Tuesday, September 27, 2005

LSAT at Midnight, with apologies to Coleridge

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I've spent the past month frantically studying for the LSAT. The LSAT has become a personal affront to me, a challenge to my pride, a tiny, strange, meaningless yet momentous element that invites discipline and eludes mastery. In my uncertain world, the LSAT offers focus, a goal, an elusive promise that everything can be a meritocracy, hard work can pay off, and wanting something badly enough means you have the chance of getting it. How else to explain why a sane person with a prior career could spend hours trying to diagram logic games with a stopwatch as the last summer days sink into their reddish embers? They tell you on the law school sites that the LSAT is only one indicator among many of how a prospective student might perform, and that they take many factors into consideration when screening applicants at the most prestigious law schools. Don't believe it. The LSAT is everything. A PhD, an academic career, a book, fabulous letters of recommendation, and an earnest but sensible application essay are nothing if the LSAT isn't cracking 160-plus. I know. The best I could do last year with all of the above and a thoroughly mediocre 157 was get into NEXT year's part-time night program at a school --a decent school, to be sure-- ranked about 65th. It takes more than accomplishment, focus, discipline, age, or a political commitment to LGBT issues. As the lady who interviewed me last year sternly warned me, you gotta respect the test.

So how to crack 160? Well, there are 4 sections: reading comprehension (yay!), 2 sections of logical reasoning (sigh), and logic games (oh lord). There are 24-28 questions per section, and you have 35 minutes. Assuming you'll get 3 questions wrong out of 28 or so on the reading comp because of time pressures, and 5 or 6 wrong on each logical reasoning section because of mental exhaustion and time running out, that leaves a do-or-die logic games section where you need 13 or more right to crack 162. That means you've got to diagram three out of the four problems and answer most of the questions correctly, then guess at the rest and pick up a point or two from that. You will get only one question wrong on each problem if you do well. That leaves 5 or 6 right, maybe. In order to get 4 problems done, you need to spend 8 minutes on each. It takes me twice that long. Decide to do 3 and you've got 12 minutes to diagram the thing and answer all the questions.

Why do this? you ask. The joblist is out, with at least 10 jobs out there to go for, all of them far away from here. You are planning to apply for them. So why do this crazy LSAT? Why spend hours arranging people at a table, or placing dog show contestants, or figuring out the kinds of birds in a forest, or determining the exact order of colored Christmas lights on parallel streets?

You have taken it twice before. This is it for you. It is a taunt you must throw back, unbowed. It structures your days, every morning and afternoon. Getting things right makes the day worth while; failing is a personal shortcoming, a failure of attention, diligence, care. You can control your life, on your terms. There will be a second act. Going back to school, you'll be becoming something again, instead of ending everything you hoped for.

It is an illusion, of course, this dream of a simple road to happiness, but it is YOUR illusion, for now. You sit up late in bed, reading diagrams. Your cats stir and shift at your feet. Your lover sighs in her sleep beside you. This is where you live. Do you want to leave this for a job alone in Boston, Kentucky, California? The room is quiet, filled only with the sounds of creatures breathing. You click your mechanical pencil, clear your timer, and study on.


djkstra said...

hello loser (nevermind if i say so),
in a way your post has been an inspiration to one who reads it!! come on, we live in the world of fame and money which by themselves open a debate at philisophical level of what's more important in life. Every step of life we
attain a new perspective, a perspective we think will lead us to peaceful life. Come on, Nirvana isn't attained overnight. Also, doesn't mean that LSAT is or isn't on path to Nirvana!! Everyone tries to achieve true internal satisfaction!! Kudos for your +ve attitude!! Thou shall succeed. Nothing is more important than the faith within self!! Take care my friend!! Loved reading your post!!
( I am drunk and god bless you),

What Now? said...

I'm so glad you left a comment on my blog, which led me here. I've just read through your archives and am haunted by your writing -- by turns sad and beautiful and funny and angry and beautiful (yes, I know I used that adjective twice).

Sfrajett said...

Thanks for reading, and for the kind comments. I hope my archive can be a source of encouragement rather than a dire warning to you. You can get through this whether it is a terrible time or a teapot tempest. We survive and get stronger.

And find nice bloggers out there!

Scrivener said...

I took the LSAT once in a fit of despair over grad school. I was surfing the internet as a work avoidance tactic for my comp exams, and was feeling hopeless about the academic job market and found out I could register for the test online, so I did without really thinking about it. A couple of weeks later, I was sorry I'd spent the money on the registration but it was expensive enough that I went ahead and took the test anyway. Sometimes, I wish I'd just gone to law school after all, but not very often.

Sfrajett said...

Thanks for that, scrivener. I guess it is useful in the face of despair over the job market, and that almost makes it worth the money alone, eh?