Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Study The Test!

You will be tested a lot in life. It pays to study the test!

I recently read online that Tucker Carlson, he of perpetual surprised Pikachu face, argues that the latest Supreme Court nominee should be disqualified because "Biden" refuses to disclose her LSAT scores!  Yes, Joe Biden control access to LSAT scores from decades ago.  He also controls the price of gasoline!

And I guess to a lay person, this seems important.  But it is about as important as what grade you got for your science project in the 6th grade.  Does that disqualify you from working for NASA?

You see, the LSAT is a test you take to get into law school, just as the SAT is a test you take to get into college.  No one gives a shit what you got on your SAT test - what matters is if you graduated from college and what your grade average was.  Even then, five or ten years down the road, no one gives a shit about where you went to college or what your grade average was - indeed, some of the most successful people in the world are college dropouts - I'm one, too.

But I did ace the LSAT - does that mean anything?  No, of course not.  I scored in the top 1% for the country, and mostly that was because I was an Engineer and also I do well on standardized tests.  When I took the review course - and you should take the review course - the teacher told us about the various portions of the test and one of them was on mathematical relationships.  "Don't worry about that part!" he said, "No one does well on that.  So if you don't finish it, don't worry, no one finishes the math part!"

I finished the math part with a half-hour to spare.  So I did it twice.  To anyone who studied calculus and differential equations and maybe a little number theory, it wasn't all that hard.  To someone with an undergraduate degree in "Political Science" or some other "soft" major, it seem insurmountable.

Of course, acing the LSAT is meaningless.  It doesn't mean I am a top-shelf lawyer as indeed, it is an entrance exam to law school, not a qualification test like the bar exam (the latter of which is pass/fail). There are not even any "law" questions on the LSAT (what would be the point - you are not even in law school yet!).   I aced the LSAT, but that doesn't make me some sort of genius - if you read my blog you understand that.  And conversely, if you don't ace it, it doesn't make you an idiot or a bad lawyer, either.  So Tucker Carlson obsessing about this, is just nonsense to get Fox News viewers all riled up over nothing, which is what Fox News is best at.

But the main reason I did so well on the LSAT was that I took an LSAT review course.  I did well on the SAT because I took an SAT review course.  I did well on the bar exam (well, I passed on the first try, anyway) because.... wait for it..... I took a Bar review court (BAR/BRI).  These courses are taught by people who look over the questions and answers for the last decade - and they know that about 30% of any standardized test comprises recycled questions.  So if you look over old exams and take them by yourself, you get used to certain questions and answers and this allows you to breeze by those questions, leaving more time for the newer, harder questions.  And in any exam, they throw in a few "unanswerable" questions that are there to stymie you - the best thing you can do is move on from there and come back to it later, time permitting.

Someone wrote me once saying they wanted to go to law school.  I tried to talk them out of it, but suggested they take an LSAT review course if they wanted to go.  They said they would just "wing it" and that probably wasn't a good idea.  Study the test, learn the test, pass the test.

Now, is this unfair?  Perhaps.  I wrote before about the annoying girl in college who thought you could "wing it" through Engineering school by studying old tests.  And in many instances, you can pass a course and even ace it by doing this.  But you don't learn much about Engineering.  And thanks to the alumni newsletter, I found out her Engineering career was short-lived.  But that is about getting an education, not getting into college.   You don't "learn" from the SAT or LSAT exam, it just tries to measure your skill level.  The Bar Exam?  Actually, studying for this coalesced a number of legal principles in my mind and made me realize that much of law school is just professors playing hide the main idea.  It all came together with BAR/BRI.

And sadly, I wasted the first two years of law school trying to study what the professor taught in class, which I learned only later on, wasn't what was on the Exam.  Law school requires that you learn one thing in class and another on the exam.  It makes no sense, but it is why second year law students skip classes - a lot.   It wasn't until my final year that I figured this out and in addition to going to class, studied old exams.

I didn't go to Harvard, or graduate in the top 10% of my class.  I graduated and got a job.  No one cared or even asked about my LSAT scores, much less my law school grades.  And five years into the business, no one really cared where I went to law school.  That's the nature of careers in general - eventually you are judged on performance, not academics.

But more than that, no one cares about (a) your SAT score, (b) your LSAT score, (c) where you went to high school or your grade average there or the fact you were in band.  So this idea that this lady's LSAT score is somehow important and being "suppressed" is nonsense.  She graduated Magna Cum Laude  from Harvard - that counts more than an admissions test.  And quite frankly, what she did since graduating is far more important than even that.

I couldn't provide you with the paper results of my LSAT score and I doubt the LSAT people even have it on file anymore - that was 30 years ago.  I tossed that crap decades ago.  Anyone who brags about their LSAT or SAT scores is a sad, sad person.  It is like these MENSA people or folks who take online "IQ" tests.  It really means nothing in the greater scheme of things.  I don't even have a copy of my high school diploma anymore - who gives a flying fuck about that?  I'm 62 years old for chrissake.  None of that crap from 40 years ago is important in the least.

