KATYA VALASEK: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the LawHub® Webinar Series. My name is Katya Valasek, and I am the senior LSAC Ambassador here at the Law School Admission Council. Today, I’m so excited that you have all joined us, because we are covering a topic which is crucial in your legal education journey: the LSAT.
The LSAT is designed to measure the skills necessary for success in law school and beyond. When you prepare for the LSAT, you are also preparing for your future career in law. To share some insights with you on this important test, I’m joined today by an absolute expert, James Lorié, director of assessment development here at LSAC. I can think of no one better than James to lead this great conversation.
Now, before I hand things over to James, I wanted to let everyone know that James will be answering questions as a part of a Q&A period during the second half of this program. If you have any questions, we encourage you to submit them via the Q&A throughout the presentation. We will do our very best to respond to as many questions as possible.
Also, for those of you wondering, a link to the recording will be sent via email to all registrants 24 hours after the program ends. Now, with that, James, take it away.
JAMES LORIÉ: Thank you very much, Katya, and thank you, everyone who’s attending today. Good to have you here. I’m glad to be here to talk about the LSAT. So I’m going to start sharing my screen ... and there we go.
All right. So, as Katya said, my name is James Lorié. I am the director of assessment development at LSAC. So basically that means that I am one of the test developers. I write test questions with my colleagues, and I also manage the department that ... we write the test questions and we put the test together. So that’s why I’m happy to be here today to talk about the test, to give you some insights into what’s on it, and also some thoughts about how to prepare for the test.
But before getting into all that, first I’m going to talk briefly about LSAC’s mission, I’ll talk a little bit about myself, and then I’ll give you some information about LawHub and LSAC’s website.
So first, our mission, this is important because it guides everything we do, including putting the test together and all the services we provide for folks like you who are applying to law school or interested in applying to law school.
So LSAC’s mission is to advance law and justice by encouraging diverse, talented individuals to study law and by supporting their enrollment and learning journeys from prelaw through practice. So, again, we’re here to help people on their journey to law school, and to promote diversity in law school, and to help talented individuals get to law school.
So let’s talk ... a little information about myself. So I am Cuban-American. My family came from Cuba in the early ’60s. I was actually the first person in my extended family born in the United States. I was born here, but I was the first. Spanish was my first language. English is now my dominant language. I can still speak Spanish. English became my dominant language probably around when I was 8 or so. It’s hard to remember, but that’s the way I can put it together.
I was the first in my family to attend college in the U.S., Actually tied with a cousin who’s a few months younger than me. So we were the first two. Since then, I’ve worked at LSAC as a test developer for more than 25 years now. I am, again, now the director of the department.
So let’s talk a little bit about LSAC.org. So our website and our company is about a lot more than just the test. So we will be talking plenty about the test today, but I want to just give you some information about some of the other benefits that we offer you and some of the other benefits that you can find if you go to LSAC.org.
So, first of all, you can sign up for a free account at LSAC.org. It’s very simple. Just put in your username, your email address, and boom. You’re all set. It’s 100% free. You can get access to webinar series like this one. If you don’t already have an account, I definitely recommend that you do it.
You can read real student stories on the website or see videos of student stories, people who have gone into law, videos about diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, and so on. You can research law schools. We have information about the various law schools that are out there for you to apply to. You can see which ones best fit your goals.
You can get recruited with the Candidate Referral Service. Basically, if you opt in — it does require an opt-in, but if you do, your information can be shared with law schools who might want to contact you and recruit you to go to their program.
You can register for Forums. These are events that have information about the law school application process and about law school itself. They have representatives from various law schools at the Forum itself. These are both virtual and in person. So if you live in one of a few major cities, you can go in person right in your hometown. If you don’t, you can very easily attend a virtual Forum. You can go to the website, LSAC.org, to get that schedule of when they’re happening.
Then ultimately, when you’re ready to apply, you’ll apply through LSAC’s service called the Credential Assembly Service. That’s where we put all your credentials together and send them to those law schools that you want to apply to.
