LSAT performance curve #4: the “psyched out” pattern

As discussed in earlier articles of this series, LSAT performance can fall into predictable patterns.  For instance, in the “ramp-up” performance curve, a given test-taker gets off to a slow start; she’s not really focused when the test starts.  This slow start prevents that person from scoring as well as she could have if she had started the test at full concentration. Maximizing one’s LSAT score requires avoiding patterns such as the “ramp-up” and the “dead battery” patterns.

The “psyched out” curve

The “psyched out” pattern occurs when the LSAT-taker hits a difficult question, passage, or game and gets completed rattled. Here’s what the pattern looks like.

psyched out performance curve

“Psyched out” performance curve

As shown, the test-taker who exhibits the “psyched out” pattern performs well at the beginning of the test, but, after the moment of getting “psyched out,” the test-taker’s performance falls—and never recovers. This type of pattern is particularly undesirable, since the test-taker suffers from under-performance for the entire remainder of the test.  Sometimes, in extreme cases, the test-taker will walk out of the LSAT and not even finish.  Even those who don’t literally walk out have still, in a sense, “walked out” mentally.

Causes for getting discouraged to this extreme degree pertain to a person’s view of the LSAT—and view of himself or herself.  If one is in the habit of beating oneself over every mistake one makes in life—perhaps being too much of a “perfectionist”—then one mistake can destroy a person’s confidence and willingness to continue.

Guarding against the “psyched out” curve

To avoid falling prey to getting psyched out, develop and maintain a powerful perspective on the nature of performance.  Even the greatest performers in history—great musicians, great athletes, great speakers, great actors—make mistakes. Think of the most successful soccer or basketball player:  that person has missed plenty of shots—and at crucial times.  Think of the most successful football quarterback:  that person has thrown plenty of interceptions—and even in big games.  Expecting that you are not going to make mistakes on the LSAT is unrealistic.  Accepting that will shield you against getting psyched out—and, by helping you remain calm and focus, help you avoid making mistakes in the first place.

The next article in this series will address the “zoned out” pattern.