Information about the LSAT test
The LSAT (law school admissions test) is a standardized test that measures skills needed for law school. Almost all ABA (American Bar Association) approved law schools require it. The place to start is on the LSAC website.
Law school admissions pay a great deal of attention to LSAT scores (along with your GPA). It is not likely that a school will ignore a very low score because you believe you have a strong application otherwise. Most law schools also use LSAT scores (and GPA) in determining who gets a scholarship. The LSAT is made up of five 35 minute sections of multiple choice questions and one 35 minute writing sample that comes at the end of the test. There are sections on reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. Only four of the five sections are scored - but you won't know for sure which section isn't being scored, so treat them all the same. The unscored section is pretesting new questions or new forms of questions. The writing sample also is not scored but it is sent to all the law schools to which you apply. The test, including breaks, time spent on instructions, etc. can last 4 - 5 hours or sometimes even longer, so plan accordingly. They will not be able to speed things up because you have somewhere to be. The skills tested on the LSAT include reading comprehension, organizational skills, information management skills, the ability to make reasonable conclusions from data, critical thinking and analysis and the ability to evaluate other people's reasoning and arguments. Information about the format and types of questions, including links to more information about the three types of multiple choice questions is on the LSAC about the lsat page. On that page, there are also suggested strategies for answering the different types of questions along with sample questions with explanations.
When should you take the LSAT? The LSAT is offered four times a year at specific testing centers. You should take it in the summer or fall of the year you intend to apply to law school - a full year or more before you would start law school. Typically this means the June after your junior year or September/October of your senior year. If you wait much later it may delay your application. Most schools require that you take it by December. Be aware that the December test is likely to fall either right before or during your final exams. Most law schools have rolling admission, so, usually, the earlier your application is in, the higher your chance of success. If you wait until December, your score won't be received until after the holidays and your application probably won't be reviewed until sometime in January. Make sure you register for the LSAT early - space fills up quickly and you may not get your preferred testing site if you wait. This is especially important if you need any kind of accommodations. The LSAC website lists the deadlines for registering - pay careful attention to these! If you are planning on taking time off before applying to law school, you can take the test whenever you want, up until the deadlines mentioned above - the LSAT scores are good for five years. People that take the LSAT in February typically are taking a year off at least before applying - that date is too late to apply for law school in fall of that same year. The LSAC FAQ (frequently asked questions) page has a lot of useful information, including suggestions about when to take the LSAT, how to deal with possible problems, refunds, etc.
Preparing for the LSAT Absolutely DO prepare! There are many resources available to help you prepare for the LSAT, on the internet and elsewhere. It is never too early to start preparing for this very important test. At a minimum, start preparing several months before you take it. Suggestions on how to prepare
- Read the information on the LSAC website (and other useful sites you may find) about the format of the test, the instructions on the test and the types of questions. You want to be very familiar with all of this before you take it.
- Do as many samples and practice tests as you can. The LSAC website has free official prep materials in the LSAT section including test prep videos. Preparing for the LSAT. You can buy copies of actual previous LSAT tests (Amazon and other places sell these online). There are different collections of old LSAT tests, try to find ones with explanations if you can. There are several for pay LSAT prep programs. Many of these offer free practice tests. Remember, they are offering these in the hopes that you will pay for their services. The questions on their practice tests may or may not be exactly like those on the actual LSAT. You can find most of these by googling LSAT prep courses. Try to find resources that explain the questions and answers, not just tell you what the right answer is. When you take a practice test, try to replicate the actual test conditions as much as you can. Use a timer and do the whole test at one time. Don't just practice by taking tests over and over!! Look at the questions you got wrong and try to tell WHY you got them wrong. That is what will lead to the most improvement.
- Prepare yourself for actually taking the test. Get enough sleep the night before. Try not to self-handicap - don't tell yourself that "you don't do well on standardized tests" or some other reason you won't do well. Try to relax and just do your best!
- When you take the test - answer every question! There is no penalty for wrong answers, so make your best guess. All the questions count equally - so do the easiest ones first and then go back to the harder ones
- Commercial LSAT prep courses. There are several programs that you can use that are for pay, these often are fairly expensive. It is your decision whether or not to take one. If you are thinking about taking a class, do your homework! Try to talk to other people who have taken it and research it online. There is no guarantee that a course will markedly improve your score. Advantages include an instructor - so you can ask questions that pertain to you specifically and hopefully get personalized feedback based on your performance in the course. If you do decide to take a course, they may have discounts for students who receive financial aid - ask about that. There are sometimes for pay LSAT prep classes locally that are somewhat less expensive - LCCC often offers one. A link will be provided under the "Upcoming events and opportunities" on this webpage when available.
What do your scores mean? Scores range from 120-180; the average score is typically around 150. Law schools typically report the range of LSAT scores and GPAs of their most recent entering class. Looking at this information can help you make an educated guess at your chances of admission. There are, of course, no guarantees, and law schools do take into account more than just GPA and LSAT, although these are very important. The LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools gives the range of LSAT/GPA scores along with acceptance rates for each ABA-approved law school. On this page, you have several options. If you know your GPA and LSAT score, you can enter them and your search will show you where you fall compared to that school's previous years entering class. It also tells you the 25th and 75th percentiles of the schools entering class. If you fall below the 25th percentile, your chances of admission are very low, above the 75th, your chances are very high. If you fall below the 25th, it does not mean your chances are 0, it means only 25% of that class had a GPA/LSAT combination like or below yours. If you don't know your scores yet, you can still search individual schools in which you have an interest. You can choose a particular state or enter the school's name or you can choose "view all schools". When you click on an individual school, you get information about that school. When you scroll down to the bottom, there is typically (although not always) an applicant profile that tells you how many students with various GPA and LSAT score combinations were admitted. The American Bar Association provides what are called 509 information reports. Here, you can look up each school and get a lot of information in addition to LSAT scores - for example, if the law school is public or private, sometimes the application deadline, application fee, acceptance rate, the 25th, 50th and 75th percentiles of LSAT scores and GPA, racial makeup, tuition and fees, living expenses, etc.
Should you retake the LSAT? In general, you should plan on taking the LSAT only one time and to do your best. The exception is if there is a clear reason your test score should increase significantly. Examples:
- You did not prepare at all for the LSAT and now plan on doing significant preparation. Make sure that you have a realistic amount of time to do this - a few weeks probably won't be enough.
- You were ill, had a major stressor, absolutely no sleep, etc. when you took it the first time. Be certain that this had a significant impact on your performance.
- You did not expect it, but you had intense test anxiety, unlike anything you had experienced before in your life. It would be a good idea to see a counselor before retaking the test.
If none of these was a factor and there were no other unusual circumstances, it is very unlikely that your score will go up enough to make it worthwhile spending the time and money to take it again. Just from practicing impacts your score and it will go up slightly - 2 or 3 points is the average for people who retake the LSAT. However, as many as 25% who retake the test get the same or even a LOWER score than their first try. Some law schools average the two takes of the LSAT, some take just the higher score. If you took the test at the beginning of the fall, your retake might end up being in December - as mentioned above, often during or close to finals and likely causing your application to be reviewed later than many others.