A major portion of your law school application is your score on the Law School Admission Test or LSAT. While this is the second-most important exam you will take on your law school/law career journey, next to the bar admissions exam, it is required by many law schools in order to be considered for admission. The aim for the exam is to gauge potential success in law school by testing skills that are essential for law careers such as reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytic capabilities.
What is on the LSAT?
The test is considered a ‘half-day exam’ that consists of five 35-minute multiple-choice sections and one 35-minute writing sample section. While you are required to take all five sections plus the writing sample, only four sections contribute towards the overall score. The one, ungraded multiple-choice section is a group of experimental questions that the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) utilizes to make the LSAT a better measure of potential law school success. Unfortunately, you will not know which section is the ungraded portion, however, this will allow you to take each part seriously, thus yielding a higher LSAT score. The multiple-choice sections are broken into three different categories: reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning.
For the reading comprehension section, imagine your typical standardized-test reading prompts. You are required to read four to six short passages and answer a few questions regarding them afterwards. While this seems relatively straightforward, there are many inference and complex questions that go along with this section. Also, it tends to be difficult to fully comprehend the point of each passage and still have enough time to correctly answer the complimenting questions.
This section of the test attempts to measure one’s ability to synthesize and analyze lots of information in a limited amount of time. Law school and legal careers tend to center around large, complex texts that deal with various amounts of difficult information. It is important that this test ensures that a potential law student has the ability to tackle large amounts of data in order to ensure success in law school. During the LSAT, you are guaranteed to have at least one section dedicated to reading comprehension.
The analytical reasoning section is also known as the “logic games” portion of the exam. There are four or five ‘games’ per analytical reasoning section, that you must figure out and answer questions to. You are given a set of rules which is a list of statements that apply to the game you are attempting to figure out. Essentially, you are trying to solve a logic puzzle based on the series of rules you are given. The questions either apply to the initial set of statements or applies new information or rules to the previous which you must then determine the answer.
This section of the LSAT examines one’s ability to draw logical conclusions by establishing relationships and making deductions. Essentially, analytical reasoning deals with pattern identification and educated assumptions. Logic games is an important section to the LSAT because inductive/deductive reasoning is crucial for future legal careers. Lawyers have to identify inconsistencies and make assumptions based on deductions on a daily basis. A test-taker with a high score in analytical reasoning have a higher probability of success in law school and legal careers. On test day, at least one of your sections will be analytical reasoning.
The logical reasoning section, also known as ‘arguments’ is considered the bulk of the LSAT because it typically makes up the most sections. This section presents the test taker with a series of arguments with a question per, hence the nickname, ‘arguments’. There are several different types of questions that pertain to the various arguments. Some ask you to determine the flaw, some focus on the strengths/weaknesses, and some even make you parallel the reasoning in a different argument. The trouble of this section can be time. You are only given 35 minutes to answer roughly 23-27 questions, so it can be difficult to take the necessary time to answer each question.
Logical reasoning gauges one’s ability to synthesize an argument or statement and evaluate its validity. Essentially, the LSAT attempts to see how well you can break down a statement, determine its strengths and weaknesses, and add your own assessment to it. Ultimately, this is what lawyers do when preparing for cases. They take someone’s argument and determine its worth while attempting to outwit their opponent. The argument section of the LSAT is crucial in determining whether or not a student will be successful in a legal career. You can expect logical reasoning accounting for at least two sections on the LSAT.
While this section is not counted towards your score, it is still important that you take it seriously. This piece is sent to all schools that you apply for, which they are able to view unlimitedly. Some law schools request the LSAT writing sample for admissions decisions, especially if they are on the fence of accepting someone. You are given a prompt that asks you to make a decision between two choices with respect to the scenario. Based on what side you choose, you must explain why your side is the better choice in a short essay. While you are asked to support a position, there is no wrong answer. During the test day, you are given a page and a half to write this sample, so it does not have to be a very thorough argument. As long as you explain your case and support it, your writing sample will be successful.
How should I prepare for the LSAT?
Preparation is essential for the LSAT because if you do not know what to expect then you will not be successful. Although this test is a standardized exam, it is very different than what most students have taken in the past. In order to get a higher score, you should familiarize yourself with the material that the test covers. The LSAT is not like the bar exam, in which you will have to remember details of the law. Instead it measures basic skills that typically correlate with success in law students. Like all exams, timing is very important in achieving a high score. In order to do this, the LSAC suggests prep courses, prep books, and tutoring to ensure that students feel fully prepared for their test day. It is also helpful to take timed practice LSATs to gauge your anticipated score.
Studying for the LSAT is very important because practicing answering questions will help you get accustomed to the timing of the test. Typically, the downfall for most students is the time limits for each section. By getting familiar with what the test covers and the question formats, you will be able to reduce the amount of time spent per question which will lead to a better score. Students try to prepare for the LSAT as early as six months prior to taking the test. However, it is also recommended not studying the week before the exam and instead ensuring you get plenty of rest so you have a clear mind on test day. Ultimately, you must determine what study schedule will best suit your preparation. Some sections prove to be more difficult for some people than others, so each person’s preparation plans are unique.
While studying and preparing are crucial to success, they are not the only ways to get ready for the test. Ensuring that you get a good night’s sleep and meal before the test are also important. This test is longer than most exams and can be very exhausting. You are allowed to bring a snack for the fifteen minute break, you need to make sure you have enough energy to work through three sections beforehand. Overall, being informed and prepared are the best ways to be ready for the LSAT.
What should I expect on test day?
Test day can be very overwhelming for many people. There are a lot of rules and regulations that you must comply with and the stress of a half-day exam tends to get to many individuals. The key to success is to come prepared, relaxed, and ready to crush this exam. Make sure you have your admissions ticket with a photo that follows the proper regulations and an approved form of identification. Also, become familiar with the approved and prohibited items list, because your gallon-sized ziplock bag will be searched before entering the test room. The proctors will also place you in a specific seating chart and booklets will be returned in that order. Test day can be a little frightening because the process seems so strict, but this is to ensure that no outlying factors affected your score. As long as you come prepared and ready, you will be just fine.
What does my score mean?
After about a month of taking the test, your score will be delivered to you by e-mail. This raw score will be a number between 120 and 180, with a score of 180 being highest. The score is determined by how many questions you answered correctly, compared to how many total questions there were per section. The ungraded section does not affect the LSAT score. Incorrect or blank answers do not negatively affect your score, so it is important that you answer all questions. You will also receive a percentile ranking, which will allow you to determine how you compare to other test takers. The average LSAT score is 150, however, if you want to get into a top-tier law school you will need at least a 160 to be considered. The specific number you receive is very important for admissions and a few points difference can help make your application stronger.
Is the LSAT important?
The LSAT is one of the main determinants of admission decisions and scholarship awards. Thus, the specific score you receive is very crucial to your law school career. A few points difference can change the outcome of your application for better or worse. Ultimately, it is a test that should be taken seriously. Many students though take the test multiple times, however, you may only take the test three times in a two-year period. Many people see improvements in their exams which help their applications become more competitive.
Overall, the LSAT is a long and challenging exam that is important for your law school application. It is crucial that you take your studying and preparation seriously, because a few points difference can make or break admission to your dream school. While the LSAT should not be taken lightly, it does not have to a scary experience. Also, while your LSAT score is a significant portion of your application, there are other qualifications that law schools review when deciding on admission. However, if you get yourself properly ready for the exam and stay calm on test day, you should be very successful!
Questions on LSAT or upcoming test dates? Visit the LSAC website or follow this link: Future LSAT test dates
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