Crush the Test by Learning How to Study for the LSAT
The LSAT, or law school admissions test, is a standardized test required for admission into law schools in the United States. Unlike other more well-known standardized tests, like the SAT, the LSAT doesn't directly measure knowledge. Instead, it measures the test taker's skills; it looks specifically at reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and logical reasoning.
Despite the unique nature of the exam, there are many ways an applicant can improve their scores—and that's important, as the higher the score, the more likely an aspiring student will get into the law school of their choice. Let's look at how to make the most of this vital component of the law school application.
There are many misconceptions, the most important of which is that the exam is a test of innate intelligence and one cannot study for it. This could not be further from the truth. Students can significantly improve their scores on the LSAT by engaging in careful, thorough preparation.
Understanding the LSAT
Let's start with the basics: Here's what you need to know about the LSAT.
What is the purpose of the LSAT?
The LSAT measures a law school applicant's intellectual ability concerning tasks that are important for success in law school and later, in the practice of law.
Who should take the LSAT?
The LSAT is the primary test for anyone who wants to become an attorney in the United States. Graduating from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) is the primary path to becoming an attorney. The vast majority of these schools accept the LSAT as a part of the law candidate's application.
Why is the LSAT required for admission?
The LSAT is the primary objective tool for measuring an applicant's ability to succeed in law school. It should be noted, however, that many law schools are starting to accept other standardized tests, such as the GRE, in place of the LSAT.
When is the LSAT administered?
The LSAT is available to test takers approximately five times per year, usually on Saturday or Monday mornings during the summer, fall and winter months. However, Spanish test takers and Sabbath observers will have additional dates and times available for taking the LSAT.
How is the LSAT taken?
Test takers will arrive at a test center in the morning and finish around midday. The test is given in a classroom with pencil and paper. It consists of both multiple-choice questions and a written section. However, the written section is not scored; it serves as an opportunity for the application to demonstrate writing and argumentative skills.
Do all law schools require the LSAT for admission?
No, but the vast majority of ABA accredited schools do. A few schools that allow students to apply without taking the LSAT include the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law and Wake Forest University School of Law. At these schools, a GRE is acceptable.
Four sections make up the LSAT: analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, reading comprehension and a writing sample. Test takers have 35 minutes to complete each section, although the number of questions on each section will vary, typically between 23 and 28 questions.
The analytical reasoning section consists of a single passage outlining a scenario with several sets of questions or logic games that tests an individual's deductive reasoning ability. For example, the passage might describe seven musical contests at a competition and a few facts about each contestant. Then each set of questions might ask the test taker to figure out if the trumpeter competes before or after the violinist.
There is only one scored analytical reasoning section on the LSAT. Because the analytical reasoning section consists of several completely separate sections, to avoid confusion, it's usually best not to skip around sections.
Logical reasoning is the only question type where there are two scored sections instead of one. Logical reasoning questions test the ability to read, analyze what was read and critically apply the information contained in the writing. The test taker will be asked to read passages from a variety of sources, such as academic publications, advertisements or magazines, then answer one or two questions about what they just read.
Remember to answer what the question asks. Many incorrect logical reasoning answers are actually true, but do not answer what the question is asking.
The reading comprehension section of the LSAT is similar to the logical reasoning section in that test takers read a passage and answer questions about what they read. However, the format is different in that the passages to be read are longer and are followed by several questions. As its name implies, the reading comprehension section tests the test taker's ability to fully comprehend a complex written passage.
To save time, it's recommended to carefully read the passage first, and then answer the questions, instead of reading the questions first.
The writing sample is not scored but is sent to law schools along with the LSAT score. Therefore, test takers should not completely ignore this part of the LSAT as it provides an opportunity to demonstrate other skills that will be useful in law school and as a practicing attorney.
Remember that writing ability matters a great deal for an attorney. In a competitive admissions process, a quality writing sample could be what tips the scales in your favor.
Preparing for the LSAT: Tips & Practice Exams
The LSAT is a standardized test. This means that even though each test has different questions, it still tests for the same things and follows the same format. By learning to anticipate what will be on the test, anyone can dramatically improve their score.
The ability to read critically is a power tool that will help you excel both on the LSAT and in law school.
Top Tips for Test Prep:
1. Practice, practice, practice!
The LSAT is a predictable test. The more familiar a test taker is with the format of the test, the more time they will have to answer the questions.
2. There are many ways to practice.
“Prepare for all parts of the LSAT—both with your LSAT course and in general training of your skills, concentration, and stamina,” says Sara Berman of the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence. “The best advice I received for the Reading Comprehension section, for example, is to read and summarize three editorials or articles from a leading national newspaper every day, and to read material from all sorts of disciplines. Go to a library or bookstore a few times a week and pick up a nonfiction book on chemistry, plumbing, or economics and read and grapple with passages.”