Also on LSAC.org, and an important focus of what we’re going to be talking about today, is a service that we launched a couple of years ago called LSAC LawHub. LSAC LawHub is an LSAT preparation platform, but it’s much more than that, too.
So in the sense of being a preparation platform, you can log on for free. If you have your LSAC account, it’s free to go onto LawHub. You can get some preparation material for free, including five full Official LSAT PrepTests, and one PrepTest in the current format, and two full official LSATs in the three-section format. I’ll tell a little bit more about that in a few minutes.
That’s all free. The nice thing about that is, the interface that you’ll use there when you’re looking at test content is exactly the same interface that you’re going to see on test day. So among other things, one benefit of going to LawHub is just to familiarize yourself with that interface.
It’s a very easy-to-use interface. It’s very natural and intuitive, but you don’t want to be using it for the first time on test day. You definitely want to know what it’s like and how to use it before you go on test day to take your test. So that’s the free version.
There’s also a subscription version called LSAT Prep Plus that’s available for $99 a year. If you do get a fee waiver, which I’ll talk about in a moment, the LSAT Prep Plus is included for free. You get unlimited access to 70 full, previously used and scored LSATs, more than 70 of them.
You can also use that subscription with any official LSAT licensee. That means basically commercial prep companies or coaches. They register with LSAC to offer a commercial prep, and then they can access our test content with you through your LawHub account. You get access to some exclusive educational events, and, again, the LSAT fee waiver is applicable.
So let’s talk just briefly about the fee waiver, and then we’ll start talking about the test. So basically, we understand that the process of applying to law school can be financially challenging for people who don’t have a lot of resources. So you can apply for a fee waiver.
Again, you just go to our website through your account, LSAC.org. If you qualify for the fee waiver, you get all these benefits included, and that is two free LSATs, meaning two tests that you can take and receive an official score. You get your CAS registration fee for free and your CAS law reports.
Again, CAS is that system that you’ll actually be using to apply to law school. So there are fees associated with that, but they’re free and included in the fee waiver. You get that one-year subscription to the Prep Plus on LawHub. If you don’t receive the fee waiver, there is an appeal process.
I should also mention that, just recently, we added a second tier of fee waiver that has slightly less stringent requirements in terms of the financial level that you’re at, and that has similar benefits, slightly less. But that’s also something you can find out about on our website. It’s definitely worth looking into there.
OK, so let’s start talking, then, about the LSAT. First thing I’ll mention is test dates. So you see here the next 10 test dates when the LSAT will be offered, starting in June of 2022. There is actually a test coming up in April, but registration is closed now. So you can’t actually register for the April test.
But these are the next 10 that you can actually register for, or you will be able to register for in the future. Registration for the next one, in June of 2022, that closes at the end of this month, near the end of this month, April 27. Then there are going to be another eight through next April, and then one more listed there from June of 2023.
So registration for August through June of 2023 opens in mid-May, by the way. So that’s when you can start registering for those ones beyond the June 2022 test. By the way, you don’t have to write these down or memorize these. All this information is ... you can find it on our website. It’s very easy to find there.
So, all right, now let’s start talking about the test and what’s on it. So one thing that I think is really important to know about the LSAT is that its purpose and its focus is to promote fairness, validity, and readiness in the law school application process, by which I mean it was actually created ... it’s been around for more than 70 years now. It was created in the late ’40s. It was created to promote fairness in the law school admission process.
Before that point, when there was no LSAT, different law schools had their own processes. Some of them even had their own tests. But basically, getting into law school was definitely a matter of who you knew more than what you knew, or sometimes, if you went to a prominent undergraduate program, that would pave the way for you. But if you didn’t go to one of the top undergraduate schools, you might have a harder time getting into law school.
The LSAT was created to provide a way for people with the skills to succeed in law school to be able to be identified, to show that they have the skills to succeed in law school. What are those skills? This is another really important point that I like to emphasize when I talk about the test.
