The LSAT is the Law School Admission Test. The scores from this test are used to apply for admission to all accredited United States and some Canadian law schools. Although a handful of law schools (Harvard, NYU, UCLA, and Boston University, among others,) also accept results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for admission, the LSAT remains the prevailing standardized test for anyone desiring to earn a Juris Doctorate law degree.
The test takes about 5 hours to complete, inclusive of proctoring and breaks, and is administered in your choice of testing location, generally at a local college campus or in a hotel’s conference room. As of July 2019, the test is taken on a provided Microsoft Surface Pro tablet pre-loaded with the five-section multiple choice test (you can try out the software here).
The LSAT is administered six times per year: January, March, June, July, September, and November. Only three of those tests, however, are “disclosed”. A disclosed test means that after the test, you receive a copy of the test along with your answers so that you can see exactly what you got wrong. Undisclosed tests, on the other hand, only provide your score and percentile ranking.
Scores on the LSAT range from a low of 120 to a high of 180. The average score is 150/151. It can generally be said that 160 is considered a “good” score, 165 is considered a “great” score, and 170+ is considered an “exceptional” score.
A test-taker may retake the test as often as desired. The vast majority of law schools only consider an applicant’s highest achieved score. Regardless, five or more LSAT attempts, especially without improvement, can tend to look to an admissions committee as though an applicant isn’t taking the process seriously.
The LSAT consists of five multiple-choice sections, each of which lasts 35 minutes and contains about 25 questions. The five sections, administered in a random order, are:
You’ll also be required to complete an unscored writing sample which you write at home on a secure online platform. This writing sample is sent to every school to which you apply. The writing sample presents a hypothetical situation in which a person must choose between two options. They give a list of pros and cons for each option and ask you to choose one of the options as superior. There is no right or wrong answer; rather, admission committees expect you to argue for your choice while conceding its shortcomings and acknowledging the strengths of the other choice.
Each of the two Logical Reasoning sections consists of approximately 25 questions. Each question presents a short paragraph-long argument and asks you to analyze it. The questions generally fall into one of 12 question types:
This section presents three scholarly essays of approximately 450 words and one “comparative” passage of two shorter essays (approximately 200-250 words each). These passages are followed by 5-8 questions about what you read.
The passages generally fall, one each, into four main categories: law-related, science/technology, humanities, and a “diversity” passage about a group that is underrepresented in western power structures–such as women, ethnic minorities, and/or racial minorities. (The LSAT has not so far chosen any religious, sexual orientation, or gender identity minorities as the topic of its “diversity” passage.)
You will be tasked with identifying the main point of the passage, determining the reason certain phrases were used, choosing the answer that best expresses the tone of the passage, etc. This section is the one for which it is notoriously difficult to raise one’s score. It is also the one that usually presents the most severe timing problems for students.
This section commonly terrifies most students, as it is not similar to anything they’ve previously encountered in college.
The section consists of four “games” to complete. Each game presents a hypothetical situation followed by a list of rules that determine how the situation may be manipulated. Five to eight questions follow, which ask you to determine things for which it seems you haven’t been given enough information.
For example, the stimulus might say that a jewelry maker makes either bracelets of 5 beads or necklaces of 10 beads. The rules may stipulate that if she uses a green bead, she may not use a blue bead; if she uses a black bead she must use at least 2 white beads, etc. The questions, then, will be things like: If she uses exactly 2 black beads, is it a bracelet or a necklace?
The questions require you to connect rules and make inferences that are not immediately apparent. This section is intimidating at first but is the one for which students generally see the biggest improvement with proper preparation.
It’s a five-hour long standardized test you’re most likely going to take if you want to become a lawyer. It tests a variety of logical reasoning and reading skills but does not test any math or science. It is notoriously difficult but not insurmountable–three or four months is generally enough time to sufficiently prepare, as long as that preparation is focused.