What is the LSAT and How Can You Pass It?
- Student Tips
For students hoping to pursue a law degree, one of the biggest challenges can be preparing for and taking the LSAT exam. According to the Law School Admission Council, the “Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is an integral part of law school admission in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries.” Therefore, those hopeful of earning a JD must include their test scores as part of their admissions materials. However, with some time and effort, the LSAT can be conquered.
What is the LSAT?
As mentioned above, the LSAT is one of the components of a law school admissions process. The exam is designed to test reading, writing, and reasoning skills, which helps admissions officers make an educated decision about how a candidate will fit into their program. It’s the most commonly used exam in determining readiness for law school, and is required at all ABA-accredited schools.
The exam is given in two parts. According to the Law School Admission Council, the “first part of the test is a multiple-choice exam that includes reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning questions.” In the second part of the exam, students are required to write an essay, known as the LSAT Writing section. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, both sections of the LSAT are being delivered remotely at the moment. Students who anticipate taking the exam should ensure they have access to a reliable internet connection and computer during the duration of the exam.
Students hoping to attend the more elite law schools should aim for a score in the 170s or higher. For those hoping to explore their options at other universities, the median score for acceptance is in the 140s. Therefore, a 150 would be a perfectly acceptable score.
The five sections
To get prepared, it can be helpful to have a general idea of what’s coming. The LSAT’s multiple choice questions are presented in five sections. Logical reasoning, or “argument”, comprises two sections, with about 24-26 questions each, with 35 minutes given per section. Moving on, Analytical Reasoning, also referred to as “logic games”, tests students with four different logic games over 35 minutes. One section of Reading Comprehension asks students to demonstrate their knowledge with 27 questions, including some passages to read. The Variable Section as one unscored experimental section, and 35 minutes are offered to complete it. Finally, in the Writing Section students are asked to demonstrate their “ability to form an argument based on given facts, support an argument...and use written English to express an idea.”
How to study for the LSAT
Consider preparing and managing your time for the LSAT is more of a marathon, and less of a sprint. Therefore, you’re going to want to take an organized approach to studying for this exam. Start by planning your test date. Students hoping to study for a LLB usually give themselves about a year to study, then plan to take the LSAT during their junior or senior year of their undergraduate degree, depending on when they hope to attend law school. Most students report it takes them about four months to adequately prepare for the exam, whereas some students will need more time.
High-quality materials are important when it comes to taking the LSAT, according to test prep company Magoosh. They recommend starting by taking an LSAT diagnostic test, which will tell students what areas they need to focus their studying on. This provides a course of action for planning out studying. Then, build a study schedule. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to work on subjects you may need more development in. Taking good quality practice exams, as well as using other LSAT-related materials can help you gain the most knowledge you need to help you succeed on the exam.
While it can be expensive to get access to all the materials necessary to study for the LSAT, a little ingenuity can help. Students who are interested in law school should connect with their university’s career services department, or their pre-law advisor. Many schools offer discounts for LSAT preparatory courses -- or even have some of these materials available to loan out to students. For example, students at the University of British Columbia, in March, are working hard to make testing materials more accessible to minority students. Noticing she was the only first-year Black student in her law program, Dinah Holliday has been diligently working to change that. As co-president of UBC chapter of the Black Law Students' Association, Holliday has helped to establish “a new Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) prep course exclusively for Black students with legal career ambitions.”
Is the LSAT hard?
The short answer is yes. The LSAT is a difficult, but not insurmountable exam. It was designed to be difficult, and was created to “figure out how a student thinks,” according to LSATMax. However, as test expert Dave Killoran points out, “The LSAT is a learnable test, and you can improve your performance by studying and preparing properly.” This can be done because the LSAT is “a standardized test, and you can learn about the standards and protocols used in the making of the test.” Each time you study, take a practice test, or even take the exam yourself, you can learn about it and figure out how to improve.
Although it can be difficult to take, students should remember the LSAT is a part of their journey to law school. While it does take time, and effort to properly prepare for, by putting in the work, students can achieve the scores to help them get into the law school of their choice. Making a plan, sticking to it, and practicing can help you take that next step towards your future as a law student and lawyer.
Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.