The Law School Admissions Test ("LSAT") is the test students must take in order to apply to an American-Bar-Association (ABA)-approved and Law-School-Admissions-Council-registered law school.
- Six sections, four of which are graded: two logical reasoning sections, one logic games section, one critical reading section, one experimental, and one essay.
- Each section is thirty-five minutes long. The test is, technically, designed so that those who are receiving median scores will not finish.
- Scored on a 120-180 scale. There are no subscores. A 173 is approximately the 99th percentile. A 151 is approximately the 50th percentile.
- A perfect score is at the 99.99th percentile. About thirty students each test earn a perfect 180.
- The essay is not scored, but it is sent to law schools.
- Three tests in two years; cancellations and absences count.
Unlike the GRE, SAT, and ACT, the LSAT (and, by exention, MCAT) is mandatory. There are no “test-optional” ABA-approved schools (although there are a small—think, two—number of programs. Most require the LSAT eventually, though). In order for a law school to maintain its ABA approval, schools must report the average LSAT score of its matriculants. The LSAT is produced by the Law School Admissions Council (“LSAC”), which also handles the applications for all LSAC-member schools (hint: it’s nearly all of them). If this sounds like a military-industrial complex, it is. The LSAC both produces the enterance exam, mandates the enterance exam, and handles applications for all law students. However, it no longer writes the actual exam; that has been outsourced to ACT for over a decade.
A common misconception is that the LSAT is an IQ test and therefore is not designed to be studied for. This is wrong. The fact that the LSAC has released seventy-six previous LSA Ts
(sixty-nine “numbered” prep tests (PT 1
-69), three prep tests with written solutions (Superpreps A, B, C), one free exam (June 2007), and three previous Indian exams) shows that the LSAC understands the depth of study entailed for the LSAT. The LSAT was designed as a way to equate GP As
from different schools and different majors. It correlates strongly with first-year law school grades, and one of the reasons it does is because of the amount of study required to earn a high score.
A second misconception about the LSAT is that it is curved. The LSAT is not curved. The LSAT is equated. It does not matter when students take the test and it does not matter if students take it with all Yale Law School students or monkeys; the score remains the same.
A final common misconception, especially for fiction, are the test prep companies. The LSAT is firmly in a test-test prep industrial complex (note that the makers of the test produce study guides as well). Common prep companies, such as Princeton Review, Mc Graw
-Hill, and Kaplan, are considered, at best, useless. In addition to official LSAC publications, students use well-known brands such as Blueprint, Powerscore, and Manhattan, but also lesser-known and LSAT specific such as 7Sage, The LSAT Trainer, and the LSAT Blog.
The LSAT is divided up into four sections.
Logical Reasoning: Logical Reasoning (“LR”) takes up half the graded portion of the test. It is 25-26 questions, each with a question (“question stem”) and a short paragraph (“question stimulus”). It is not a reading section; LR tests logic, specifically, sufficient and necessary assumptions and inferences. The language is very tight; answers come down to the difference between “many” and “most,” what is required for the argument to be true vs. what is sufficient to make the argument true, and conditional reasoning.
Logic Games: Logic Games (“LG”) are games—seven students are presenting their portfolio, three students are about English, two on math, and one on history. They present in order and each student presents only once. Student A cannot present first. If student B presents before student A, then C presents after D…etc. LG are typically assumed by outsiders to be the hardest section, however, if is the easiest and fastest to improve on. Notable games are: the mauve dinosaur (PT 57) and zones (PT 67). The Mauve Dinosaur game led multiple people expecting 175+ to cancel their score on the spot.
Reading Comprehension: In recent years, Reading Comprehension (RC) has been amped to 11. Passages are dense, and questions pedantic and very, very tight. Students who typically go -0 on LR and LG are frequently not surprised by a -7 in RC. If this sounds like a cruel twist of fate, it is. All RC passages are about law, science, humanities, or art. Brutal passages include Dworkin (PT 35), !Kung (PT 64), Riddled Basins (PT 50), Pin Factory (PT 68), Dental Carries (PT 62), Chinese Talk-Story (PT 55), Maize (PT 49), and Noguchi (PT 59), with Riddled Basins, Noguchi, and Dworkin probably taking the top three spots.
There is also an essay. The essay is not graded, but it is sent to law schools.