The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)

Updated 16 September 2020

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What Is the LSAT?

The LSAT (or Law School Admissions Test) is a standardized test that must be passed by prospective law school candidates, forming part of the admissions process for:

  • All American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools in the US
  • Common-law law schools in Canada
  • Specific universities in Australia (such as the University of Melbourne)

It is also becoming more popular in other countries.

It is run seven times per year across the world, administered by The Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

The test, now taken in two separate parts, takes half a day to complete and assesses competency for law school, including reading comprehension, logic and verbal reasoning.

The LSAT is the first step in qualifying as a lawyer in the United States.

The test is taken by prospective students as part of the application process for law school which, in the US, is a postgraduate qualification known as a JD, or Juris Doctor, and is a graduate-entry professional degree in law.

To be fully authorized to practice law in the US, you will need to hold a JD degree and pass the bar examination of the state in which you intend to practice.

The LSAT test is formed of two parts.

For the first part, candidates have traditionally attended test centers to take a multiple-choice exam. From September 2019, this has been taken digitally in North America using a tablet (rather than previously using pencil and paper) and LSAC now refers to this first part as the Digital LSAT.

The second part, the written essay, is known as LSAT Writing. This part of the test is carried out online, using secure proctoring software installed on the candidate’s computer.

In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, LSAC introduced an online exam called LSAT-Flex in place of the in-person Digital LSAT, using ProctorU software on the candidate’s own computer to allow remote invigilation.

The LSAT test

What Is Being Assessed?

The LSAT measures the skills which law schools suggest are the most important for succeeding in law school, including reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning and written arguments.

Question Formats and Type

As mentioned, there are two parts to the LSAT:

First Part: Digital LSAT

The five sections of the first part of the LSAT are as follows:

  • Reading Comprehension – Around 27 multiple-choice questions

  • Analytical Reasoning/Logic Games – Four logic games with four to seven multiple-choice questions each

  • Logical Reasoning/Arguments (x 2 sections) – 24 to 26 multiple-choice questions per section

  • Variable Unscored Section

Only four of the five sections count towards the final score, but candidates will not know which section is unscored until they receive the score report.

Reading Comprehension

This tests a candidate’s ability to understand written text. You will have to read a passage of text (or pair of passages) and then answer two or three questions based on what you have just read.

This can include understanding what is explicitly stated, what is merely implied or what could be logically inferred.

All (or none) of the statements to choose from may apply and candidates must decide which one best answers the question.

The written text may be from any discipline and you do not have to have any specialist or outside knowledge.

Sample Question

Read the passage below and answer the questions:

Between 2018 and 2019, confidential calls to the RSPCA about puppy farming rose by 35%. This rise could be attributed to the demand for designer dogs seen on social media sites like Instagram. Breeds like French bulldogs have increased in popularity in recent years due to celebrity promotion and endorsement.

Hashtags like #puppiesforsale and #dogsofinstagram have been accused of unwittingly feeding into the hands of puppy farmers. The platform has been accused of turning a blind eye to animal welfare issues. However, animal groups like the RSPCA have used the platform to promote rehoming to great success.

Puppies born at a puppy farm are more likely to have behavioral issues, infectious or inherited diseases and may have a shorter life-span. They are more likely to be aggressive or fearful and often have to be put down. Vet trips for puppy-farmed dogs will be significantly more frequent than for other types of puppy.

More than 50,000 dogs are left without a home in shelters every year. There is a common misconception that dogs in shelters have something wrong with them; however, most dogs up for adoption are healthy, vaccinated and fully assessed and will be placed with the right family for their needs. They are usually significantly cheaper than puppy farmed dogs, as most shelters will only ask for a donation and will usually pay for any vet treatment that is necessary long-term.

1. Which one of the following can be inferred from the passage as a possible consequence of puppy farming:

a) Puppy farming leads to more dogs in shelters
b) There are more designer breed dogs than mongrels
c) The RSPCA get more confidential calls
d) More people will own dogs
e) Puppies from puppy farms are more expensive to keep than rescue dogs

2. The fourth paragraph of the passage serves to:

a) Persuade prospective dog owners to rescue a dog from a shelter
b) Point out possible disadvantages of owning a dog
c) Elaborate on the effectiveness of social media advertising
d) Provide further details on the benefits of dog ownership
e) Show that dogs, generally, don’t have health problems

The correct answers are:

1. e)

To answer this, you need to focus on the parts of the passage that focus on puppy farming. As the passage clearly states that puppy farmed dogs require more vet trips, you can infer that it will be more expensive to keep a dog from a puppy farm.

