Having a law degree is one of the most touted accomplishments that many people look forward to. Whether it is a personal desire or parental expectations, or you just fell in love with the profession after binge-watching all seasons of Suits, becoming a lawyer requires some steps.
To answer the question of how to become a lawyer, the answer is to attend law school. If you are seeking admission into law school, you must write the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) first, and in this post, we will take a look at everything you should know about the LSAT.
What is LSAT – The Basics
The LSAT is a standardized exam administered by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) that consists of two portions. The first portion is written in person at a testing center, and it consists of multiple-choice questions which are scored. The second portion is written at home and is an uncensored written style of the exam called LSAT Writing.
The aim of taking LSAT is to assess law school aspirants and see if they have the required skills to attend law school and succeed. The LSAC lists skills like analytical reasoning, reading comprehension and logical reasoning as the skills every law school aspirant should possess. In the LSAT, no prior legal knowledge is required to pass the test.
The LSAT is known to be an extremely tough test, and candidates are required to dedicate more than enough time to study for it. The score that a student gets in their LSAT plays a huge role in the decision-making process in law school admissions.
You can take the LSAT more than once, and it is common to see many people do so because of the tough nature of the test. The only catch here is that, at the point of application, if you have written the test before at any time, you must report all your scores.
Here, it is important to show a progression; that is, your scores over time have increased. It is no surprise that the LSAT is difficult because studying law is a demanding process. To do so, there has to be a rigorous testing process in place to make sure students can endure the work ahead.
The Application Process
To begin your enrolment for the LSAT test, follow the steps below;
- Visit LSAC’s website to create an account.
- Sign into the newly-created account and navigate to “Register for the LSAT.” Click on it and choose your location and desired date.
- The registration fees cost $200, except you qualify for a fee waiver. Note that you will have to pay other associated fees if you are changing your LSAT location or when sending your LSAT to law schools.
Where and When Can the LSAT Be Taken?
LSAT holds nine different times every year in the United States and Canada and thrice in other parts of the world. The multiple-choice in-person portion of the LSAT holds at a testing center, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the LSAC replaced it with the LSAT-Flex, which candidates take at home.
In February 2021, the LSAC announced that all LSATs scheduled to hold between February 2021 and June 2020 would be converted to LSAT-Flexes.
Once you sign up for your LSAT and the date for the multiple-choice portion has been set, you can take the writing portion of the test eight days before. This does not mean you cannot take the Writing portion after the Multiple-choice option (up to a year); however, you will only see your LSAT score after you have completed at least one LSAT Writing section. If you are a first-timer, take your LSAT Writing one week before or after your LSAT administration date.
Note: Each time you sit for the exam, you will be required to pay the about $200 fee. There are also other fees if, at any point, you decide to change your test date or location.
What is the LSAT Retake Time Limit?
From September 2019, LSAT placed a limit on the number of times a candidate can take the LSAT. The new time restrictions are highlighted below;
- You can write the LSAT seven times in a lifetime.
- You can take the LSAT five times within the current testing year and the past five testing years.
- You can write the LSAT three times in one testing year (June 1 to May 31).
How Does LSAT Score Matter in Law School Admission Process?
It is about the most important factor that law schools consider when assessing the stability of a student. Law schools do not set strict cut-off marks or minimum scores, but they consider a range of scores and set them as the ideal scores to gain admission. If a student has a score outside those ideal scores, they will require something exceptional to gain admission.
For transparency purposes, law schools are required to release the medial LSAT score of their first-year intake. They also release the 25th and 75th percentiles of the range of LSAT scores that their accepted students got. This gives you more clarity on what score range you should aspire to have. Students who score lower than the score range of their chosen school will have other things such as their GPA play out in their favor when law schools assess them.
If you have a poor GPA compared to the school’s average score, you need to have a correspondingly high LSAT score to compensate for the poor GPA.
While these calculations may be necessary to ascertain your chances, there is still a lot of uncertainties surrounding the admission process into any law school.
Nobody can say for sure that some with a score within the 25th to 75th percentile will get a place or that someone that doesn’t have a score in that range will not get a place. There are many other ways to impress an admissions board when applying for a law school, such as recommendation letters, your personal statement, your resume, interview and other requirements to supplement your LSAT scores.
So, our recommendation is not to focus too heavily on your LSAT scores. They are, without a doubt, important, but you should put some work into gathering your skillsets so they can be properly evaluated. Law schools understand that the true test of a great attorney does not end with standardized tests.
What Type of Tests Should You Expect in the LSAT?
There are six sections in the LSAT, but only four contribute to the overall score that law schools receive. These four sections contain multiple-choice questions, which are broken down into reading comprehension, analytical reasoning (or logical games), while the remaining two cover logical reasoning (also called arguments).
In the test, there is a variable section that is usually included to test new questions for future LSATs. It is unscored and will not be labeled as a variable section. In fact, you won’t even know that it is not part of the “real” sections, but the onus is on you to take it seriously.
Each of the sections is allotted 35 minutes each, and you are advised to work on one section at a time during each 35-minute period. In between sections three and four, you get to take a 15-minute break, which means the total time the entire five sections will take you is 190 minutes. The last section, a writing sample that is unscored, takes 35 minutes, and it gives you a scenario in which you have to argue on either of two sides.
