Does it ever seem like you are burning through LSAT material without seeing much actual improvement? If so, stop now. Put down your pencil, and read this post. Once you learn how to review your LSAT practice tests, you’ll inevitably make faster progress toward your goal.
Effective review, which includes the consistent use of an error log, is hands down the best way to raise your LSAT score.
In this post, I’ll show you the power of using an error log to review your LSAT practice tests and will share with you an error log template I use with my students.
Why an error log?
It’s simple. When you force yourself to figure out where exactly you went wrong on a question, you give yourself the opportunity to learn. You therefore make it more likely that you’ll get a similar question right the next time you see it.
I often see that without an error log, students tend to review their practice tests by looking at the answer key, getting upset that “ugh, B was my second choice!” and then hoping that they’ll do better next time. Sound familiar?
Without an error log, you run these risks:
- Being tempted to be too superficial in your review, missing out on chances to improve your reasoning.
- Or worse, being tempted to skip your review entirely!
- Missing patterns in your errors, which means you won’t be able to prioritize the things that will have the most impact on your score.
For more information about the dangers of insufficient review, check out my post on mistakes students often make while studying.
So what is an error log?
An LSAT error log is a way of keeping track of your mistakes and what you’ve learned from them.
But don’t think of this as an exercise in negativity. The point of the error log is not to get discouraged by what you didn’t know or couldn’t do. Instead, the point is to turn “what you didn’t know” into “what you now know.” It’s an exercise in growth.
Your error log is part of how to review your LSAT practice tests, but you don’t have to restrict yourself to using it just on full-length tests. You can actually use it on all of the material you go through while prepping.
It can also take whatever form makes the most sense to you. Pen and paper, Google Doc, spreadsheet, etc. Whatever format you choose, make sure it has these features:
- A format that encourages you to use it consistently. (For me, that was my reason for moving away from pen and paper. It took too long to write things out, so I wasn’t as motivated to be thorough.)
- Searchable organization. You want to be able to find trends easily, which isn’t possible if you are scribbling notes on the pages of various prep tests here and there.
Want a premade LSAT error log you can begin to use immediately? You’re in luck, because I made one for you!
Tips for using your error log
Design your error log for later review
The error log template my students use includes columns for the date, prep test number, section type, and question type. It’s also designed so you can filter the entries by each of these columns. So if you want to look just at what’s been going on with flaw questions, or if you want to look just at RC errors you made this month, you’ll be able to sort the list for those things easily. That makes it so much quicker to find trends.
Include both an analysis of your error and a takeaway for next time
Your error log should look back at the practice test you are reviewing in order to look forward to the next practice test you will take. You should therefore analyze not only why you missed the question but also how you can avoid similar mistakes in the future.
|Why I missed it||What I should do differently|
|Overlooked the word “could” in the stimulus||Be on the lookout for “could”, “can”, “may”, etc. Underline or highlight them.|
|Misinterpreted the author’s perspective; didn’t realize he disagreed with the critics||Look for keywords that signal agreement or disagreement|
I’ve seen students write “I don’t know. C still seems right” for why they missed a question and “I have no idea” for what they should do differently. If that’s you, no worries. Try googling an explanation for the question or enlist a tutor to help you figure out exactly what’s going on with these questions.
Be specific, but not TOO specific
Be like Goldilocks here. Don’t be too broad in your assessment of your mistake, but also don’t be too narrow. Try to get a “just right” description of your mistake that will drive your performance forward.
|Too broad||I suck at in/out games.|
|Too narrow||I thought G is in. But actually G could be out.|
|Just right||Rule: G → F
I did the wrong contrapositive.
I did: F → G
Should have been: not F → not G
The “too broad” example doesn’t give you a good idea of how to improve. Stop sucking, I guess?
The “too narrow” example won’t mean anything to you later and won’t help you find trends.
The “just right” example pinpoints your exact mistake but phrases it in a way that will make sense even months later. You’ll also be able to see easily if you tend to make the same mistake fairly often. If so, definitely devote prep time on that topic.
Include questions you guessed on
Pro tip if you are targeting 170+: Don’t limit yourself to just the questions you missed. Review every question you weren’t 100% confident on, and think of the error log not as a “why I missed it” list but a “why I almost missed it” list.
Find trends to guide your future practice
Occasionally review your list to see what trends are appearing. Look for the following trends:
- Question types you tend to miss across the board
- Question types you tend to miss at certain difficulty levels
- Reading passage types or logic game types that are tricky
- Common mistakes that span multiple question types (i.e., overlooking words like “some”, not paying enough attention to the conclusion of the argument, etc.)
- Things that keep coming up in your recommendations to yourself — Pay attention to these!
Once you’ve identified some trends, dedicate study time to addressing them. Or use them to prioritize questions during timed tests. For example, if your error log definitely shows that high difficulty must be true questions are the bane of your existence, practice them now, but consider saving them for last on test day.
More of a paper person than a spreadsheet person? Or looking for an even more robust way to review? Check out the LSAT Practice Test Review Guide I created.
If this post resonated with you, I’d love to stay in touch. About once a week, in the form of an email newsletter, I share useful strategies and insights I’ve picked up during my years teaching the LSAT. “LSAT Notes” you can use to study more effectively and raise your score.
Often these are inspired by breakthroughs my students had that week. Other times, they respond to questions students like you have. My goal is to provide motivation and encouragement along with knowledge about the test and advice about how to study.
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