Tuesday, June 9, 2009

the lsat chronicles - the test

I feel mentally drained. I haven't felt this way since LG took over the Guardian as editor-in-chief. But not even the mental workouts from those days was enough to prepare me for how I would feel this morning. I'm spazzing out even as I type this.

John's friend Michelle, who is a lawyer and has been through all of this before, offered to drive me to the test and wait there for me until I was done. I was so grateful and I really hope I can do that for someone one day because it was a huge help to see a familiar face during the break and after the test. Plus, I had no idea that I'd really want to talk about it so much and it was good to be able to do that with someone who knew exactly what I was talking about when I said, "I hoped section 1 was the experimental section because I didn't get to finish one of the games and had to guess-bubble!" More about that in a bit.

So she picked me up at 11 because I had to get to Queens College in Flushing, Queens, for 12:30. John walked out with me to meet her and pointed out her snazzy car with the top down. It was my first time riding in a car like that and I wish I could have enjoyed the experience a bit more. Michelle was wonderfully distracting, keeping up a steady stream of conversation but I was very reticent. I was not nervous, just kind of numb.

We got there in plenty of time and joined the rest of the gallon-bag holders on the 4th floor of the Student Union Bldg. Luckily, it was the place where I was supposed to be because I didn't know there was another floor of test-takers. And neither did a lot of other test-takers. 

The LSAC people did not label the rooms properly and there was a lot of confusion. I was on a floor with a ballroom and the two sides of it were labeled Ballroom East and Ballroom West. The sign put up by the LSAC was A-Goldberg in Room 404 and Grant to L in Room 410. But there were no rooms 404 and 410, just Ballrooms East and West. Plus, no note about where everybody else who didn't fall into A-L was supposed to go.

So I asked the supervisor (she was easy to pick out because she yelled at everybody and was pretty condescending) where were the rooms we were supposed to go to. She said, "Read the notice." I said, "Em, I CAN read but the rooms here do not say 404 and 410 but Ballrooms East and West." I spoke very slowly and deliberately.

She looked up and realized I was right. She then pointed to the left for 404 and to the right for 410 and left. No apology and no announcement. I had to shout out to the crowd of poor test-takers, all of who were wondering the same as me, where to go.

The procters were just the biggest joke of all. Not one of them looked a day under 60. There were 3 in my room and 2 of them had canes. One had 2 canes. The one-cane lady was wonderfully inefficient and I wondered if it was her first time. 

The main procter in my room was the 2-cane man. He called for all the Gs to come inside. So all the people with the last name G went inside. Then they came back out because the supervisor threw them out. We had to get finger-printed first outside. One-cane lady was doing the printing and she said to line up with the Gs first, then the Hs and so forth. One girl asked her if we're supposed to guess everyone's name. It was a fair question. Why couldn't she just call out the letters? 

There were only a small handful of Gs, so I went in very quickly. The main proctor checked your ticket against your ID and the LSAC list and you were escorted to your assigned seat. I got to sit in the second row, on an end next to a window. Awesome! There were 3 rows of 2-seat tables, so it was very roomy and comfortable, especially being up in front.

At first everyone was very quiet, but seeing that it was only 12:45 and we didn't expect to start the test till 2, people began to talk. I had a lovely seatmate, a nice guy who happened to work as an intellectual property paralegal. We had lots to talk about. It took us a while to get going, but once we discovered we had something in common, we couldn't shut up. He studied for the test on his own so he quizzed me about Kaplan. I gave him a couple of tips but he looked pretty bummed out by the end of the test and told me he was going to take a class for September.

It took a long time to get started. Two people were in the room who were Rs and there was a lot of fuss about leaving them there or sending them back and then getting books for them and putting them on the list... It caused a long delay and those poor people had to go through a lot. One of them canceled his score before the writing sample. Poor guy. By the end of the test, 9 people out of my room of 68 canceled their score. 

That took so long that people had to go to the bathroom. Before we went inside the supervisor told us to go before we went into the room because once we sat down we wouldn't be allowed to go back out and would have to wait until section 2. But the main procter was nice enough to let one girl go. Then a guy said if he let her go, the guy should too, so he went. The MP said that 10 people shouldn't go at once because we're about to get started. So about 15 people got up and rushed to the bathrooms! I know I felt much more comfortable when I came back. We were still nowhere near to starting.

They finally got round to handing out the test books. Then they had to come round and check ID and take down your test book number. Then we bubbled in our info on the answer sheet and got into test mode. I had already turned my watch to 12:00 (so I could time my sections) and there was no clock in the room so I had no idea what time it was. The procter said he would only give us a 5-minute warning and we'd get a 15-minute break. They adopted the "if I can't see your cellphone then you don't have one" attitude, so a couple of people switched off their phones and kept it in their pockets. We were given severe warning about if they heard any kind of electronic noise coming from a test-taker, that person would be escorted out immediately and their book taken away and their name flagged. I had already given mine to Michelle.

At last, we got started. My first section was Logic Games and it was very hard. I wasn't at all happy. Not once have I not been able to get to all the games and this time I didn't get to the last game and had to guess-bubble C for all those questions. I did manage to work out the first answer and I know I got it right and did change my C to the correct choice on my answer sheet, but it was a lot of questions to miss. 

