Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
Taking the LSAT
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardized test administered four times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. The test is an integral part of the law school admission process in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries. It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants.
Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier — in June or September/October — is often advised.
The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker's score. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions or to pre-equate new test forms. The placement of this section will vary. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. LSAC does not score the writing sample, but copies of the writing sample are sent to all law schools to which you apply.
What It Measures
The LSAT is designed to measure skills that are 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.
How It's Scored
The LSAT is scored on a scale from 120 to 180. Although you will answer a total of about 120-130 questions, your score is determined by the number of correct answers on the four scored sections, usually covering a total of about 96-104 questions. The writing sample is also not included as part of your score, but is copied and sent directly to the law schools to which you are applying. While individual questions do vary in difficulty, each correct answer makes the same contribution to your score, regardless of how difficult or easy it may be. Thus, no question is worth more than any other. Within each section of the test, questions may not be arranged in order of difficulty (except for the logical reasoning/logic games section of the LSAT — this section generally increases in difficulty as you progress).
LSAT scores are not absolutes; a 180 does not necessarily mean that every question was answered correctly (you could have as many as two or three questions incorrect and still receive a 180), nor does a 120 necessarily mean that you scored every question incorrectly. Generally, you will need approximately 15-17 correct answers before your score moves above a 120. Once you reach that threshold, your score will increase roughly two points for every three additional correct answers.
It is critical to note that your test score is based on the number of questions answered correctly, and that there is no deduction for incorrect answers. Thus, you are not penalized for guessing, and should never leave a question unanswered. The LSAT is a deliberately "speeded" test, and you will probably find yourself quite pressed for time during the exam. This fact makes it imperative that you practice taking the LSAT under timed conditions, so as to familiarize yourself with the pace that you will need to keep on the day of the exam. Even with such preparation, it is not unusual to find that you are not able to finish each section of the test without a certain amount of guessing. Note: if utilizing previous LSATs for exam preparation, note that the exams since 2007 tend to more closely mirror the current level of difficulty for the reading comprehension section (the answer choices are written in such a way that more than one answer may seem correct), also logical reasoning is effectively half of your LSAT score.
Re-taking the LSAT
Test takers frequently wonder whether they can improve their LSAT score by taking the test a second time. If you believe that your test score does not reflect your true ability—for example, if some circumstance such as illness prevented you from performing as well as you might have expected—you should consider taking the test again. Data show (PDF) that scores for repeat test takers often rise slightly. However, if your score is a fairly accurate indicator of your ability, it is unlikely that taking the test again will result in a substantially different score, and there is the chance your score will drop.
Also, be aware that whenever any LSAT scores for a candidate are sent to a school via CAS, all scores are sent. However, the ABA only requires law schools to report the highest LSAT scores of admitted students, so some schools only look at those, but other schools still average the scores or look at all of the scores earned when considering a student for admission. In the absence of specific circumstances that may have undermined one or more scores on your test record, schools are advised by LSAC that the average score is probably the best estimate of ability — especially if the tests were taken over a short period of time, and LSAC won't send partial score reports.
Also, students are only permitted to take the exam three times in a two-year period. It’s hard to get an exemption from this rule. Students should always consult with the pre-law advisor before registering to retake the LSAT.
Studying for the LSAT
The LSAT is not a test that can be crammed for. It tests aptitudes as opposed to specific knowledge. Preparing for it should be a process of familiarizing yourself with the format of the test, the types of questions that will be asked, and the pace of the exam—a process that often spans several months. It is recommended that at least 200 hours is spent preparing for this test.
A variety of study guides, preparation materials and courses are available to help you get ready for the LSAT. In particular, the Law School Admission Council publishes complete, authentic, recently administered LSAT exams that are available for purchase in book form. They also make a previous test available for free (PDF).
Test Dates & Application Deadlines
Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier — in June or September/October — is often advised. Check with the law schools to which you are applying to determine their deadlines.
For the most complete and up-to-date information about test dates and deadlines, visit LSAC.org.