The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is comprised of three different section types: Logical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Analytical Reasoning (popularly called Logic Games). Students get 35 minutes to complete each section.
Your score will be determined from your performance on two Logical Reasoning sections, one Reading Comprehension section, and one Analytical Reasoning section. There will be one more section called the Experimental (or Variable) Section, which could be any one of the above three types. The LSAT includes this experimental section in order to test out questions they plan to use on future tests.
While studying thoroughly for the LSAT is vital, it’s just as important to know the detailed structure of the test in order to adequately prep and land a solid score. That said, let’s delve deeper into the three types of sections on the LSAT.
You’ll have at least two of these sections–and maybe three if your experimental section happens to also be LR.
Each section will include 24 to 26 questions that present a short paragraph then ask a multiple choice question to test your understanding of it.
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The LSAC (the organization that administers the LSAT) says that the LR section is designed to “assess your ability to analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments.” The specific questions they ask will generally fall into one of two main types:
Questions asking you to identify something in the argument:
These types of questions may ask you to figure out the logical flaw the author committed (e.g.: ad hominem argument, straw man argument, circular argument).
They may ask you to identify the main conclusion of the argument or to determine the argument’s structure and pick an answer choice that has the same logical structure.
You could also be asked to determine which answer choice must be true based only on what was presented in the argument, or to pick an answer choice that describes precisely how the argument proceeded.
Questions asking you to add something new to manipulate the argument:
These types of questions ask you to pick an answer choice that fixes or breaks the argument presented. For example, you could be asked to pick an answer choice that strengthens or weakens the argument.
You could be asked to provide what the author must have been assuming when he or she made the argument. You could also be asked to pick an answer choice that resolves some paradox that was apparent in the argument, or to pick the answer that provides a missing piece which makes the argument’s conclusion incontrovertibly true.
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The Logical Reasoning section tests how well you are able to understand an argument’s structure, strong points, weak points, and logical soundness. Score improvements in this section are moderately difficult and come only after dedicated focus on particular language and reasoning structures.
About 40% of students find this section the most difficult of the three. However, at 50% of your score, it is absolutely crucial to master the Logical Reasoning section.
You will have at least one Reading Comprehension section–and possibly two if your experimental section is also RC.
This section presents four scholarly articles of about 500 words each, then asks 5-8 multiple choice questions about each one’s content. The topic of the article can range from aboriginal art to jury selection processes to the chemical properties of glass and so on.
The LSAC says that this section is designed to “measure your ability to read and understand examples of long-form, complex materials that are similar to those that you’ll encounter in law school”.
The questions in the RC section nearly always start with a broad question about the main point of the passage. After that, the section presents questions about the article’s tone, its structure, and things the author would be most likely to agree with.
You may also encounter questions asking you to strengthen or weaken a part of the passage; to find another application of a principle presented in the passage; to ascertain why the author chose specific words or turns of phrase; or to pick a potential next sentence that could logically come after the passage.
Most students find RC the most familiar section type, but despite that–or maybe because of that–it is also the most difficult section in which to improve. About 20% of students cite RC as their most challenging section.
You are guaranteed to have one Logic Games section on your test–and potentially two if your experimental section is also Logic Games.
Here, the LSAT presents four “games”: a hypothetical scenario about choosing which commuters will sit in which carpool vehicle or in which order an artist will arrange the songs on his new CD, etc.
This scenario is followed by 3-6 “rules” that restrict how the variables of the scenario are allowed to be manipulated. For example, a rule might say that commuter J and commuter L cannot ride in the same carpool vehicle, or song X cannot appear on the CD until song Y has appeared, etc.
The section then asks, for each game, 5-8 questions about what can be determined. The questions may ask about what you were able to deduce from making inferences about how the rules work in concert, or they may ask about what would be true if another condition were true, e.g. song Z must appear in the first three tracks.
The LSAC says that this section is designed to “measure your ability to understand a structure of relationships and draw conclusions about that structure.” This section is generally the most unfamiliar to students. About 40% consider it the most difficult section.
The good news is that most of the games follow particular frameworks: in essence, they either ask you to put variables in order or to put them in groups. As such, this section is the one in which you can raise your score substantially with adequate practice and exposure to different types of games.
The writing sample is an unscored essay that is sent to all the law schools to which a student applies.
The section begins with a prompt describing a choice. For example, the prompt may ask whether a certain newspaper company should use in-house writers or contract its writing to freelancers, or whether a struggling appliance manufacturer should sell one of its subsidiaries or shut it down altogether.
The prompt will give the goals of the actor and several pros and cons for each choice. The student is to write an essay of approximately 3-4 paragraphs explaining which decision they think is best (there is no right or wrong answer) and to defend that choice using the information given in the prompt.
As of June 2019, the LSAC no longer asks students to complete this essay at the end of the test. The essay is still a requirement, but it can be completed at home up to a year after the test and submitted online. That writing sample will stay on file for subsequent LSATs taken. Thus, a writing sample need only be submitted once, regardless of how many times a student takes the LSAT.
This is a welcome change for students who dreaded having to write an essay at the end of a grueling test. However, where previously admissions committees had assigned little weight to the writing sample, they almost certainly will begin to assess it more seriously now that a student is fully rested and clear-headed when composing it.
So, what is on the LSAT? Four scored sections consisting of two Logical Reasoning sections, one Reading Comprehension section, and one Logic Games section. In addition, there is an unscored “experimental” section which could be any of the three aforementioned types, and an unscored writing sample to be completed at a later date.