This last section does not contribute to your score, but law schools receive it. Speculations vary on whether law schools actually take a look at it or if it makes any difference in your admission decision. Whatever the case is, which we cannot say, we recommend that you give it your best shot. All the preparation you need is to brush up on your essay writing skills.
Let’s take a look at each section of the LSAT in details;
Understanding the LSAT Sections
This section comes with about 25 -26 questions which carry about 30% of your total LSAT score. In each question, you will be required to examine a short stimulus (a set of facts or argument) and answer a question stem about that stimulus. Some of the basic questioning skills you will need revolve around the following;
- Ability to identify unstated assumptions in arguments.
- Ability to make valid inferences from the facts available.
- Ability to analyze the structure of an argument accurately.
As you progress through the questions, they become more difficult, but you should also know that the progression isn’t exactly linear. You may find more difficult questions earlier in the section than towards the end.
The Reading Comprehension section is a scored section in the traditional LSAT, and it takes up about 32% of your LSAT score. A section like this is included in a standardized test. In this section, you will find three standard passages and one comparative passage (two short passages combined).
Each of the standard passages and comparative passages will have a minimum of five to eight multiple-choice questions to make 27 questions in total.
You will typically be asked to assess the main idea, purpose, tone and structure of the passage. You may also have to spot what the passage infers or simply analyze the different perspectives that the voices in the passage offer.
Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games)
On the traditional LSAT, there is only one scored Logic Games section, and it accounts for about 27% of the total score. This is the most different section, and many students find it hard to approach the questions in this section. This does not mean it’s the most difficult, of course, but you can earn the most scores from this section, and it’s highly learnable too. It typically consists of four games that involve using a set of rules to identify potential groups or orders of variables.
For each game, you will have to answer between five and seven questions to make a total of 23 questions. The difficulty of the questions isn’t progressive throughout the section, but you may find the last game more difficult than the first.
The Writing Section
This section is taken separately from the multiple-choice section. It is taken at home and the time requirement is 35 minutes. From August 2020, any applicant writing the LSAT must complete the LSAT Writing Section to see their scores for the multiple-choice part of the LSAT. Regardless of how many times you take the LSAT, you only need to take the Writing Section once.
The Writing Section contains an argumentative essay prompt that gives you some background facts to help you on a decision. You’ll always get two options and some criteria on which your decision can be based. The task in this section is to speak for one option and defend your decision to advocate for that option using the facts available.
This section is not scored. It is rather sent to the schools you applied to as part of your LSAC law school report. How the writing section weighs in the admission decision isn’t exactly known as it varies from law school to law school. However, it could be the differentiating factor in a case where two applicants match each other evenly. We recommend that you take it seriously even though it isn’t scored. It can make a difference for anyone.
Things You Should Know about Your LSAT Score
Your LSAT score will appear on your LSAC dashboard. Note that you will receive an email notifying you that your score is available.
LSAT scores are usually between 120 and 180, known as the “scaled score.” The LSAC creates a conversion scale based on the difficulty of the test, and this conversion scale is compared with your raw score, which is the addition of the number of questions you got correct.
Whatever your score is will then be grouped into percentiles based on the percentage of applicants who scored low. If you score 153, for instance, this score is likely to be in the 50th percentile because about half of the applicants scored less than that. If your score is somewhere around 175, you are likely to be in the 99th percentile because 99% of applicants’ scores are below 175. This means you are in the top 1% of the scores.
Disclosed Test vs. Undisclosed Test
There are two classifications of LSAT administrations – disclosed and non-disclosed. This is available at the point of signing up for the test. In a disclosed test, you will be given your answer sheet, the answer key, a copy of the test, and the conversion scale when you get your score back.
For a non-disclosed test, you will only be given your score back. A non-disclosed test will not show you the questions you got wrong, but you should not worry about that as these tests are pretty much the same in content and difficulty levels.
Can You Cancel Your LSAT Score?
Sometimes you write the LSAT, and it feels like it didn’t go the way you wanted. You can cancel your score before you see the score. You will see the cancel option in your LSAT account on your dashboard. In August 2020, the LSAC introduced a limited score preview program that allows first-time test takers to pay to see their score before they cancel.
For LSAT-Flex takers, they have to call or send an email to LSAC to cancel their score, and they must do so within six days of taking the test. After canceling your score, it will still count towards your LSAT retake limits. You should know that law schools will see the test on your application as a canceled score if you cancel your LSAT score. This means they will know that you canceled.
If you don’t want them to know and you don’t want the test to count in your test retake limit, you have to withdraw from the LSAT at least a day before you are scheduled to take the test. Before you cancel, you should consider all your options. And if you are canceling because the test was difficult, know that a difficult test will most likely have a lenient scale.
Studying for the LSAT
You have to do more than the bare minimum before you can feel confident about doing well in the LSAT. You should not start studying a few days or few weeks before your test. Discipline is important for success in the LSAT, and you have to create a structure and stick with it.
Also, make sure you practice endlessly so you can easily recognize those questions and be able to think fast when you face the real thing. LSAT requires fast thinking, and it’s best if you can answer them quickly so you can manage your time better.
Now that we have checked out everything about LSAT, we expect that you are more than prepared to take the test now. Give yourself enough time to prepare to ensure your success in the test. Do not hesitate to send your questions and inquiries about the LSAT. We will try to clear them up as best as we can.