Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
Every student applying to law school must take the LSAT. The examination is used by the law schools as a predictor of success in the first year of legal studies. The LSAT was originally designed as a means to standardize applicants across schools, given the difficulty in the comparative evaluation of students' grade point averages at different undergraduate institutions.
Unlike the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), the LSAT assumes no prior knowledge of any particular area. In other words, it does not test any subject matter that you presumably have studied. Instead, the LSAT tests cognitive, reading, and analytical skills, abilities that an attorney must utilize on a daily basis. The scoring and timing of the test are unique.
The current LSAT is a multiple-choice exam composed of the five following section contents:
- Writing Sample: You are given a set of facts covering two sides of an issue. You are then asked to choose one side and write an essay supporting your decision. This section is not scored; it is simply photocopied and sent to each law school to which you apply as an indication of your writing skills.
- Logical Reasoning: These two sections contain anywhere from 24-26 questions based on very short arguments. You are asked to either evaluate the argument, strengthen it or weaken it, illustrate the premise of the argument, or deduce its conclusions or implications.
- Reading Comprehension: Not unlike the reading comprehension section of the SAT, this section contains reading passages. You are tested on your ability to distinguish between major points and supporting evidence, to draw inferences from factual information, and detect the logical strengths and weaknesses in the passage. Each passage is followed by questions for a total of 26-28 questions in the section.
- Analytic Reasoning (Logic Games): In this section, you are presented with problem sets. Each problem begins with a set of information or rules. You must organize the information and then answer questions on the problem for a total of 22 to 24 questions in this section. You are tested on your ability to recognize relationships and to perform abstract (mathematical-like) reasoning.
- Experimental Section: The experimental section is simply an additional section of either the logical reasoning, the reading comprehension, or the logic games section. It may be located during any part of the exam. The experimental section is not graded and therefore does not affect your score on the LSAT. Since there is really no way of knowing which section is the experimental one, you respond to each section as if it were being scored.
For more information, read the frequently-asked questions about the test online.
You are given 35 minutes to complete each section except for the writing sample, for which 30 minutes is allotted.
The LSAT is deliberately a "speeded" exam, designed so that the majority of students do not finish. The score earned under such timed conditions is designed to be an indication of a student's ability to make logical, critical decisions under pressure. Your best defense against the skewed timing of the LSAT is to be prepared for the test. Familiarity with the directions is helpful since the instructions are lengthy and complex. Familiarity with the question types is invaluable.
PLAN TO TAKE THE LSAT ONLY ONCE! It is not an ordeal you will want to sit through more than once. If you do take it a second time, law schools can choose to average your scores or take the highest score, meaning you would have to do significantly better the second time to have any impact. Only under extenuating circumstances do we recommend taking it again.
Your score on the LSAT is built entirely on the number of questions you answer correctly. There is no penalty for wrong answers; so, feel free to guess. NEVER leave answers unmarked! You may be lucky and guess the correct answer. You have nothing to lose by doing so.
The number of questions you answer correctly is your raw score. Your raw score is then scaled against other test-takers' raw scores and finally calculated into a LSAT score ranging from 120 to 180. This score will also be assigned a percentile ranking based on the scores earned over the immediate three preceding years.
The Score Scale:
The scale will extend from 120 to 180, with a mean of 150. It will have 61 distinct score points in it. This should provide a reliable measurement across a broad range of score scale. Reliable measure means that a test taker's relative position in the applicant pool would be consistent if tested many times. It should also allow an evident distinction between more able and less able test takers.
LSDAS stands for Law School Data Assembly Service. Law schools require that you register with LSDAS as a requisite for application. The service compiles and then standardizes all of your academic work over the course of your college career. You register for the LSAT, using the same form in the Law Services Information Booklet. Your registration fee buys you a one year subscription to the service. Once you register with LSDAS, you must arrange to have an official transcript sent to LSDAS by the Registrar's office at each institution from which you have received college credit. Fill out a "Transcript Request Form" for each college or university and bring the completed card with you when you request the transcript from each Registrar.
Each LSDAS report includes the following information: your major, honors earned, study abroad information, your grade point average each year and your cumulative grade point average, your overall grade distribution, the last three previous LSAT scores, your average LSAT score, Clark students' average LSAT score, and Clark's students' average grade point average. The last two pieces of information are reported so that the law schools have information to enable comparison of your statistics with others at your institution.
The LSAT is administered four times a year, in June, late September or early October, December, and February. The February test date is usually too late for most law school application deadlines, so it should generally not be considered as an option. That leaves summer, fall, and early winter test dates.
If you can prepare for the LSAT throughout your junior year and take it in June before your senior year, you will be informed of your scores during the summer and, therefore, have the opportunity to determine at which schools you will have competitive edge for admission. However, you should not take the LSAT unless you are prepared! If, for whatever reasons, you feel that you are not well prepared to take the exam in June of your junior year, by all means, take the entire summer to study intensively and then plan to take the fall LSAT, which will still allow you time to determine appropriate schools and submit applications in late November/early December.
The December LSAT should be a last resort. Unless there have been extenuating circumstances that prevented you from taking the June or September/October test, you should not wait to take the December exam. There are two main reasons not to wait until the December test date. First, your scores take approximately six weeks to get back to you. Since LSAT scores and undergraduate grade point average are the two most important factors in the law school admissions process, you will be at the distinct disadvantage of not knowing your LSAT in the summer or fall. The other reason you should not wait is that you may want to retake the LSAT in December if your June or September test scores were not where you know they should be. Although we did say you should plan to take the LSAT only once, it is always wise to have a back-up date, just in case.
The only way to prepare for the LSAT is to familiarize yourself with every component of the test. The National Association of prelaw advisers' Handbook recommends two hours of concentrated practice a day for at least three months as the bare minimum. An hour or two every day for six months to a year would be ideal.
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 related 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. You may also choose to do home study using commercial preparation books. Arco, Barrons, Martinson, Monarch, Regency, Simon and Schuster, and Princeton Review all have preparation books available for purchase at most bookstores.
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. The two most popular professional LSAT prep classes are offered by Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Centers, Ltd. and The Princeton Review. There are many others out there. Prices for such classes range from $500 to $1300+. Scholarships may be available from the preparatory course based on demonstrated need. If you do decide to take a course here are links to some of the popular ones http://www.knewton.com (Online course), http://www.princetonreview.com/law-school.aspx and http://www.kaptest.com/LSAT/
NO! Actually, we can't stop you from doing it, but according to Law Services, there is no indication that a person's score on one test date is a better indicator of performance than a score on another test date. Therefore, unlike the SATs where most colleges just looked at your highest scores, your average score will be reported to the law schools if you take the LSAT two or three times. It's worth repeating--this is not a test you take once just to see how you would score. You need to be fully prepared for the first time and do your best.
If your score is considerably below where you expected it to be, it may be necessary to retake the test. Check with the catalogues of the various law schools you are considering. Some only accept the first score, but the vast majority of schools will consider the average of your test scores. Keep in mind, however, that schools that look at second test scores expect to see a very significant increase on the second exam. A drop in score would be seriously detrimental.
Ideally, you will prepare for the LSAT over a long enough period of time that you will not take too much time from your Clark course homework. It is important not to detract from your normal academic pursuits and your grade point average.