Information about the LSAT Format
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a six-section examination with a total testing time of three hours and 30 minutes. All students who sit for the LSAT can assume that they will take two Logical Reasoning sections, one Analytical Reasoning section, one Reading Comprehension section, and one Writing section. The sixth section is unidentified, experimental, and unscored; this section is typically referred to as "variable." The variable section can be either Logical Reasoning, Analytical Reasoning, or Reading Comprehension, but not Writing. Each section of the LSAT is separately timed and lasts for 35 minutes. All questions on the Logical Reasoning, Analytical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension sections are multiple choice, while the Writing section requires test-takers to compose a single argumentative essay.
The LSAT's two or three Logical Reasoning sections include 24-26 questions each. According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the developer and administrator of the test, these questions "evaluate a test-taker's ability to understand, analyze, criticize, and complete arguments." All Logical Reasoning questions are preceded by short passages of text, and these passages may be the subject of either one or two questions. Textual passages are similar to material found in general-interest publications such as magazines or newspapers, and students will not need advance knowledge of the law to complete these or any LSAT exercises. All LSAT multiple-choice questions have five answer options.
Test-takers will be expected to complete 22-24 questions on the LSAT's one or two Analytical Reasoning sections. LSAC’s stated purpose for this section is to "measure the ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw conclusions about the structure." Analytical Reasoning exercises are based on a series of statements that establish a set of conditions. The questions themselves require students to use logic to deduce which answer options must be true, could be true, must be untrue, and the like. The Analytical Reasoning section is also known as "Logic Games," and is (perhaps unjustifiably) the most feared part of the LSAT. Each of the Analytical Reasoning section’s four textual passages is associated with 5-8 questions.
The LSAT's Reading Comprehension section features 26-28 questions. Students will see at least one Reading Comprehension section and possibly two. The section is structured around four reading passages that are about 450 words each in length, with sets of 5-8 questions attached to each passage. One of these may be a pair of passages, and the questions for paired passages may concern either or both texts (this is known as "comparative reading" in LSAT parlance). This portion of the LSAT, per LSAC, is intended to "measure your ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those commonly encountered in law school work."
As noted above, one of the multiple-choice sections (Logical Reasoning, Analytical Reasoning, or Reading Comprehension) will be variable, for the purpose of evaluating new exercises for potential inclusion on future versions of the LSAT. It is obviously possible for test-takers to infer the content of the variable section while taking the test, but they will not know which specific section it is. For example, if a given LSAT administration contains two Reading Comprehension sections, the student can be sure that one of them is experimental, but any attempt to determine which one is the variable section would be pure guesswork. Students are advised to make every effort to do their best on all sections, even if they think they know the identity of the variable section.
The LSAT Writing section includes a single essay, in which test-takers must take a position on an issue raised by the essay prompt and defend their choice. LSAT essays do not contribute to the LSAT total score (120-180), but copies are provided to law schools and all available evidence shows that these institutions do take this part of the exam seriously. LSAC has cited a number of reasons for the inclusion of a writing assessment on the LSAT, including the importance of effective written communication and the usefulness of writing as a diagnostic tool. The Writing section is always the last part of the LSAT to be administered; the multiple-choice sections may appear in any order.