2. a)

The fourth paragraph contrasts its argument with the description of puppy farmed dogs to show that rescued dogs are usually healthier and cheaper. The purpose of this is to persuade people to adopt from a shelter.

Strategies for Success

  • Read the entire passage and all answer choices, selecting only the best answer which most accurately answers the question asked.

  • Do not pick a response because it is true, respond to what is asked.

  • Only include what is contained in the section when selecting an answer, no matter what else you may know.

  • Practice by starting with topics familiar to you, then working away from your comfort zone.

  • Look for key and transitional parts of the passage and mark words such as nevertheless or however as they may indicate secondary parts of the text.

Analytical Reasoning

This section tests your ability to apply logic to a particular set of facts, as well as deduction and finding structure within organized data.

This requires matching and sequencing skills. Some scenarios may include fixed or variable data (for example, roses are always red, or roses can be either pink or red).

Sample Question

From a group of five people — A, B, C, D, E — exactly three will be selected to attend a breakfast reception, conforming to the following selection conditions:

  • Either A or B must be selected, but A and B cannot both be selected
  • Either C or D must be selected, but C and D cannot both be selected
  • A cannot be selected unless E is selected

If A is not selected to attend, exactly how many different groups of three are there which would be an acceptable selection?

a) one
b) two
c) three
d) four

The correct answer is: b) two – BCE or BDE

Strategies for Success

  • Do not make assumptions; for example, people with larger feet must also be taller.

  • Pay attention to precise words; for example, always, sometimes, occasionally.

  • Do not carry any information over from one question to another unless it is specified in the scenario.

Logical Reasoning

This section tests your ability to form, evaluate and analyze arguments, determining whether an argument is strong or weak and why.

Similar in format to the reading comprehension section, each question requires you to read and comprehend a short passage, then answer one question (occasionally two) about the passage.

Practice these as recommended above.

Sample Question

In cities where wearing a cycle helmet is optional when riding a bike, cyclists who always wear helmets are less likely to be involved in an accident than cyclists who only wear helmets when it is raining. Yet accident records show that implementing mandatory helmet wearing does nothing to reduce the overall number of accidents.

Which one of the following, if true, most helps to resolve the apparent discrepancy in the information above?

a) In cities where helmets are not mandatory, one cyclist in four wears a helmet in good weather.
b) It is not difficult to enforce a law which makes the wearing of helmets mandatory at all times.
c) Only very careful cyclists wear helmets when their use is not mandatory.
d) There are some cities in which it is illegal to wear helmets when it is snowing.
e) The cities where helmet wearing is mandatory at all times are those where it frequently rains.

The correct answer is: c)

If only very careful cyclists wear helmets when their use is not mandatory, then this explains why, when helmet wearing is optional, those cyclists are less likely to have an accident than cyclists who only wear helmets when it rains.

It stands to reason that if helmet wearing is made mandatory, many careless cyclists will then also be wearing helmets – unsafe cyclists do not become more careful by the mere act of wearing a helmet, even if it is raining.

Answer a) is incorrect.

Statistical information about the percentage of helmet wearers in good weather does not help to explain why making helmet wearing mandatory does not reduce the total number of accidents.

Answer b) is incorrect.

This does not help resolve the apparent discrepancy even if it might be true.

Answer d) is incorrect.

This does not help resolve the apparent discrepancy and introduces a third scenario which is not mentioned in the passage.

Answer e) is incorrect.

It would make sense for cyclists to wear helmets more when it rains, but this answer does nothing to explain why, when helmet use is merely optional, those who wear helmets at all times are less likely to have an accident.

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)

Second Part: LSAT Writing

The second part is a writing test for which candidates are given 35 minutes. This is completed using secure proctoring software downloaded to the candidate's own computer and is usually carried out separately to the first part of the LSAT.

The basic premise of the writing part is to choose between two decisions, positions or courses of action and then defend your choice.

With no right or wrong answer, this is your chance to demonstrate your argumentative writing skills to impress the law schools to which you apply, as your answer to this part is sent to all schools.

In this section, you will want to consider skills crucial to succeeding at law school and as a lawyer, including reasoning, clarity, organization, language usage and writing mechanics.

Strategies for Success

  • Keep an eye on the time as you only have 35 minutes and that includes reading the topic and directions, plus reviewing what you have written.

  • Consider the topic carefully – and make sure you stick to the topic specified.

  • Plan your answer.

  • Develop your thoughts fully to answer the question.

What to Expect When Taking the LSAT

The LSAT takes 3 hours and 30 minutes in total, split over two tests. Candidates register around two months ahead of sitting the first part of the test and the basic fee is currently $200.

