Studying for the LSAT, MCAT, GRE, GMAT, or whatever it may be is not easy. It is hard for me to study without having a deadline, an assignment, or a professor to fear. Add that to working full-time, and all I could do was skim through a page or two of my newly-bought test prep book before calling it a night. Soon enough, however, I figured out what I needed to do and successfully prepared for, and took, the LSAT. The following are some tips I picked up along the way that could also apply to you if you’re wondering how to study for an exam while in the working world.
1. Stick to a Schedule
It sounds so simple, and you’ve probably heard it a million times, but—you just have to do it. For me, it was more about breaking up my schedule. I had read lots of tips online about dedicating 10+ hour days to studying on the weekends. That was not going to happen for me. I know I study better in short bursts, so I was able to schedule these bursts in throughout the day. First, I woke up an hour earlier in order to get 45 minutes of studying in before work. Second, I would take a half hour or hour lunch in order to work (AKA, practice my logic games!). Third, I would dedicate at least an hour after work for studying. I knew all I needed to do was an hour. If I had told myself I needed to study ALL NIGHT, I would constantly dread it and never even pick up a book. But if it’s only an hour, I would start studying without a problem, and often continue a little longer once I was in the right mindset.
2. Environment is Key
As I’m currently living in the basement of my parents’ house, I have no desk. And studying upstairs with my family while they’re watching TV and the dogs are barking was not an option. If you can make it to a coffee shop or the library, I’d highly recommend that. For me, however, it was more feasible to study at work. Now, I did not study DURING work. I’m lucky enough to have a nice space in the office where I can spread out my materials. This way it was perfect for me to come into work a little early and study before clocking in. It was the same after work, after I clocked out. (Make sure this situation is okay with your employer, of course.) I feel more studious and productive in my office at work, and could therefore study more successfully in that environment.
3. Hold Yourself Accountable.
While I do believe I’m self-motivating to a large extent, I’ve realized that I perform better when I’m being held accountable by someone or something. I knew that if I just told myself I would “start studying” for the LSAT, I would most likely keep “studying” for another three years and never actually sit down and take the test. This is why I made it a point to register early for the test, tell my family and friends I was taking it, and find a local tutor. Having an appointment every week (or a few times a week) with my tutor motivated me to study continuously throughout the week in order to prepare. Someone else was measuring my progress, which in turn allowed me to make more progress. Maybe this method won’t apply to you, but if you can figure out your own study habits and schedule, you’ll find the right formula for your success.