This afternoon (and evening), I sat through the LSAT in London. There is no other way to slice this: the LSAT was draining, physically and emotionally.
I got my 7 hours of sleep the night before, albeit punctuated by abrupt starts and anxious fits. My body has this bad habit of waking me up pre-maturely if I’m low-key nervous about missing something: impending deadlines, flights, exams.
When I was finally up for the day, I did everything in my power to ensure that I would be putting my best foot forward.
I showered and meditated. I got dressed, did a minimal beat and made sure I had everything I needed in my regulation plastic bag:
- LSAT Admission Ticket? Check.
- Passport? Check.
- No. 2 pencils, sharpener and eraser? Check.
- Snack? Double check.
- Wallet? Check.
- Sanitary pad? Check.
That was all I needed, really. I ended up adding a napkin and a water bottle later on.
You’re not allowed to take your phone to the testing center (read: not simply the testing room, but the center itself). Obviously, it’s to prevent instances of cheating. Still, the rule had the other effect of forced mindfulness. A violent unplugging, if you will.
Without any social media apps or podcasts to distract me, I was very much confronted with everything. I noticed how blue the sky was, how loud the parents wheeling kids into my home Tube station were and just how crisp the air was. I was able to examine all of my thoughts leading up to the test intimately.
I did prepare for the LSAT, but definitely not as much as I could have. Between school things and journalism things and work things and life things and career things, studying for the LSAT often went on the back burner.
Of my process, I can say that sitting down and taking a timed practice tests helped me the most. The exercises were helpful as a practical foundation. But seeing the type of sequencings that we were meant to crack open and the arguments we were meant to poke holes through in a test context made me feel like I knew what I was up against. In retrospect, it really was the practice tests that let me in on what to expect today.
The LSAT was at 2 p.m., so I made a point of leaving the flat by 12:30 p.m. I wanted to ensure I was early, especially if I only had my internal clock to rely on. Also, from experience, I knew the Tube routes were always liable to act up just when you needed them the most.
I grabbed a fish finger sandwich, a lemonade and a brownie from my local, wholesome fast-food joint, Leon. No problems there. I got to Barbican station. No problems there, either. I was pretty well-fed, but I thought it would be a good idea to grab a latte. I wasn’t craving caffeine, but I didn’t want to be hit with a headache in the middle of the test.
By the time I had done all of this, I had arrived brilliantly early to Ironmonger’s Hall. Even if I hadn’t done reconnaissance the night before, I still would have known I was in the right place. All around the courtyard, bored and stony-faced young adults were stationed like participants in the Mannequin Challenge, balancing Ziploc bags full of No. 2 and tissues and ID with Prêt coffees and sandwiches.
When I registered for the LSAT and saw I’d be taking the test at “Ironmonger’s Hall,” I imagined some iron-clad, no-nonsense, cold, castle-esque structure. I was not expecting the backdrop of your warmest, golden-est, chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire-est Christmas card.
Upon further investigation, I saw that the room in which we took our exam isn’t normally lined with 60-some folding desks. The chairs we sat on are typically tucked into ebony wood tables topped with crystal and holiday decoration.
The hall also serves as a cute wedding venue that is high-key dropping hints for Harry and Meghan’s planners.
I can’t tell you exactly when we were let into the venue, but we were definitely let in closer to 2 p.m, no early than 1:50 p.m.
In the mean time, I made small talk with a lady from Los Angeles who was working in London temporarily. She had lived in Washington, D.C. for a bit and recognized the suburb my parents live in.
As we stood in line, a lady from near Manchester chatted us up. From the smattering of accents and snippets overheard, I figured there were two prevailing paths that had led people to dwell in Ironmonger’s Hall this gorgeous Saturday afternoon.
1) You were an American expat in Europe, planning ahead for the moment (a few weeks, a few months, a year or so from now) when you return home.
2) You were European (at least by nationality) and scheming Elle Woods-style on a top-notch law degree in America.
We handed off our coats, were permitted to use the toilets and then were ushered into the room where we would be for the next five hours. And after filling out 1001 different boxes concerning our names, important identifying numbers, our race and other pertinent information, we were set to begin.
There are six sections, with each of them being 35 minutes. The first four are sequencing and arguments, the fifth section is comprised of passages and the last section is an essay. You get a break to eat, drink and use the toilets after Section 3.
I don’t know if I had a small case of the ‘itis from the brownie, but I started feeling very warm (in an icky sort of way) and tired around the middle of Section 4. I was losing steam.
I found that I had to keep falling back on my mindfulness practice: I made a point of saying, as instructors do during guided meditation, “Hey! Your mind is drifting elsewhere. Please bring it back to the attention of what you’re doing right now. To what’s in front of you.”
The fact that the sun set at least halfway through the test didn’t help anyone’s morale. Best believe that as soon as essays were collected and the proctor announced we could leave, people leapt up from their desks to go home.
I was among them. I did wait in the queue for the ladies’ toilets, but I wasted no time grabbing my coat to speed off home.
When I did get to the flat, I plopped down on the floor. I almost never sit on the floor? I was that exhausted.
Food helped. Calling my girlfriend and friends helped. And I don’t think I had a particularly horrible time of it. The test-taking facility was beautiful, I was dressed for the occasion, and the proctors were nice and kind. It was just a tough process overall.
If not just a measure of how your brain works, the LSAT is, for sure, a test of stamina.