If you were considering a career in law, more than likely, you heard of LSATs. So what is the LSAT, and why is it important for prospective law professionals?
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized test for students that want to get into law school in the US, Canada, and a rising number of other countries. The test aims to create a ranking system where students apply to a school of their choice and get their J.D. degree if they get good enough results.
Studies have shown that a students’ LSAT score is a reliable indicator of how they will perform in their first year at law school. It's more indicative of their future results than the grade-point average (GPA) they’ve scored in undergraduate studies.
LSAT is designed to test reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logic, writing, and other skills necessary for practicing law.
About Law School Admission Council
The entrance exams for law school are handled by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). The organization was founded in 1947, when representatives from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and the College Board agreed on creating a standardized test specifically for the new organization of law schools.
LSAC is a non-profit organization with more than 200 member law schools from the US, Canada, and Australia. All member schools are authorized by their relevant government agencies, and in the US, all of them are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
LSAT is an exam consisting of two parts. In the first part of the test, applicants need to answer multiple-choice questions. It’s sorted into five sections which can be assigned to applicants in any order. It’s oriented around reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical reasoning.
The complete test is three and a half hours long, consisting of five sections, of which one is unscored and experimental. Keep in mind that you won’t be informed which one it will be since it may cover any of the sections discussed below. That’s why it’s best practice to give each section of the exam your best effort.
The second part of the exam is LSAT Writing. This is not scored, but it’s mandatory for all candidates.
The reading comprehension part of the exams usually lasts 35 minutes. It will typically have four sets of questions related to a single 460-word passage or two related passages with a similar word count. Occasionally the LSAT test will include multiple related passages and test students’ comparative reading capabilities. No matter how many sets there are, each will have between five and eight questions.
Texts that candidates need to analyze usually cover various topics from humanities, social and natural science, to law. No special knowledge or background will be necessary to understand and pass this section of the law school entrance exam. However, the tests use advanced vocabulary to explain an intricate argument or complicated rhetoric and multiple points of view.
Since this part of the LSAT is centered around extracting information and its context, try to carefully read each passage, identify the primary and author’s points of view, and determine different relationships within the provided material. Furthermore, attempt to discern the passage’s implication and have a clear idea of contrasting the points of view. You will have to draw reasonable assumptions and answer the questions based on them.
Logical reasoning (also referred to as arguments) consists of two sections. Each one has approximately 25 questions and takes 35 minutes to complete. This section aims to gauge the test takers’ ability to discern the main argument points, find relevant information, apply logic to different abstract concepts, and analyze and assess arguments.
As arguments are fundamental to the law, analyzing them is an essential part of a legal process and training. Law schools provide critical education that builds on the student’s reasoning skills. The Logical Reasoning part of the LSAT exam bases its question pool on sources drawn from magazines, newspapers, advertisements, scholarly publications, and other sources containing discourse.
Each question in these two sections will require you to read through a short passage and answer one or two questions related to it. There is no need for specialized training in logic, but understanding basic terms like premise, conclusion, assumption, argument, and inference is required. Attention to detail, quantifiers, and indicators used in the passages is also crucial.
Analytical Reasoning, or Logic Games, is a single section part of the test that lasts 35 minutes. It consists of four logic games with five to seven questions related to a 130-word passage describing a scenario and a related set of rules. Each scenario features various relationships between different elements, and it’s up to the student to solve complex problems using logic and deduction skills but also working within the constraints of the set guidelines.
This part of the test reflects the legal constraints and complex relationships that law practitioners must sometimes navigate. Analytical Reasoning tests the analytical skills and the ability to apply logic to complicated situations.
To successfully complete this part of the law school test, you’ll have to fully comprehend the structures and relationships set up in the scenario. Pay close attention to “if-then” statements and conclude what is true from the given information and according to the given rules. As with previous parts of the LSAT, no formal training is needed to pass this part of the test.
LSAT Writing is a separate test that has to be completed before the multiple-choice part of the test. Candidates can complete this task on their computer up to eight days prior to the rest of the test. If the writing sample isn’t finished, a candidate won’t get their score, and their results won’t be released to law schools.
The essay writing test lasts 35 minutes, and proctoring software must be downloaded and installed beforehand. The candidate is presented with the topic when the test starts. This test is essentially the candidates’ first contact with argumentative writing done in law school.
While it’s not scored, LSAT Writing is also sent to law schools as it’s often used to choose between candidates with similar or the same scores in the other parts of the exam. Therefore, it’s still a factor in getting you into a prestigious school, although not as important as the other parts of the test. If you do not pass the written exam, you don’t have to complete the written essay again.
When can you take the LSAT?
The test to get into law school is held in February, June, September or October, and December. The testing capacity is limited depending on the number of available seats at each testing center. It’s best to register early so you can book your spot well in advance.
If you are located more than 100 miles from the testing center, you are eligible to submit a special request to LSAC and take the exam at a nonpublished testing center.
LSAT Costs and Limits
The important thing to know about the LSAT is that you can only take the exam three times in two years. Therefore, make sure to study carefully and prepare for it.
The fee for taking the exam is $200. LSAC lists other fees like those that may apply for changing the testing date, auditing your score, and official reports. However, these are all optional: the $200 fee is all you need to take the test.
LSAT is scored on a 120 to 180 point scale. This result is calculated based on the number of correctly answered questions, called the raw score. Make sure to answer all of the questions, as those answered incorrectly won’t deduct from your total.
Since the test consists of 100 or 101 questions, a raw score of 99 answered correctly would translate into a 180 result. The average LSAT score is 150, but the required point total for getting into the most prestigious law schools is 160 or higher.
Upon completing the exam, you will receive LSAT information and the results via email in three to four weeks.
If you took the LSAT test more than once, you should know that each score for a test taken less than five years apart is reported to law schools. Therefore your performance is summarized as most recent, highest scoring, and the average value.
Preparing for the LSAT
There is plenty of material you can review to prepare for the LSAT and the rest of your career as a lawyer. There are official practice tests that you can use to prepare for the exam. Practicing will give you a better idea of what to expect and what kind of questions will be featured on the test.
LSALT length may seem daunting, but the test will give you plenty of time to answer all of the questions. However, it’s not that easy, and you will have to go through a lot of reading and five different sections of the exam. Practicing example tests with time limitations will let you know where you stand and what you have to do to be faster.
The recommended time to prepare for the LSAT is between two and three months. You should set aside anywhere between 150 and 300 hours to go through the material during that time.