Law School Admissions Test

From Academic Kids

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a standardized test used for admission to law schools in the United States of America and Canada that are members of the Law School Admissions Council. It is scored on a scale of 120 to 180, based on the nationwide distribution of raw scores: a 180 represents the best score among all the test-takers, while a 120 represents the worst and a 150 represents the national median. It is administered four times per year, traditionally in February, June, October, and December.

Unlike other American standardized tests, the LSAT is by far the most important admissions criterion for law school. The second most important criterion is undergraduate GPA. Most prestigious law schools receive far more applicants than they can accommodate; the examination offers admissions officers a simple and generally effective way to eliminate a large number of applicants from the pool. The "best" law schools (such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford) usually look for an LSAT score of 170 or above, while top-50 law schools look for scores of 160 or above.

Also unlike other standardized tests, the LSAT is very rarely re-taken. This is because all of a student's LSAT scores are reported to their law school, not just their highest or most recent score. Most law schools consider all of an applicant's LSAT scores in their admission decisions, although a few only consider the highest or most recent score.

The LSAT is usually taken in the June or October preceding the year of admission, although most law schools will let applicants take the examination in December as well.

The test consists of six sections; with the exception of the writing section, all are multiple choice.

  • Two logical reasoning sections of 35 minutes each. Each question begins with a logical statement (e.g. "A is B; therefore C must be D"), and then asks the student to find unspoken assumptions, alternative arguments, logical omissions, or logical errors in the statement.
  • One reading comprehension section of 35 minutes. Questions reference brief written passages on a variety of topics, and primarily ask the student to distinguish the author's intent, tone, and strategy for writing.
  • One analytical reasoning section of 35 minutes. This section presents the student with a set of condition statements (e.g. "if Amy is present, then Bob is not present; if Cathy is present, then Dan is present..."), and then asks the student to derive various conclusions from the statements (e.g. "How many people are present?").
  • One experimental section, which can be any of the above; it is not scored, but merely used by the LSAT authorities to test new questions for future tests.
  • One writing sample, which is not scored but is provided to the law school. There are two possible writing samples: A Decision prompt and an Argument prompt. In the Decision prompt, the student is given an argument as well as two positions, and then asked to present an essay in favor of one position. In the Argument prompt, the student is given an argument and then asked to critique that argument. The time limit for either prompt is 35 minutes.

A complete LSAT administration takes up to seven hours, although only three and a half hours are needed for the test itself: the remainder of the time is used for materials preparation, breaks, and other tasks.

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