But at the time, of course, it was important - for a brief moment.  You need that diploma to get into college - and a decent SAT score.  You need the LSAT if you want to go to law school.  You need to pass the bar if you want to practice law.  Once you pass - well that's something that rapidly vanishes in your rear-view mirror, not some sort of accomplishment you can crow about for years on end.

And once you retire, no one cares that you used to be a lawyer, I can tell you that!

Since these tests, at the time, are so important to your future life, it pays to study for them, and a review course is the way to go.  Study and take old exams, and sit in a room like the exam room and time yourself as a proctor would.  You get used to the procedure - comfortable with it - and when the time comes, you feel right at home.

Some people don't do well with standardized tests.  They freak out and stress themselves out - and a review course would really help them the most.  When I took the LSAT they put half of us in a classroom and half in an auditorium with these tiny fold-out classroom tables about a foot square.  It sucked, but I dealt with it.  Another guy, who no doubt thought his entire life hinged on how well he did on this test, freaked out and started screaming that "this was unfair!" and delayed the whole thing for a half-hour until the proctors - after calling the main office - said, "you can take exam another day and leave, or take it now - those are your two options!"  The guy literally melted down.  No doubt some Political Science major who thought he was going to be the next Steve Bannon.  Probably was Steve Bannon, now that I think of it.  Did he go to law school?

In college, "cheating" by looking at old exams isn't necessarily a bad idea, provided you are actually learning the material.  If you only learn the exam, in college, you don't learn. Most professors will publish their old exams online or allow you to copy them or even hand them out.  I had a professor for organic chemistry who, realizing he wasn't the greatest teacher, handed out old copies of the exam and told us to study it carefully.  The actual exam was a photocopy of questions from the older exams, cut-out and pasted together (you could see the lines in the photocopy!) and had I studied the old exams I would have passed.  Since I decided I would "study the material" instead, I flunked - which is hard to do with organic chem.  Years later, I re-took the course and wondered why I thought it was so hard.  Oh, right, I was high the first time.

Entrance exams, on the other hand, are not a way of learning, but a way of evaluating.  So "cheat" all you want by studying old exams - this is your future we are talking about here.

Standardized tests have come under fire in recent years as being racist or prejudiced against students from impoverished areas.  It is said they favor white, middle-class thinking.  And maybe that is true - but all the more reason to take a review course to understand the questions and what they are getting at.  The standardized test is a way of evaluating applicants, but not the only way of evaluating them.  And that is why college admissions offices consider other things like your grade average, your application essay, and even in-person interviews.  And... one other thing.


Yes, every school wants to fill the seats with warm bodies, preferably paying warm bodies who aren't asking for tuition discounts and scholarships and whatnot.   Students who pay the full-price for tuition are highly valued.  Better yet, a student whose parents will donate money to the school - that's the hot ticket.  Act shocked, Pikachu face!  Two of the schools I went to - Syracuse and George Washington - were definitely "pay as you go" schools.  Syracuse was the quasi-ivy for kids from downstate who were dumb as a rock but whose parents had money.  As one Dean explained to me (after I won a small scholarship) "we need students like you getting good grades to keep the average up" - so they let me in.

GW was the law school for the kids not ambitious enough to go to Georgetown - but were willing to pay.  Here's all my money, where's my law degree, Goddammit!

That was the problem with the "Admissions scandal" recently - the parents bribed coaches to get their kids in college, when they should have been bribing Deans.   If you are going to throw $100,000 at a college to get your kid in, do it with a sponsored scholarship (in addition to your disappointing offspring's tuition) and you won't be breaking any laws.  "Legacy admissions" works the same way - they let your stupid kid in, not because you are a "Legacy" but because you've be donating to the alumni fund.  Duh.

But of course, most of us don't have parents with that kind of cash, so we have to do well on these standardized tests.  And if you need to do well, study the test, not the subject matter.  Take a review course, go over old questions (they will hand you a book with hundreds of them in it during the review course) and take the test again and again by yourself.  Come test day, you will be used to looking at and answering these questions - some will seem like old friends by then.

And you will do well on the SAT or LSAT and get into school.  And no one else will give a shit thereafter, other than Tucker Carlson 30 years later.... because he's a moron who never went to law school.

From his Wikipedia page:

Carlson was briefly enrolled at Collège du Léman, a boarding school in Switzerland, but said he was "kicked out".[53] He attained his secondary education at St. George's School, a boarding school in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he started dating his future wife, Susan Andrews, the headmaster's daughter.[54] He then went to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, graduating in 1991 with a BA in history.[33] Carlson's Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the "Dan White Society", an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.[55][56][57] After college, Carlson tried to join the Central Intelligence Agency, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that "they'll take anybody".[33][58]

The "Dan White" society?  What a sick, sick fuck!