3. Timing is everything.
The LSAT doesn't test knowledge. Ultimately, it's the limited amount of time that separates the high scores from the low scores. It's critical to develop solid pacing strategies so no time is wasted on a single question.
4. Always guess.
This is the easiest trick when learning how to study for the LSAT. There is no penalty for wrong answers, so make sure to answer every single question.
5. Don't get hung up.
All questions are scored the same, no matter the difficulty. So, if there's a particularly tough question, make a guess and move on. Only spend extra time on one particular question once you have completed all the other questions.
6. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
“High stakes exams such as the LSAT and Bar Exam require assimilating a great deal of information and building skills,” Berman says. “Just as you would not go out and run a marathon without training, it is a pitfall to rush through preparation for the LSAT without thorough training.”
7. Not all questions are the same.
Even though questions are all scored the same, they are not all the same difficulty, with more difficult questions usually coming toward the end of a section. Keep this in mind when pacing the test.
8. Take real practice tests and questions.
When choosing LSAT prep guides or books, focus on real LSAT example questions. The real questions will provide the greatest benefit when preparing for the LSAT.
9. Don't forget to take care of yourself.
“Take self-care seriously as you prepare for the exam: sleep well, eat healthfully, and exercise regularly. Your mind and body are linked; train both for success,” Berman says.
10. Make success your most important job.
“Believe in yourself, even if you are the first person in your family or community to attend college, let alone law school,” Berman says. “Prepare your family, friends, and/or significant other that you will need additional time to study for what is likely the highest stakes exam you have taken to date. The LSAT is not just another final exam. And, you need all the support you can rally.”
LSAT Practice Exams & Study Guides
It's all about practice, but not all practice tests or strategies are equal. Additionally, not everyone learns the same way, so a particular method or book that works for one person might not work for another.
The best practice tests are those sold directly by the LSAC. These are actual previously administered LSAT tests and will provide the most effect way of learning how to take the LSAT. Despite not being free, the LSAC offers a free sample test from the 2007 testing cycle.
“Enroll in a reputable LSAT review course and take your preparation seriously,” Berman advises. “Slow and steady wins the race. Plan on studying several hours daily for several months, incorporating learning from taking practice tests and studying explanatory answers into your daily routine.”
These have the best LSAT example questions because PrepTests are actual LSAT exams. They are perfect for practicing under simulated conditions and provide a way to measure LSAT preparation progress and identify areas that need improvement. Depending on how the practice tests are purchased, they cost roughly a few dollars per test.
Provides a wide array of law school preparation services, including self-study books with official LSAT questions.
Offers LSAT prep and practice exams through an official partnership with the LSAC to offer test prep materials and services.
Another popular test preparation service that includes classes and self-study materials, as well as actual LSAT test questions from prior exams.
The Princeton Review
This LSAT test preparation service offers variety, but they also include real LSAT exam questions. For example, the self-paced offering includes every single LSAT exam question that has been released by the LSAC.
“Whichever course you ultimately take, inquire about pertinent policies so that you experience the greatest possible benefit from the course,” Berman advised.
Scoring the LSAT
How does scoring work on the LSAT? Here's what every test-taker needs to know.
What is a good LSAT score?
Each law school has a different answer to this one. A good score for one school may not only result in acceptance, but a full scholarship. But that same score may get the applicant rejected at another, more prestigious law school. The bottom line is that a good score is a score that achieves the law school applicant's goals.
How LSAT scoring works?
The highest possible score is a 180 and the lowest is 120, with a score of 150 or so being the median. Because the LSAT is standardized, it's all about percentiles. In other words, it doesn't matter how many questions a test taker gets correct. What matters is how many they get correct compared to fellow test takers.
When are scores released?
Anyone with an online LSAC account will receive their scores via email approximately three weeks after taking the test. Those without an email account will receive their scores by mail several days to one week after the scores are released via email.
What's the test retake policy?
Individuals may retake the LSAT multiple times. However, since law schools will see all test scores, it's not advisable to take the LSAT more than two or three times.
When should I consider retaking the LSAT?
Almost everyone is disappointed with their initial LSAT score, so the primary consideration for retaking the LSAT is figuring out what went wrong the first time. If there was inadequate preparation, a retake is a good idea. But if there's nothing the test taker would do differently the second time around, the statistics indicate that a retake will not result in a significant improvement.
“If you are applying to law school, it is critical to get quality help from your law school's prelaw advisor and from admissions officers in law schools you are considering applying to,” Berman says. “The choice of where to apply to law school is one of the important choices a student will make, so consult Analytix, a free online research tool to help prospective law students determine which schools to apply to.”
