring questions. It was worse than the SAT; I struggled to pay attention. I decided to skim, not think too hard about any of the details, and concentrate on speed. I did manage to answer a few more questions than I did in the last section, but I still had a few left when the proctor told us to put our pencils down. Overall, this was probably my second-worst section.


I saw the same types of questions as in section one. I did get faster, but I still didn’t manage to finish. I wondered if I ever would.

The test-takers quickly left the room, eager to escape everyone else’s anxiety. I rushed to my backpack, which was thankfully still next to the table outside, and took a much-needed sip of water. (My strategy was to drink as little as possible so I wouldn’t need to use the bathroom during the test. For the record, it worked well.)

Looking back, it would’ve been easy to cheat by hiding a note in the backpack. It’s a good thing I have A) a moral compass and B) zero intention of actually doing well.


When I saw this section, I knew everything was over for me. I probably could’ve gotten a reasonable score on this part if I’d had unlimited time, but since I’d never learned any shortcuts or patterns, I tanked. It was like trying to build an Ikea bed with no instructions.


This was my last chance to finish all the questions. I got close, but I failed. Oh well. Sorry to be such a disappointment, Harvard Law. Guess I’ll never grace your halls.