The LSAT is a test of skills, and those skills are basically critical thinking skills divided into two main areas: reasoning skills and reading skills. If you know anything about the law school curriculum, you probably know that those two categories of skills are really important for success in law school. You’re going to be reading a lot, reading a lot of complicated material, and you need to be able to read it and understand it and analyze it. You’re also going to be using your reasoning skills in various ways in law schools.
So because of that, because it’s a test of skills and because these skills are really important in law school, preparation for the LSAT and performance on the LSAT translates directly into first-year performance in law school, and performance in general.
But we test the LSAT for validity by correlating scores on the LSAT with first-year grades in law school. We find consistently, year after year, that LSAT scores are the single best predictor of performance in the first year of law school. A better overall predictor is the combination of LSAT and undergraduate grades. But if you’re considering those things and other things individually, the LSAT has the best track record of predicting performance in the first year of law school.
So another aspect of the fact that it’s a skills test means that answering questions just requires you to use those skills, reading and reasoning. There are no tricks, no secrets. There are no traps. Sometimes you’ll hear that on the internet. Sometimes you might hear it from prep companies who are trying to get you to use their service, telling you that they’ll teach you what the tricks and traps are.
But there are no tricks and traps. Some of the questions are relatively easy. Some are medium difficulty. Some are even a little bit harder. But even the harder ones, it’s just a matter of a difficult reading task or a difficult reasoning task, not a trick or a trap.
I’d like to mention that, and I’d like to emphasize that, because if you think on test day, if you go in thinking there are tricks and traps on the LSAT, one thing that that does is it definitely increases anxiety, because if you’re going in thinking, “Oh, why? I’ve got to find these tricks or I’ve got to avoid these traps,” it seems unfair. You’re going to be focusing your energy on looking out for things that, well, are themselves unfair.
Another thing that happens is, some of the questions are relatively easy, especially for people who are interested in law school, who, by and large, do have pretty good reasoning and reading skills. Some of the questions, you’ll read them and you’ll read the right answer, A, B, C, D, or E. Let’s say it’s B, and you’ll think, “Oh, wow. Well, that seems so obvious. It’s got to be B.”
But if you think there are tricks and traps, what’s your next thought going to be? Maybe, “Oh, well, it can’t be that easy. The test is full of tricks and traps. So I better change my answer and pick something else.” Whereas if you have that feeling like it’s got to be B, it’s really obvious, chances are that was the right answer. So something really important to remember: It’s a test of skills. It’s not filled with tricks and traps.
All of our test questions are reviewed by a diverse team of test developers and external experts, so folks like myself internally. We also have external experts who review the questions for us. That includes external experts from diverse backgrounds.
So for all these reasons, because the LSAT is a test of skills, and these skills are important for success in law school, when you’re preparing for the LSAT, you’re actually strengthening those skills, which means you’re also preparing for your career in law school and even beyond, in the practice of law.
The last thing I’ll mention in general about the test is that it’s still the only test that’s accepted by all law schools that are accredited by the ABA. There are over 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. The LSAT is the only test that’s accepted by all of them. So if you take the LSAT, that gives you maximum flexibility in terms of deciding where you want to apply.
So let’s talk about the LSAT format and content. This has changed a little bit in the last couple of years because of unplanned circumstances — COVID, namely. So before COVID, the test had four scored sections and one unscored section. These are multiple-choice sections I’m talking about.
When COVID hit, we had to switch very quickly to remote testing. Before that, testing took place in test centers. You had to go to a test center to take the test. We switched to remote with COVID. It was called the LSAT-Flex. We’re still testing remote, and we’ll continue to do so at least until April of 2023.
Before we get to that point, we’ll make a decision about the year after that. It may well continue, but we don’t know yet. But at least through next April, a year from now, it will be a remote test.
