Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
Taking the LSAT
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardized test administered six times in the 2019-2019 cycle, nine starting with 2019-2020 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, July, September or November — 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.
As of September of 2017, there is no limit on the number of times a student can take the LSAT, however, it is expensive. Students should 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).
Moving to Digital
“The LSAT will be fully digital in North America starting in September 2019. We’ve planned this transition carefully to ensure candidates have all the information they need to decide their preferred testing schedule,” said Kellye Testy, President and CEO of LSAC.
Because law school candidates in the current testing year will have anticipated the current paper-and-pencil test format, LSAC has scheduled the transition to begin with the July 15, 2019 test, after this year’s law school admission cycle is largely completed. At the July 2019 test, some test takers will be assigned pencil-and-paper tests, and some will be assigned digital tests, which is a best practice under educational testing standards for moving to a new testing method. To ease the transition, LSAC is also offering July test takers a special option: regardless of format, July test takers will have the opportunity to see their score before they decide whether they wish to cancel it. Those who decide to cancel can choose to retake the test again through April 2020 free of charge.
“The structure of the test sections and test questions will not be any different than the paper-and-pencil LSAT, and we’ll be providing free online tutorials, so we don’t think test takers will have any problems moving to the digital version,” Testy said. “In our field tests, candidates found the Digital LSAT easy to use. That said, we wanted to provide additional options for those who register for our July transitional test.”
The launch of the Digital LSAT represents the culmination of several years of work. “We were not satisfied with the current electronic testing formats available,” said Testy. “We wanted higher security and a better user experience.” The new Digital LSAT will be delivered on a tablet device loaded with patented software developed by LSAC and includes numerous features that will benefit test takers and schools, including faster reporting of scores.
Current LSAT preparation materials can be used to practice effectively, including the free test preparation LSAC offers in collaboration with Khan Academy. Additional practice materials for use specifically on tablets are also forthcoming. “The LSAT is widely acknowledged as the best tool for assessing the potential for candidates to succeed in law school and pass the bar examination,” said Testy. “The Digital LSAT will maintain the quality and predictive value that the LSAT is known for, while providing a modern delivery system that enhances security, access, and ease of use.” Following the July 2019 transition test, the LSAT will be administered digitally going forward. LSAC is committed to accessibility for test takers with disabilities, and the tablet delivery system offers flexible type sizes, built-in screen reader, and other enhancements that will deliver an optimal testing experience for test takers needing such accommodations. At the same time LSAC is moving to its new test-delivery system, the organization has increased the number of administrations in its testing calendar. There will be nine administrations in the 2019-2020 testing year—up from six in the current testing year. “For 99% of law school candidates, their enrollment journey begins with the LSAT” said Testy. “Our goal is to make it easy and convenient for candidates to pursue their passion for law and justice.”
Most information on this page is from LSAC.org. For more information about the test, you can visit their website or check here. Also, Khan Academy has free LSAT prep available in a collaboration with LSAC. Click the link below for more information.
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, July or September — 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.