Summary of Self-Reported Methods of Test Preparation by LSAT Takers for Testing Years 2008–2009 Through 2010–2011 (TR 11-03)

Executive Summary

This investigation of Law School Admission Test (LSAT) preparation patterns for the 2008–2009, 2009–2010, and 2010–2011 testing years represents a replication of earlier studies. As with the earlier studies, all analyses in this report are descriptive in nature, and no attempt is made to evaluate the effectiveness of the various test-preparation methods.

In this study, five types of analyses were performed. First, analyses comparing the response rate for each testing year were conducted to determine whether there were appreciable differences in response rates across these years, and to assess the extent to which response rates in this study differed from those reported in earlier studies. Second, analyses designed to compare respondents and nonrespondents in terms of mean age and mean LSAT score were conducted to determine the extent to which the respondents were typical of the entire testing population. Third, an evaluation of the utilization rates for the different methods of test preparation was carried out to assess the frequency of use of the different methods. Fourth, the extent to which test takers used multiple test-preparation methods was evaluated. Finally, users and nonusers were compared for each method in terms of mean LSAT score and mean age to evaluate the extent to which users of a particular method are different from nonusers.

Overall, the patterns of results for respondents and nonrespondents were consistent across testing years. In general, the mean LSAT score was higher for respondents than for nonrespondents, and the mean age was slightly higher for nonrespondents than for respondents. This relationship was similar to patterns reported in earlier studies. These results indicate that the respondents differed systematically from the nonrespondents, and caution should therefore be exercised in generalizing any of the findings of this study to the nonrespondents. However, the response rates for all of the testing years were so high that this represents only a very minor limitation in the interpretation of the results.

The patterns of usage for the various methods of test preparation varied slightly across testing years. Of the nine methods listed, self-study was the most popular method for all 3 testing years studied, and using a book not published by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) was a close second. Commercial test-preparation schools and official LSAC test-preparation materials were also heavily used across testing years.

On average, respondents used two to three methods to prepare for the LSAT. For the 3 testing years covered by this report, more than 43% of the respondents for each testing year reported using one testing method; 8–23% of the respondents reported using two, three, or four methods.

The most significant finding in the analysis of users versus nonusers of each method was that LSAT scores were higher for respondents indicating the use of (1) the free sample LSAT in the LSAT and LSDAS Information Book or available on LSAC's website; (2) official LSAT PrepTests, ItemWise, and/or other LSAC test-preparation products; (3) LSAT preparation books or software not published by LSAC; (4) a commercial test-preparation or coaching course; and (5) self-study methods. LSAT score means were lower for respondents reporting the use of (1) sample questions in the Information Book and on LSAC's website, (2) undergraduate institution test-preparation courses, (3) other preparation, and (4) no preparation. This study reached the following conclusions:

  • Overall response rates were consistent across the 3 testing years.
  • Female test takers were slightly more likely to respond than were male test takers.
  • Members of the Native American and Caucasian racial/ethnic subgroups had consistent response rates of 90% or higher for the 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 testing years. Members of these same two subgroups also had the highest response rate for 2008–2009, although rates were slightly lower for this year than for the 2 later testing years. Those not indicating their race/ethnicity were least likely to respond to the question regarding methods of test preparation.
  • Those who are not fluent in English were less likely to respond than were those who are fluent in English.
  • Respondents tended to be, on average, approximately 6–9 months younger than nonrespondents and tended to score 1–2 points higher on the LSAT than did nonrespondents.
  • Self-study was the most popular method across the testing years studied, and non-LSAC books were the second most popular preparation method.
  • The Information Book, LSAC's website, and official LSAC test-preparation materials continue to be popular methods, especially among certain subgroups of the test-taking population.
  • Relatively few test takers reported using undergraduate test-preparation courses or other preparation.
  • Female test takers reported using more methods of preparation than did male test takers.
  • Puerto Rican test takers and test takers not fluent in English tended to use fewer methods of test preparation than did other subgroups.
  • For the last 2 testing years, respondents indicating multiple race/ethnicities reported using a high number of methods. Members of the African American and Caucasian subgroups also consistently reported using a high number of test-preparation methods across the 3 testing years.
  • Users of the sample questions in the Information Book or on LSAC's website, undergraduate institution test-preparation courses, other preparation, or no preparation tended to have lower scores than nonusers of these methods.
  • Users of the sample test in the Information Book or on LSAC's website, materials published by LSAC, commercial schools, self-study, and non-LSAC books tended to have higher scores than did nonusers of these methods.
  • Users of the Information Book or the sample questions and sample test on LSAC's website, official LSAC materials, other preparation, or no preparation tended to be older than nonusers of these methods, whereas users of commercial schools, undergraduate institution test-preparation courses, non-LSAC books, and self-study tended to be younger than nonusers. The smallest age differences were observed between respondents using non-LSAC books and self-study.

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