Testing Accommodations and Resources for Students with Disabilities
The LSAC does provide accommodations for those with disabilities. Here's what applicants need to know about making the LSAT possible for them.
Common reasons for accommodations.
The LSAC has its own rules and policies concerning what types of disabilities it will accommodate and what accommodations it will make available. However, commonly accommodated disabilities include:
- Sight or hearing impairment
- Learning disability, such as dyslexia.
- Anxiety disorders
- Mental disorders, such as ADD, ADHD and OCD.
Modified accommodations for disabilities.
The LSAC cannot guarantee a certain type of accommodation for those with disabilities. However, they can provide a variety of accommodations, including:
- Extra test time
- Large print test materials
- Use of a computer to complete the writing sample section
- More time for rest breaks
- Private testing room
- Eating or drinking during the exam
- Use of magnification devices
Guidelines for receiving accommodations.
There are two primary types of accommodations for LSAT test takers: those that do not involve extra test time (a Category #1 Request) and those that request additional time (a Category #2 Request or Category #3 Request). Category #1 Requests are generally easier to get, as having extra time to take the LSAT could provide an advantage. Therefore, the LSAC will take great care to make sure an accommodation for extra time is warranted.
How to apply for accommodations.
Depending on the Category Request, applicants must complete a Candidate Form, evidence of disability Form and a Statement of Need for Accommodation. If a prospective test taker has prior testing accommodations, whether for the LSAT or another standardized test, the applicant may need to provide documentation of prior test accommodation instead of evidence of the disability. Individuals must register for the LSAT before requesting an accommodation.
Disability Testing Resources for LSAT Exams
Offers not just LSAT prep services, but an online community of prospective law school students who can discuss a variety of questions and issues about the LSAT, including test day accommodations.
LSAC's Disability Accommodations
The LSAC has a section on its website that outlines the policies and procedures for obtaining an accommodation on test day.
USNWR – Law Admissions Lowdown
US News and World Report offers plenty of articles about applying to law school, including several about obtaining LSAT exam accommodations and what to do if the request for accommodations are denied.
Registration & Fees for the LSAT
Since there is a cost associated with the LSAT and registration in advance is required, figuring out fees and registration takes some planning. Here are some of the things you should know before registration.
Registering for the LSAT
Ways to register.
Applicants can register for the LSAT in two ways: by telephone (215-968-1001) or online by creating an LSAC.org online account.
Documents needed for registration.
To be able to register, prospective test takers must submit a photograph of themselves as well as information about their biographical and educational background.
When to register.
Test centers have limited seating, so applicants should register as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the registration deadline is about five weeks before the actual test date.
Determining testing center.
Test takers will want to choose a testing center near them. There are published and nonpublished test centers. Published test centers can be found online and are available as long as seating remains. Nonpublished test centers are only available if test takers live more than 100 miles from a published test center. However, the registration deadline for requesting a nonpublished test center is earlier than a published test center by about one week and also more expensive.
Paying for the LSAT
How much does it cost?
The LSAT isn't cheap, so future law school students should plan ahead to make sure they have the financial resources in place before registering.
What is it? Cost LSAT Exam $190 Changing Test Dates $125 Changing Test Locations $125 Obtaining a Nonpublished Test Center $295 (for domestic) and $390 (for international) Hand scoring $100
How do I pay for the LSAT?
The only forms of payment the LSAC accepts are credit cards. Specifically, the LSAC accepts MasterCard, VISA, Discover and American Express.
What if I can't afford to pay?
Law school applicants who cannot afford to take the LSAT and pay for associated law school application costs such as the Credential Assembly Service can request a fee waiver. To apply for the fee waiver, individuals must complete the fee waiver application and provide financial documentation, including tax forms.
There are pipeline programs designed to help historically underrepresented students matriculate to law school and/or the profession, and many of these programs provide free or deeply discounted LSAT preparation. For more information, please visit the AccessLex Diversity Pipeline Program Directory .
Additional Resources for LSAT
Information is power. The more information an applicant has, the better their chances of crushing the LSAT.
Offers a plethora of information for prospective law school students, from what to expect their first year in law school to boosting their LSAT score.
LSAC (Law School Admission Council)
The LSAC is most well-known for administering the LSAT as well as the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). However, it also sells test prep materials, hosts law school forums and helps law schools recruit applicants through the Candidate Referral Services (CRS).
Magoosh LSAT Blog
Provides online test prep services to undergraduate and graduate school applicants, including plenty of advice about how to take the LSAT.
Provides a variety of test prep services, including the LSAT. It also has a very informative series of LSAT blog posts.
One of the more well-known go-to sites online for information about the law school process. Given the LSAT's importance in the application process, it has plenty of information about the LSAT and advice from both professionals and fellow law school candidates.