The Law School Admission Test is a multiple-choice digital test taken by students wanting to apply to law school in the USA, Canada, and a select few other countries. This test is not theory-based as students take it before their entrance to law school. It focuses on assessing your critical thinking skills and the ability to reason logically when faced with various scenarios. These are all skills that are vital when studying law. Law school is highly demanding and these skills should not be taught, they should be enhanced through studying. The LSAT has been developed over more than 70 years to accurately assess key characteristics needed by students seeking to attend law school.
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Why is LSAT important?
The field of law is highly competitive and attending law school is a complex and demanding journey. Making a success of this career path requires special skills and insight that comes from years of personal and professional development. It is increasingly difficult to add a numeric value to such abstract skills but the LSAT scoring system has been refined to a point where law schools can confidently assess potential students. Because of this, your LSAT score will be a defining factor in your law school application.
What is the format of the LSAT?
The LSAT has 4 daunting sections and an extra section that is unscored but used as research for future LSAT questions. Each section lasts 35 minutes and the whole test lasts 3,5 hours. The sections are:
- Logical Reasoning (2)
- Analytical Reasoning (1)
- Reading Comprehension (1)
- Writing (1)
- Variable (unscored)
Any of the Logical reasoning, Analytical Reasoning, or Reading Comprehension sections could be doubled by the variable section. The variable section will never be a writing question. All sections except the writing section have multiple choice questions with 5 possible answers. The multiple-choice sections can be set in any order and you will also not know which section is unscored.
In 2019 LSAT was completely digitized and the writing portion will be completed at home while the multiple-choice sections will be completed at a testing center on tablets.
You might see 2 or three of these sections, depending on what your variable section is. There will be 24-26 multiple-choice questions per section. First, you will be given a short passage usually containing an argument. It could include two speakers engaging in an issue. Thereafter you will be posed with a question, instructing you to derive a conclusion from the argument. Lastly, you will be given 5 possible answers. You will not need prior knowledge of the law to complete these questions. They focus more on testing your aptitude for following an argument and compiling logical conclusions.
The second possible multiple-choice section could also be featured one more time as a variable section. This section is also known as “Logic-Games” and is dubbed by many as the most challenging part of the test. This informal name is quite appropriate as this section sets out scenarios each with sets of rules, very similar to brain teasers one would find on an IQ test. The content has nothing to do with law or real-world scenarios but instead, create fictional problems that can be argued with logic and reasoning. You can expect to see 22-24 of these questions.
The reading section of the test has 4 sets of questions, each with 4-8 questions per set. Three of the sets are related to one text whereas one of the sets features 2 passages that are related. These passages can be from any number of fields including but not limited to humanities, biology, and law. The pair of passages that you will get are related in some way and you will be required to draw conclusions and find parallels between them.
The language in these passages is often sophisticated and the readings are dense. Several skills will be tested here and you will need to identify key characteristics such as the main argument, the author’s attitude, the meaning of words, or understanding inferences.
The final section of the test is also unscored. Despite that, it is vital that you deliver excellent work in this section as this writing will accompany your application to law schools. This part of the exam is now taken up to 8 days before the multiple-choice sections. It is administered through proctoring software that is installed on your computer. Your test is monitored via a webcam and there are strict regulations of what can and cannot be present during your test.
The writing prompt states that you will need to decide between 2 given scenarios, and defend your decision using the evidence at hand. These are not necessarily law based scenarios and can be as mundane as choosing between activities to do over a weekend. You will be provided with evidence and you simply need to argue towards one side or the other with conviction.
How is the LSAT scored?
The test consists of 99-102 questions and your number of correct answers will be added up to reach a raw-score. It does not matter which questions you answer correctly as they all carry the same weight for the raw-score.
Like many other standardized tests, your raw score is then scaled. The LSAT scale is from 120-180. This scaling process compensates for any questions that might have been particularly difficult or easy in a certain exam.
Finally, you will receive a percentile rank. This score is relative to scores over three years. It is expressed as a percentage and is interpreted as follows:
If you score 70%, that means you have scored the same as or better than 70% of test-takers over the past 3 years.
Law schools will contact LSAC (Law School Admission Council) directly to see your scores. If you take the test more than once all your older scores will also be reflected along with an average score.
How do I prepare for the LSAT?
Because the LSAT focuses more on your innate ability to reason, read, and argue, studying for this test is a bit different than for normal theoretical tests. There are plenty of recourses, LSAT prep books, and even prep courses to get you mentally fit for this exam. Experts advise at least 2-3 months of preparing ahead of time. This means a few hours per day, most days of the week, will be spent brain training ahead of your test day.
The Logical reasoning portion of the test makes up almost half of your test score. Therefore, a lot of attention needs to be paid to this portion. More importantly, you must identify your weak spots and also pay extra attention to them.
The time constraints are notoriously demanding and you need to get used to that. Take plenty of prep exams under test conditions and get a feeling for the pace you need to keep. Especially in the “logic games” section, test takers often lose time deciphering the scenarios and can easily run out of time.
Leave plenty of time between your writing exam and your multiple-choice exam. It adds a lot of unnecessary stress if you try to complete them both a day or two apart. The written exam is available 8 days before your test day and allows a lot of breathing room.
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