Is the LSAT? The
creatively named "Law School Admission Test" is a standardized
test required of all law school applicants. Your LSAT score is one of
the most important aspects of your law school application, along with
your undergraduate GPA. (What
are the criteria for admission to law school?)
The test is scored
from 120-180. We have no idea how they picked such an arbitrary scale,
but there it is. Perfect scores of 180 are extremely rare. The average
LSAT at law schools like Harvard, Stanford and Yale is usually in the
low 170s. More than 50% of scores fall between 145 and 159.
If you take the
test twice, law schools will receive both scores and will usually use
the average of your scores for admissions purposes. We don't recommend
you take the test twice unless you feel it is absolutely necessary.
Try to prepare well the first time and take it only once.
The LSAT is given
four times each year: February, June, October and December (specific
test dates). Registration deadlines are typically a month or more
in advance of each test date. Registration for the LSAT is absurdly
expensive at $123 / test; if you register late, they'll get you for
an additional $62. Note that registration for the LSAT is different
from (and in addition to) registration for the similarly expensive LSDAS ($113). More on fees here.
On the LSAT? The
LSAT ostensibly tests the kind of logical reasoning skills that you
will need to succeed at law school. It consists of five sections: one
reading comprehension section, two sections of logic problems, one section
of logic "games," and an experimental section that the LSAC
uses to test problems for future exams. The experimental section does
not count toward your score, but sometimes it can be difficult to determine
which section was the experimental one. The LSAT consists only of logic
and reading comprehension problems -- there is no substantive knowledge
required (unlike the MCAT, for example).
In truth, the LSAT
tests not your ability to solve logic problems, but rather your ability
to solve such problems fast. Any Harvard student could do extremely
well on the LSAT if he/she had all day to work on it. The key is to
answer all of the questions accurately in the time allotted, which can
be short -- in the "games" section, for example, they typically
give you 25 minutes to solve 24 logic puzzles.
Should I Take the LSAT? Most
applicants take the LSAT in June or October of the year in which they
plan to apply -- i.e., for current undergraduates, in June of your junior
spring or October of your senior fall. A majority take the test in October.
Note that the October test is in early October, usually the first weekend.
It comes up fast after you return to campus for your senior year!
You can take the
test in December and still have your scores reported in time to apply.
For two reasons, however, we recommend that you NOT take the December
LSAT unless absolutely necessary (i.e., because you cancelled
your October test results). First, you will not know your LSAT score
before choosing the schools to which you apply. This is a serious disadvantage,
since the LSAT is a huge factor in admissions decisions. Second, your
score will not be reported to law schools until mid-January. Since law
school admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis, and since law
schools will not look at your application until your file is complete,
this can work to your disadvantage.
You cannot take
the February LSAT and still apply for matriculation in the fall of the
Should I Prepare For the LSAT?
Practice. Practice practice practice practice practice practice practice!
The LSAT is not an IQ test -- your score will improve with practice!
Do not be dismayed (or become unduly confident) by the results of your
first LSAT practice test. You will get better.
Practice helps for
two reasons. First, you get faster. As noted above, the LSAT is really
a test of how fast you can solve the problems. You may think you are
"not good at logic games," etc. Maybe so, maybe not. But regardless,
you will get faster at solving them (and at solving them accurately)
with practice. Second, there is actually a limited number of logic problems
in the world. With practice, you start to recognize that the LSAT repeats
problems from year to year -- not with the same exact words or names
or numbers, but with the same logical underpinnings. You'll start to
think, "I've seen one just like this, and I remember I fell for
XYZ trap last time
." Your score improves accordingly.
The best way to
practice is to order actual old tests from the LSAC. Always, always
use a stopwatch when you practice. The whole point is to learn to do
the problems in the time allotted. Photocopy the tests when you obtain
them so that you can go back later and practice on the same test again
(if you do enough practice tests, you won't remember the answers days
later). You can order practice tests from the LSAC online.
Beware of collections
of practice LSAT questions sold by third party publishers. The LSAC
does not license its practice tests for sale by other companies, so
these companies use mock tests with mock LSAT questions. They can be
helpful, but always remember that they're not the real thing (some are
harder, some are easier, but either way you get a skewed view of your
likely score on the real test).
Most students find
that 2-3 weeks of solid preparation (i.e., several hours a day, 4-5
days a week) is sufficient. If you doubt you will have several hours
a day to dedicate to the LSAT for that period, prepare over a longer
period. But set a schedule, stick to it and don't cheat yourself. It's
painful, but the LSAT is crucial to your law school admissions chances
and you can improve your score if you try.
Students often ask whether they should take an LSAT prep course. These
courses can be helpful, but they are expensive (often over $800). Many
services now offer online courses and one-to-one tutoring as well.
Whether a test prep
course is right for you depends on your work habits. If you are disciplined
enough to make yourself sit in the library and take practice tests,
you probably don't need a course (although you might still buy a test
prep book, since some of the strategies they outline for solving problems
faster can be helpful). Just order a pile of old LSAT tests and start
If you are the kind
of person who needs a little motivation (and you should be realistic
about this!), a test prep course can make a lot of sense. This is particularly
true for alumni/ae applicants -- if
you have a full time job, it is very difficult to find the time to prepare.
Committing to an evening class can help you get up to speed quickly.
Each of the test-prep courses
below have their pluses and minuses. I've ranked them in descending order of personal preference.
- TestWell LSAT 180
Fantastic teaching style and results, although the primary
teacher can be somewhat abrasive at times. Highly recommended.
- Testmasters (www.testmasters.net)
We don't know much about this company, but they appear
committed to improving your score, and they offer a boatload of real LSAT practice questions.
Some people have taken this course and found it very helpful.
Others have not particularly liked it.
We have yet to hear much positive feedback about this course.
test prep services (from Yahoo!)
You do not need to send your LSAT score to schools directly. Your LSAT
score is packaged as part of your LSDAS report and sent to the law schools
you choose. Read more about the LSDAS.
LSAC offers a useful collection of FAQs about the LSAT.