What is the LSAT?

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardized test administered four times a year (June, September/October, December & February) at designated testing centers throughout the world. All ABA-approved law schools require applicants to take the LSAT. The LSAT is designed to measure skills considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others. The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. These sections include one reading comprehension section, one analytical section, and two logical reasoning sections. The unscored section (variable section) typically is used to pretest new test questions or to pre-equate new test forms. The placement of this section in the LSAT will vary. The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120 to 180, with 180 being the highest possible score. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. LSAC does not score the writing sample, but copies are sent to all law schools to which a candidate applies. Below are important, base facts (some dispelling misperceptions!) about the LSAT.

10 LSAT Facts You Should Know

  1. The LSAT is not an IQ test. Contrary to popular belief, the LSAT does not measure intelligence. Therefore, the test does not render those with higher scores smarter than those with lower scores. The LSAT is one of many factors relied upon by law schools to predict a person’s chances of first-year success. The LSAT’s predictive value is limited, however, and small variations in scores are insignificant. Other factors being equal, a person with a 157 has about the same statistical odds of first-year success as someone with a 160.
  2. The LSAT does not test substantive material. The LSAT is a skills test; it does not test any specific subject matter. It seeks to measure your reading comprehension, analytical, and logical reasoning skills. Most test-takers already have high-level grasps of these skills, but must hone diem within the context of the test itself. All of the required skills are learnable and able to be honed.
  3. Time constraints are what make the LSAT difficult. Most test-takers would do well on the LSAT if there were no time constraints. The reading passages are not terribly complicated. The required analytical and logical reasoning skills are possessed by most people with college-level educations. Alas, time constraints are a significant element of the exam. And they require that you not only possess the required skills, but that you hone these skills to the level of being second-nature.
  4. Logical Reasoning questions make up half the LSAT. It is vitally important that you master the Logical Reasoning question type. These questions make up two of the four scored sections on the LSAT. Practicing problems, as well as developing an understanding of basic logic will help you score high on these sections.
  5. The easiest LSAT section on which to improve is the ‘games’. The Analytical Reasoning or “games” section is frequently considered the most difficult part of the LSAT. While most of us engage in reading comprehension and logical reasoning as part of our daily lives, the skills required to do well on the games often seem unfamiliar. Fortunately, the formulaic method of analyzing the games allows for dramatic improvement, once the method is mastered. On the flip side, the reading comprehension section generally yields the least improvement, as it tests skills that must be honed early in one’s educational career.
  6. There are no “secrets” to success on the LSAT. There are many well-known LSAT prep strategies and tips which are effective. For example, it is no secret that practicing actual LSAT problems under simulated test conditions is the best mode of preparation. Thus, rather than wasting time and money searching for so-called secrets to LSAT success, use the tried-and-true methods to scoring high.
  7. You do not have to take a prep course to be successful on the LSAT. Prep courses can be helpful, but they do not assure LSAT success. Prep courses are effective at providing a structured program of study and helpful test-taking tips. They are usually most valuable to those who benefit greatly from classroom instruction. The downside to most prep courses is their costs, which are prohibitive for many people.
  8. A significant component to LSAT success is mental state. High-level anxiety can negatively affect your LSAT score. Thus, in addition to your regular preparation, you should engage in mental exercises that can help reduce test day anxiety. Set your routine for test day, and rehearse it. Travel to the test site a few times before the exam. Visualize taking the test and receiving a positive result. Hone stress-reducing stretches and breathing exercises that can be implemented on test day. And lastly, stop telling yourself, “I don’t test well.”
  9. A significant number of schools accept the highest of multiple LSAT scores. When taking the LSAT, the rule of thumb is that you should endeavor to take it once because most schools will average multiple scores. However, a significant number of schools accept die highest of multiple scores, particularly when the difference in scores is significant and the last score is the highest. If you have taken the LSAT more than once, contact schools in which you are interested to ascertain their policies.
  10. The LSAT is not the only factor considered by admissions committees.
  11. The LSAT is a significant admissions factor, but other factors are important as well. Personal statements, letters of recommendation, and transcripts are pored over considerably by most admissions committees. Thus, it is important that all aspects of your application are as strong as possible

How should I study for the LSAT?

The only way to prepare for the LSAT is to familiarize yourself with every component of the test. The National Association of Pre-Law Advisors’ Handbook recommends two hours of concentrated practice a day for three months as the bare minimum. There are a number of ways to study for the LSAT. The most popular way is by home study. You can use any available materials for home study. The LSAT/LSDAS Registration Booklet contains a practice LSAT. You may also order previous LSATs on your LSAT/LSDAS registration form. These released LSATs come in what is referred to as “The Official LSAT Prep Packages,” complete with an actual, not simulated, exam, answers, and explanations to the questions and correct answers. Another popular way to prepare for the LSAT is by taking an LSAT review course. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) argues that review courses are of little or no use in preparing for the LSAT. Advocates of the review classes dispute this, claiming that they can help a student prepare for the LSAT. For the most part, if you are financially able, a professional prep course may be a good idea if you feel you may benefit from the structure and time management-anything you can do to improve your LSAT score is a good investment. Two popular professional LSAT prep courses are PowerScore and TestMasters. There are many others out there. Prices for such classes can range from $350 to $1400. Scholarships may be available from the preparatory course based on demonstrated need.