LSAT Basics

LSAT Basics: What You Need To Know About the LSAT

Most of our pre-law posts assume you have some familiarity with the LSAT but we understand that not all of our readers do. For those of you who are just starting to explore the idea of going to law school and are trying to figure out what the LSAT entails, this post is for you. Let’s start with the LSAT basics.

LSAT Basics: What You Need To Know About the LSAT

What is the LSAT?

The LSAT stands for the Law School Admissions Test. The LSAT is a timed test that is composed of 100 or 101 multiple-choice questions. The questions are broken down into five 35 minutes sections. There is also a separate writing component section that is required but is no longer administered at the same time as the multiple-choice exam. (The writing section has changed as of July 2019. Learn everything you need to know on the new LSAT writing section.)

The LSAT is a skill-based exam to predict the likelihood of success in your first-year of law school.  Your LSAT score, along with your GPA, is a critical component of your law school application and heavily influences your likelihood of admission. Most law schools require that you take this test in order to apply to law school in the United States, Canada and other countries.

Note: there is a growing number of law schools who now also accept the Graduate Record Exam, or “GRE”, in place of the LSAT.

What is tested on the LSAT?

The LSAT does NOT require you to know any law or have any law-related knowledge. This is a very common misconception. Instead, the LSAT tests critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills necessary to succeed as a law student and attorney. Unlike many of the other exams you’ve taken, there is no substantive material that you will need to study or memorize to perform well on this exam.

The test is composed of five sections of 35 multiple-choice questions, not including the writing section. The LSAT sections tested are (not necessarily in this order):

  1. Logical Reasoning
  2. Logical Reasoning (again)
  3. Logic Games
  4. Reading Comprehension
  5. Experiment Section (either a logical reasoning, logic games or reading comprehension section that will be ungraded)

Though there are five sections tested on the exam, only four sections will be graded.   The fifth section is an “experimental” section can be any of those three categories.

What is the experimental section?

The experimental section will be either another section of logical reasoning, logic games or reading comprehension. It changes with each test administration. You will not know ahead of time which type of section you will have as the experimental section.

The experimental section exists to test new questions or question forms for future exams. Aptly named, it’s intended as an experiment to see which questions test takers do well on and which might need to be revised before being used again.

How can I tell which section is experimental?

The short answer is, you can’t.  And my advice to you is not to waste time trying to figure it out (you won’t be able to!). You will be able to tell which category of testing (logical reasoning, logic games or reading comprehension) includes the experimental section because you’ll either have three logical reasoning, two logic games or two reading comprehension sections. However, of those, there is no way to decipher which is experimental.

The ordering of the sections makes no difference at all. The experimental section could be the first or the last section tested.

How long is the exam?

In total, the time spent taking the test is 175 minutes, not including breaks.  After the third section, there is a 15-minute break.  On the actual test day, expect to be there for about 4 hours, accounting for test-taking, breaks, and checking-in before the exam.

How is the LSAT scored?

The LSAT scoring scale ranges from a 120 as the lowest score to a 180 as the highest score. The average score for each test is usually 150 or 151. For context, Harvard Law’s 2018 incoming J.D. class had a median LSAT score of a 173.

The LSAT awards points in one-point increments for each question a test taker answers correctly. No points are deducted for incorrect answers. LSAC weights each question equally. The total raw score is a combination of all the points for correct answers. LSAC uses your raw score and scales to your official LSAT score, based on the difficulty of the exam.

Keep in mind that no one scores the writing section of the LSAT. However, law school admissions offices do review it with your application.

Check out this post for more information on how LSAC determines LSAT scores.

How many times can I take the LSAT?

LSAC recently changed its policy on the number of times you can take the exam. See their new guidelines here.

Keep in mind, however, that a law school will see each time that you took the exam and the score you received. You cannot select which scores schools receive. While most schools make admissions decisions based off of your highest score, many will take all of your scores into consideration when reviewing your application.

How is the LSAT administered?

Beginning in July 2019, the traditional paper and pencil test is transitioning to a digital format. Test-takers will receive a tablet and a stylus to take the exam, along with scratch paper to use for the logic games section.

The test, along with the writing section, is now entirely electronic.

When is the LSAT administered?

In the 2019-2020 year, LSAC will administer the LSAT nine times. The test dates are in: January, February, March, April, June, July, September, October, and November.

For a full list of test dates, check the LSAC website.

This post covers the LSAT basics and provides a general breakdown of what the exam is, how it’s scored, and why it’s a critical component to your law school admissions process. For more detailed posts on how to study for the LSAT, strategies to tackle each section and more information on the admissions process, check out our blog.

We hope this post on LSAT basics is helpful!

Rachel Margiewicz, Director of Pre-Law Services, wrote this post. Rachel is a licensed attorney with years of admissions experience across three law school programs in different markets of the country. She knows what schools are looking for and how to make your application stand out.

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