Tests are usually carried out on a Saturday. Where religious observance does not allow you to take the LSAT on a Saturday, candidates may apply to take the test on a different day.

First Part

As we have seen, the first part is multiple-choice and has five sections.

In North America, it is taken digitally using a tablet. Candidates are allowed 35 minutes per section, taking 2 hours and 55 minutes in total.

The test has traditionally been carried out at one of the designated test centers worldwide. Candidates can use a stylus to highlight text on the tablet and will be given paper and a pencil to make manual notes.

If attending a test center in person, candidates must bring their admission ticket plus photo ID and may wear an analog watch. No electronic devices, including cell phones, are allowed.

You may also bring a sealed clear plastic ziplock bag no bigger than 1 gallon/3.79 liters which can contain only the following:

  • Valid ID
  • Wallet
  • Keys or car-key fob (provided it does not feature a data port)
  • Feminine hygiene or medical products (including diabetic testing supplies)
  • No. 2 or HB sharpened pencils (not mechanical)
  • A highlighter (for paper-and-pencil LSAT administrations only)
  • An eraser (no mechanical erasers or erasers with sleeves)
  • A pencil sharpener
  • Tissues
  • Beverage in plastic container or juice box (maximum size: 20 oz/591 ml) and snack for break only. Aluminum cans are not permitted.

Second Part

Candidates are given 35 minutes to complete the writing test. This is completed using secure proctoring software downloaded to the candidate's own computer and is usually carried out separately to the first part of the LSAT.

Candidates must present their photo ID at the start of the test and are allowed one sheet of blank paper (held up to the camera prior to the test to show that both sides are blank) as well as pens, pencils and tissues.

From August 2020, test takers may wear generic soft earplugs (shown to the camera prior to the test) so long as they are non-electronic, non-branded, have no cords, etc.

How Is the Test Scored?

In theory, candidates can take more than one LSAT but should be aware that law schools average out the scores of all candidate’s tests, so it is advised to only take one.

You will receive a score on a scale of 120 to 180 points. The average score is 150, and a score of 160 is acceptable, but for top-tier law schools, you should be scoring at least a 171.

You receive one point for each correct answer. There are no deductions or weighted sections.

Receiving Your LSAT Score

Each test date has an associated score release date. On that date, the LSAT scores are released to the LSAT Status page of the candidate’s LSAC account and candidates are notified by email.

What Will My LSAT Score Report Contain?

The score report contains:

  • The score related to your current test
  • Results of all previous reportable tests (up to 12)
  • Your average score
  • Your score band
  • Your percentile rank

What Is Score Preview?

LSAC offers a scheme for first-time test takers called Score Preview in which candidates have six calendar days to decide whether to cancel or keep their score.

If you choose to cancel, you must take the test again with the first test noted as ‘Candidate Cancel’. This means all law schools you apply to will see that your test was canceled at your request and that you have seen test questions.

If you do nothing, after six days, the score is released to the law schools on their transcript.

This is a paid-for service, costing $45 if paid for in advance, with the cost rising thereafter.

How to Practice for the LSAT

Give Yourself Enough Time to Practice

You are not going to give it your best shot if you just enroll and have a go. You need to prepare thoroughly and make sure you have trained your brain to think like a lawyer.

It is recommended to spend one to three months in advance of your test reading and preparing. There is no point in taking the LSAT until you have prepared fully.

Practice the Right Questions

Make sure that you are confident the test questions you are practicing are the right kind of questions.

Check out our list of LSAT prep courses to help you with your practice.

Practice Under Test Conditions

There is little point being able to answer the questions accurately if you cannot do it within the allocated time limit.

Every time you take a practice test, make a note of how long it took and repeat over again until you can do it within the time required.

Read a Lot

It does not really matter what you read, but you should take the opportunity to build key skills with your practice reading:

  • Reading actively (for example, with intent).

  • Widening your background knowledge so you are familiar with a variety of topics and subjects, particularly ones you find boring or confusing.

  • Reading with focus and with speed.

Be Prepared

Online invigilation can be as stressful as the test itself. Make sure you have thoroughly read and understood all the requirements before attending and have tested your electronic devices and required programs.

Double-check what you can have in the room on the day, and make sure you don't forget anything.

Final Thoughts

The LSAT is an essential part of the law school admission process and while it tests skills inherently required to be a lawyer, it doesn't require any prior knowledge of law topics.

Indeed, you must make sure to answer without bringing any prior, assumed or learned knowledge to the various passages and scenarios.

Prepare thoroughly and make sure you only need to take the LSAT once.