LSAT Basic Information
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized entrance exam for law programs at the graduate level. The test is used primarily by law schools in the United States, but some degree programs in Canada and a few other countries either require or accept the test. First administered in 1948, the current LSAT has a total of six sections that cover four areas: Reading Comprehension, Analytical Reasoning, Logical Reasoning, and Writing. All LSAT administrations include at least two Logical Reasoning sections, at least one section each of Reading Comprehension and Analytical Reasoning, and exactly one Writing assessment (the LSAT also includes an experimental section that can be any of the first three subjects listed above). LSAT sections are 35 minutes each for a total test timing of 210 minutes, or three hours and 30 minutes (not counting breaks). The LSAT is scored from 120 to 180 in one-point increments. The Writing assessment is not a part of this calculation and is not scored, but copies are provided to law schools.
Test-takers may register for either a disclosed or nondisclosed LSAT test date. The distinction between the two lies in how much information is given with score reports. All students who take the LSAT receive a score of 120-180, a percentile ranking, and a copy of their Writing sample. Reports for disclosed LSAT administrations also include copies of all test questions, test-taker answers, correct answers, and a score conversion table, while reports for nondisclosed LSATs include none of these additional items. For the next full testing year (which begins in June), there will be a total of nine LSAT test dates, three of which are disclosed (June, September, and November) and six of which are nondisclosed (July, October, January, February, March, and April). All of these dates are either on Saturdays or Mondays. In addition to the regular test administrations, there are Spanish LSAT dates and alternate dates for students who observe the Sabbath on Saturdays.
All available evidence indicates that the LSAT is a major factor in law school admissions decisions. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the accrediting body for law degree programs, requires all institutions to report the LSAT scores of its accepted students at the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles. Reviewing this information demonstrates a strong correlation between LSAT scores and institutional selectivity and prestige; the elite schools almost invariably have the highest LSAT scores. Furthermore, law school rankings are partially based on LSAT performance. The U.S. News & World Report rankings methodology, for example, devotes 25% of a school's ranking to a metric called "selectivity," half of which is determined by the program's median LSAT score. This means that test scores account for one-eighth (12.5%) of a law school's position in the U.S. News rankings, giving programs an incentive to admit applicants with high scores. Finally, LSAC data on law school admission show that LSAT performance is often more strongly linked to admission than undergraduate GPA. Prospective law students can easily peruse this information on the LSAC website.
Over the past 20 years or so, the total number of annual LSAT administrations has fluctuated between about 100,000 and 170,000. During the most recent testing year for which data are available, the LSAT was taken approximately 130,000 times. Over the same 20-year period, between 40,000 and 52,000 students began law school each year, indicating multiple test attempts for many prospective law students. LSAC tracks employment outcomes for each graduating law school class. Their statistics show that within nine months of graduation, about 68% of the latest class secured jobs that require bar passage (this class was comprised of about 35,000 students). These numbers vary widely by institution; the top schools usually report employment rates of 95% or higher while the lowest-ranked programs can have rates of 35% or below.
The LSAT is not an exam that should be attempted without substantial advance preparation, and very few informed individuals recommend that test-takers go it alone. Gaining proficiency in LSAT exercises requires both training and practice. The most effective way to maximize student score potential is to formally study with a highly qualified LSAT teacher, and professional LSAT preparation is available in a number of formats (on-site, online, group course, or individual tutoring). Professional LSAT learning plans provide students with sound structure, incremental and sustainable skill development, targeted feedback, accountability, and vital testing abilities.