About the LSAT
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is unlike any test you've ever taken in your academic career. The LSAT is a multiple-choice, skills-based exam designed to measure your preparedness for law school.
Before you begin your LSAT prep, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the exam so you can be prepared for what is on the LSAT.
What's on the LSAT?
The LSAT consists of three scored sections of multiple-choice questions, one unscored experimental section, and an unscored writing sample submission.
The LSAT is the only exam accepted by all ABA-accredited law schools in the United States and Canada. Although a few schools accept GRE scores in lieu of an LSAT score, a good LSAT score is widely considered to be the most important piece of a law school application, and the best indication of future law school success.
The three scored sections of the LSAT exam are:
- Reading Comprehension
- Logic Games
- Logical Reasoning
LSAT Exam Components
Types of Questions on the LSAT
LSAT Reading Comprehension Questions
Reading Comprehension, worth ~36% of your total score, is an LSAT section you’re probably familiar with from past standardized tests. It tests your ability to make sense of dense, unfamiliar prose—but unlike other standardized tests, on the LSAT you need to understand the passages’ structure, purpose, and various points of view, rather than the facts. On the LSAT, you’ll see four passages, each with a set of 5–8 questions to answer. One of the passages will be “paired passages” with questions asking you to compare and contrast the passages. This is the section in which preppers often find it toughest to improve.
LSAT Logical Reasoning Questions
Logical Reasoning, worth ~33% of your total score, tests your ability to analyze and evaluate arguments. Logical Reasoning requires you to read short passages and answer a question about each one.
LSAT Logic Games Questions
Logic Games, worth 31% of your total score, tests you on basic logic, systems of order, and outcomes—or, in simplest terms, analytical reasoning. You’ll be asked to make deductions from a set of statements, rules, or conditions. These questions are posed in sets based on a single passage. This is the section many preparing for the LSAT are most intimidated by at first and often find most challenging, due to its unfamiliarity.
LSAT Experimental Section
The LSAT Experimental Section is a wild card. Used by the test maker to see how questions will perform on future LSATs, it is not scored and will look exactly like one of the other sections. In other words, don’t waste test time trying to identify it. If you have two Logical reasoning,
LSAT Writing Section
What is LSAT Writing? LSAT Writing is a separate 35-minute on-demand essay that you will complete at any time convenient to you. The Essay is available beginning 8 days prior to your scheduled LSAT. You must complete LSAT Writing in order to receive your LSAT score. If you take the LSAT multiple times, you will only need to complete LSAT Writing once. While LSAT Writing isn’t scored, it is sent to law schools along with your LSAT score and can be used to choose between relatively equal candidates, so it is still very important! Your writing sample is most frequently used as a comparison tool to confirm your personal statement.
How long is the LSAT?
The LSAT breaks down into four sections, each 35 minutes long with a 10-minute break after the second section. This adds up to 150 minutes of LSAT test time—or 2 hours and 30 minutes. You will take the LSAT on your own computer at home or another quiet place of your choosing. You will select a testing time from a variety of times available in each testing window.
If you do not have access to reliable technology, the internet, or a quiet testing place, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) can help make special arrangements for you.
So when you think about, “How long is the LSAT”, the answer of “almost 3 hours of uninterrupted concentration” is a huge reminder to think about preparing for the exam.
How to Prepare for the LSAT
You need to be able to pace yourself to minimize mental fatigue. When you review questions you’ve attempted, your goal cannot just be result-based. Getting a question correct does not mean that you’ve mastered it.
[ RELATED READING: How to Study for the LSAT ]
How Hard is the LSAT?
There’s no way around it: the LSAT is a hard test. It’s not a content-based exam so much as it is a skills-based exam, and the specific skills it tests just aren’t taught in most undergraduate programs. But for exactly that reason, there’s no limit to the kind of improvement you can make over the course of your preparation: it’s simply a matter of building the right skills.
There’s no way to cram for this test, and tips and tricks won’t get you far at all. But this test is incredibly learnable, so don’t be discouraged if you bomb your first few LSAT practice tests. With the right guidance, plenty of time to prepare, and a lot of hard work, you really can go from a low score to a high score.
How to Register for the LSAT
The LSAT is administered by an organization called the LSAC: The Law School Admission Council. You’ll register for the LSAT through your LSAC.org account. The LSAT is typically offered 8 times throughout the year (see LSAT test dates). Register early, as spots can fill up quickly. If you require any testing accommodations, communicate this to LSAC well in advance of the registration deadline for your preferred test date. The cost of the LSAT is $200.
Understanding your LSAT Score
When you receive your LSAT score, it will include the following:
- One overall score ranging from 120-180
- A "score band" is a range of scaled scores above and below your score
- A percentile score, ranking your performance relative to the scores of a large sample population of other LSAT test-takers
[ RELATED READING: LSAT Score Ranges and Percentiles ]
Receiving your LSAT Score
You'll receive your score via email approximately three to four weeks after the test. If you take the LSAT more than once, law schools will see all scores earned within the past five years, though most will evaluate your candidacy based on your highest score. Law schools will also see if you canceled a score, withdrew, or were a no-show at a test administration. Your score is only released to you and the law schools to which you apply.
Your LSAT score will remain “active” for 5 years, so if a 22-year-old is really forward-looking, they might be wise to study for LSAT and take the test right after finishing her undergrad, before getting too deep into work, travel, or other entanglements that would make studying for the LSAT logistically tougher later.
Canceling your LSAT Score
You have six calendar days after you take the LSAT to cancel your score in your LSAC account. You will not see your score before you decide to cancel. If you take the exam more than once, LSAC reports the average score, each separate score, and each cancellation. Most schools will not question one cancellation on your record but will question multiple ones. If you are a first-time test-taker, LSAC also offers a Score Preview option where you can see your actual score, then decide to keep or cancel it. There is a cost associated with the service which varies depending on if/when you decide to purchase the Score Preview option.
How is Your LSAT Score Used?
Your LSAT score is a crucial factor in determining where you go to law school—or if you go at all. Law school admission committees look at your LSAT score to determine if you have the skills required for success in law school. It helps admissions officers compare your record with those of students from other schools. While law schools using a holistic review process, law school admissions officers frequently cite the LSAT score as the most important admissions factor, as the test has been specifically designed to test your readiness for law school and has a greater correlation to law school success than any other admissions factor.
[ READ: The importance of your LSAT score ]
How can your LSAT score help you?
If your grades are lackluster‚ an outstanding LSAT score can help make the case that you are capable of handling the academic rigors of law school. Alternatively‚ if you've been out of college for some time‚ your score can show that you still have the skills necessary to succeed.
An outstanding LSAT score won't necessarily get you into your target school, but a low score will certainly keep you out.