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The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a four-hour examination created and administered by the Law School Admission Council (also known as Law Services or LSAC) and required by every ABA-approved law school.
There are two closely related purposes of the exam; to predict which candidates will do well in law school and to assist schools in ranking applicants. It is, according to LSAC, a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills. The LSAT does not, however, attempt to measure your legal competence or knowledge.
The test consists of five 35-minute multiple-choice sections, separately timed, and followed by a half-hour essay portion that is not scored. A short break is given after the third multiple-choice section. The exam, including preliminary administrative matters, typically lasts from 8:30 a.m. until about noon, making for a very long morning.
The five multiple-choice sections vary in order for each test taker, but they include: one Analytical Reasoning section, two Logical Reasoning sections, one Reading Comprehension section, and a wild card section, which could be any of the above. This (wild card) section is used only to assist LSAC in experimenting with new testing methods and questions and is not scored, (Note that test takers do not know when taking the exam which section is the wild card and will not be scored.)
Analytical reasoning. This section gives questions that require you to make deductions from a set of statements, rules, or conditions. Often called the "games" section, a typical analytical reasoning question would give you information about the eight people seated at a circular table. You might be informed that Harold never sits facing due south, George always sits facing north (including northeast or northwest), Lisa always sits two seats away from Harold, Martha always sits opposite Lisa, and so on. You will be asked, for example, in which seat Harold must sit if Martha is not in a seat facing due north or due south.
Logical reasoning. These questions evaluate your ability to comprehend and analyze arguments that are contained in short passages. Test takers must be able to evaluate the strength of the evidence, and logic of the reasoning, as well as detect the assumptions in these arguments and draw reasonable conclusions from them.
Reading comprehension. These questions are based upon four reading passages, designed to test your reading and reasoning abilities. Passages are drawn from a variety of subjects (some of which you may not be familiar with) but all information needed to answer the questions can be found within the text. These questions require you to analyze the logic, structure, and details of densely written material, and to draw inferences from it.
Your score is now available approximately three weeks after you take the exam by TelScore, for a fee of $10. Otherwise, you will get the score by mail, from Law Services, approximately five weeks after the exam.
Your score is based strictly on the number of questions answered correctly; any incorrect answers will not affect your score. Scores are reported on a scale from 120 to 180. Thus, the lowest you can score is 120, the highest 180. You will also receive a percentile rank, which shows the percentage of test takers who perform (above and) below you. (Remember that the essay you write is not scored, but simply forwarded to your chosen schools.)
What Are Admissions Committees Looking For?
Top schools have average scores in the mid-to-high 160s, meaning that their students are typically in the top 10 percent of test takers. The range of scores is substantial, however, so a score in the upper 150s need not necessarily be cause for despair. To evaluate yourself, check out where your score falls in relation to those of first-year students at some of the top schools.
How to Register For the LSAT
The LSAT & LSDAS Registration Information Book provides a registration worksheet, as well as information about the dates, locations, and price of the exam. It is possible to register by phone, as well as on the Internet. You can obtain a bulletin by contacting:
Law School Admission Council
661 Penn Street
The exam is given in June, September, December, and February of each year. To be sure that you will be able to take the exam at the site you prefer, plan to register several months before the actual exam date.
General Tips on Preparing To Ace the LSAT:
Familiarize yourself with the tests by taking plenty of sample exams. Be sure to practice on actual prior LSATs available from LSAC. Review the answers you miss. Make sure, at the very least, you know exactly what to expect in terms of a test's format—what each section asks you to do, how long each section is—before going in. That way you will not waste time reading directions (or panicking), and will be able to concentrate on your performance.
Take care of your health. Get enough rest for at least two nights before taking the exam.
Be organized on the day of the test. Give yourself enough time to have a leisurely breakfast and prepare yourself. If the site is not familiar to you, be sure you have precise directions to it and know exactly how long it will take to get there, allowing for traffic or unexpected delays. Arrive at the testing site ten minutes early so that you have time to go to the restroom and calm yourself down.
Do not wait until the last possible administration of the exam to take it. You may fall ill and be unable to take it, or you may need to retake it to boost your score.