Law schools receive thousands of applications every year; therefore, they tend to rely heavily on factors to which they can assign numeric scores when selecting applicants for admission. Most statistical information suggests that the grade point average (G.P.A.) and Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score, considered together, are fairly accurate measures of first-year law school performance.
Based on this premise, most law schools consider the G.P.A. and results on the LSAT to be the most important factors in acceptance of applicants. If you are about to graduate from college or have already graduated, there may not be much you can do about your G.P.A. at this point. However, if you have not started college, or are just starting college, there is much that you can do about it. The higher your G.P.A., of course, the greater the likelihood that you will be admitted into the law school of your choice. However, the G.P.A. is not all-determinative; the LSAT score must also be considered.
The LSAT score, based on an exam approximately four hours in length, may be as important as the G.P.A., which took you four years to earn; therefore, it is in your best interest to obtain the highest possible score.
In preparing for the LSAT, you can study independently or enroll in a professional LSAT review course. People studying independently typically utilize written materials from Law Services' publications or commercially marketed books. There is no cheaper way for registrants to prepare for the LSAT than by studying the free LSAT/LSDAS registration booklet. This material provides practice questions to familiarize you with the content of the exam.
Once you understand the format, you should then take the complete sample test that is provided in the booklet, simulating official test conditions including strict adherence to given time constraints. For further practice, you can purchase actual versions of previously administered LSAT exams from Law Services. Commercially marketed books are also available, but these may be less reliable than official versions from Law Services.
The disadvantage of using only registration packet materials from Law Services is that, even though they may familiarize you with the content of the LSAT, they do not necessarily teach you strategies for solving LSAT problems. There are, however, various commercially marketed books that do teach LSAT patterns and exam-solving strategies to assist you in maximizing your score.
A second method used to prepare for the LSAT is enrollment in an LSAT review course. Traditionally, these review courses were offered only by private companies, but many colleges and universities are now offering them through continuing education or extension programs. Such live review courses consist of approximately 30 hours of classroom instruction as well as homework materials. Their major advantage is the development of discipline to study that might not otherwise be present if you are left to study on your own. Classes meet on a regular basis and homework is assigned. A good LSAT review course is designed to teach you reading comprehension and logical and analytical reasoning skills as well as various strategies for answering question types similar to those found on the LSAT.
In investigating which review course to select, it is wise to remember that some make claims that should be taken with a grain of salt. There are some courses that claim they can teach you ways to outperform others on the test. Other courses claim they can assist you to better previous score results, while others guarantee your success on the test the first time or offer to let you repeat the course a second time free of charge. While this guarantee would save you money the second time around, if you give the exam your best effort the first time, you will not have to repeat the experience. Don't try to beat the system, work with it. Success on the exam comes from careful reading and reasoning, gained on your own or by enrollment in a thorough preparation course.
The major disadvantage of LSAT review courses offered by private companies is their cost, which may be as much as a thousand dollars. Is it worth the cost? Views are mixed as to whether LSAT review courses are necessary for doing well on the exam. Some people consider them a waste of time and money while others consider them money wisely invested in a career. If possible, talk with other students who have taken such courses and ask their opinions to determine whether a particular course is worth the time and money expended.
To sit for the LSAT, register with Law Services at least five weeks before the test date to avoid payment of a late registration fee. Even late registration closes approximately two weeks prior to the exam date. Exam dates occur four times a year- February, June, late September or early October, and December-in various locations throughout the United States, Canada, and large cities in foreign countries.
The LSAT is a standardized four-hour exam, comprised of five thirty-five minute sections of multiple-choice questions to test Analytical Reasoning, Logical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension, as well as a thirty-minute impromptu essay section. The multiple-choice portion includes one Analytical Reasoning section (comprised of 22 to 24 questions), two Logical Reasoning sections (comprised of 24 to 26 questions each), one Reading Comprehension section (comprised of 26 to 28 questions) and one "wild card" section, which is another section of one of the above three. Neither the "wild card" section nor the impromptu essay (sometimes referred to as a Writing Sample) is graded.
The LSAT is administered under fairly high security. In addition to the LSAT Admission Ticket, some type of identification, such as a driver's license, is generally required. You should arrive at the exam site early to assure yourself a good seat. Take a jacket or sweater in case the room is cold, a watch, and several No. 2 pencils. A pen is provided by Law Services for the purpose of answering the essay question.
Don't waste unnecessary time trying to read exam instructions during the exam. Instead, familiarize yourself with the instructions typically given for each section before entering the exam. This will enable you to spend the majority of your time answering the questions, not reading instructions you should already understand. Since one attribute of a good lawyer is the ability to correctly follow instructions, review the answer sheet before starting the exam to determine whether answers are to be recorded horizontally or vertically.
Do take a few minutes before starting work on each section to preview its contents to determine proper format and strategies. You are allowed to work on only one section at a time, that is, the section being timed. You are not allowed to return to sections already completed nor can you skip ahead to sections yet to be completed. The exam proctor will announce "starting" and "stopping" times for each section, so pace yourself to ensure that you have adequate time to complete every question in each section. Since there is no penalty for guessing, answer every question. You may want to guess on the difficult questions since they count the same as the easy ones, that is, you have a 20-percent probability of getting the correct response-one out of five possible answer choices. You can clearly enhance this probability by eliminating one or more of the choices you know to be incorrect.
Mark your answers directly in the answer booklet itself, then code the proper circle darkly, completely, and neatly on the answer sheet-perhaps as you get ready to turn a page in the test booklet. However, code responses individually on the answer sheet the last few minutes when time becomes more significant.
When should you take the LSAT exam? Consider waiting to take the exam in June between your junior and senior years of college. It is not recommended that you take the exam any earlier because your exam score will be considered stale and will necessitate your taking the exam again. Your reading ability and analytical skills should also be further developed by waiting until June, which, in turn, should enhance your performance on the test. In the unlikely event you do not perform well, you can always retake the exam in late September or early October. The quicker you obtain your test results, the quicker you can start to map out your law school application strategy, that is, begin evaluating your choices of law schools on the basis of your ability to meet the admission standards of the schools you are considering.
How many times should you take the LSAT exam? Hopefully, you will have to take it only once. Sometimes illness or test anxiety might prevent you from per-forming as well as you had hoped, or perhaps your score does not reflect your true abilities. Under these circumstances, you may have to repeat the test. Bear in mind, however, that your score report will reflect a score each time you take the LSAT so if you do decide to retake the exam, notify all schools at which you have applications pending and have them refrain from judgment until new test scores are available. Law schools handle multiple LSAT scores differently. Some schools average the scores; others favor the most recent or highest score, especially if the latest score is higher. Avoid the whole mess and do your best from the outset.
The LSAT test is currently scored on a scale from 120 (the lowest possible score) to 180 (the highest possible score). An applicant's scaled score is a function of the raw score, that is, the number of questions answered correctly. Law Services issues score reports approximately six weeks after the test date, although it may tend to seem like six years.