That was a tough way to start. I was hoping LG would be the first section and was very happy to see that it was. I just felt that I could get a better handle on the test that way. Despite the missed questions, I didn't falter and just put it out of my mind when I got to section 2.

Section 2 was Logical Reasoning and I thought I handled it well. I identified every question type, worked through the section exactly as I had been doing for the last 3 months and left the longer and harder questions for last. I answered every question and was pleased when it was over.

Section 3 was another Logic Games section and hope reared in my heart that the first section would be the experimental section. I totally killed those games and was so happy at the end. I thought it was the easiest games section I had ever done. However, after the test, my seatmate and I got to chatting about the sections and he got two Reading Comprehension sections and one LG and I had it the other way around. And his LG sounded a lot like my first LG section. Okay, exactly like it. I did forget a lot by then so I could be mistaken but I was pretty sure the dinosaur question he mentioned was in my first and not third section.

But during the break (where I was surprised to discover it was 4 o'clock) I was unaware of all of this and was pretty happy. I took my chocolate bar, banana and water bottle out to Michelle, who got to wait in the lobby right outside my test room, and chatted with her for a bit. We weren't allowed to talk about the test so I told her I would tell her the funny stories later. I went back in, ready to kill what I knew must be coming: another LR section and the Reading Comp.

And conquer them I did. I was very happy with RC. The humanities was the comparative passages and for the first time I thought the humanities passage was the hardest one. But I was very familiar with the terms (thank God for the degree in English Lit) and at least knew what the writers were saying. But even for me it was tough to pick out what they had in common because it really looked like they were presenting very separate things. 

I actually did that first and I know my Tutor would kill me because just the day before he said we should do the two-passage questions 3rd or 4th. But, in my triage of the section, there were 2 tougher-looking passages about fractal geometry and something else. I forget now but it was the natural sciences one. 

Once I figured out what the humanities passages were talking about (Willa Cather's style), I felt it was smooth sailing and finished well before the 8.5 minutes we're supposed to allot per passage.

I then did the law passage, which was again easy. I had finished 2 passages in 15 minutes and could take my time with fractal geometry and natural sciences. Fortunately, they were much easier than I anticipated and I should have left the humanities for last. But I was able to finish with plenty of time to spare and went back to look over the Willa Cather passages and was happy with my answers.

By the end of the 5th section, they had managed to get the a/c turned off. When I sat down, all those hours before, I didn't feel warm at all and was getting a nice breeze through the window. But I guess people in the middle didn't feel so comfortable and just as we were about to start section 1, the a/c came on. By the end of section 1, we were all test-taking icicles.

People complained at the break and the procters did try to get it turned off. Just after the start of section 4, they made an announcement that the engineers had gone home and they would re-open the windows to get some of the warmer air circulate. It didn't work but someone did get it turned off.

I have to say, I really zoned out the cold during the test. I tried my best to take tests during not-perfect circumstances and I thought this one was the best test environment I ever had. It was only at the end of a section I realized my fingers were blue. Once I was in a section, though, I was oblivious to everything but what was in front of me. That also made me feel pretty good.

The writing sample was the last section and that I did with my eyes closed. I didn't even need the scratch paper. Then it was over. The procters got into a tussle over someone leaving the room before time was called and the one-cane lady and the 2-cane guy really went at it. I got to hear most of it as I was done with my writing sample as it happened. It was very funny but distracting. The MP didn't turn the mike off and everyone could hear what they were saying. They were really kind of badly-behaved.

Michelle said that the procters in the next room were worse. Three of them stood at the back talking in loud voices. 

It took a long time for them to count the papers before they let us leave. One-cane lady was so mad, you see it. She had to keep re-counting because she was so angry she kept losing count. It didn't help that two-cane guy kept going at her for the guy who left. I have no idea how she could have stopped him from leaving. SHE WALKS WITH A CANE! It took her four tries to get her count to match with the others. 

Then we got to leave. Amen. Michelle and I went looking for something to eat and wound up at a cute place called Prohibition around 85th and Amsterdam. We were going to Jackson Hole, which is right next door, but we stopped to look at Prohibition's menu and were sold.

I had a frozen cosmopolitan to celebrate being done with the test. I texted Tutor the bare bones of the experience and then ate like it was the first time. I was so hungry I about inhaled 2 of the mini burgers on my plate. I slowed down over the fries and then exhaled. Michelle asked me if I was ok and I said I think I was done. I just came to a full stop. We laughed hard over our meal and I took the remaining 2 mini-burgers home for John, because I couldn't eat anything anymore.

Michelle dropped me home, I kissed my sleeping Pie (who peppered me with questions this morning to make sure I wasn't going back to school until next year) and yapped with John for a bit before showering and hitting the bed. He came in later and gave me a back rub and I fell asleep.

I'm still pretty wiped this morning but I got up to take the kid to school so John could sleep late. We still have some issues with the upstairs lights so an electrician is coming this morning. Life goes on as the 3-week wait for scores begins.