In the remote setting, instead of four scored sections, there are three scored multiple-choice sections. They are 35 minutes long each, unless you get an accommodation. Many accommodations are extra time. So if you have one of those, obviously you’ll have more than 35 minutes. But for most test takers, it is 35 minutes per section. You also take one unscored multiple-choice section.
Just to explain really briefly why that’s there, that’s where we try out new questions and we get good data on how hard they are or how easy they are, other characteristics. That’s what helps us put together tests that are very similar in terms of how difficult they are overall, and the distribution of difficulty and things like that, which means that the scores are very comparable from one test to another.
You can take the test in June, the next one that you can register for, and that score is valid for applying to law school for five years after that. That’s in large part because of that unscored section, because we know how difficult the questions are before we put together the scored tests. That really helps make them very parallel in difficulty.
There is an unscored writing sample. We’ll talk a little bit about that later. Now that it’s a remote test, it is not done on test day. You can do it on the same day as your multiple choice, but most people don’t. You can take it anytime, 24/7, up to a year after you take the multiple-choice test.
One thing to know, by the way, I’ll mention this now and I’ll mention it again later just to emphasize it, in order to have your scores sent to law schools that you want to apply for, you must have a valid writing sample in your file. You have to do that writing sample at least once.
If you’ve already done it once and you’ve got one in your file, you’re all set. But if you haven’t, you have to make sure that you complete the writing sample at least a couple of weeks before the deadline, the earliest deadlines, of the schools you want to apply to, because if you don’t, then your scores won’t go to those law schools in time. So just keep that in mind.
All right. So on test day, when you’re taking the multiple choice, you’ll have four sections, three scored, one unscored, and you will have a 10-minute break between section two and section three.
Over on the right, you see those colored circles. Those are the parts of the test. I’ll tell you a little bit about each of those. But real quick, the three scored sections, you have one reading comprehension section, one logical reasoning section, and one analytical reasoning section that’s popularly known as logic games. So if you’ve heard people talking about the logic games section, they’re talking about what we call analytical reasoning.
Those are the ones you’ll take on test day, on the multiple-choice test day. Your unscored section will be one of those. So you’ll get maybe two reading comprehension sections or two logical reasoning sections, and you’ll know one of those was the unscored section, but you won’t know which one. Then the writing sample, again, that’s done on a separate day, typically.
So let’s talk about the different section types and what they look like. I’ll give you a little bit of information about maybe how to think about them. Then, later on, we’ll talk about how to prepare.
So let’s talk first about reading comprehension. I like to start here because it’s a section that is probably the most familiar to people. Everyone has taken reading comprehension in some form or other, probably all the way through school. Certainly if you took the SAT or the ACT to apply to your undergraduate program, you took a reading comprehension section.
Ours are similar, except since you’re applying to a postgraduate degree program, you’re applying to law school for a JD, our reading comprehension section naturally is a little bit more sophisticated, a little more advanced, and it tests some higher-level reading skills.
So how does that work? Well, you’re going to read one complex passage, or you’ll read two related passages, and that’s called comparative reading. The reading selection, whether it’s the one passage or the two related passages, it’s going to be roughly between 450 and 500 words in total. So one passage of that length, or the two passages together are shorter and together they make up the length of 450 to 500 words.
Based on that reading selection, whether it’s the single or double passage, you’re going to answer five to eight questions. So five to eight questions per reading selection. There are four of these sets with a reading selection and five to eight questions per test, per reading comprehension section. One of those four, by the way, will be the comparative reading, the two passages. The other three will be a single passage. It always works that way.
So our passages, by the way, the reading selections, they are developed from published sources. We don’t write them from scratch. We believe that the reading skill that we want to test should be ... you should have the opportunity to show that using reading material that’s published out there in the world, not things that we make up. We adapt them from published sources.
That said, they cover a variety of topics, but you will have one of each of the four topics in the second-the-last bullet there: one humanities passage, one natural science passage, one social science passage, and one law-related passage.
So we have a lot to get to, so I don’t want to linger too much on this. But I’ll give you one tip for reading comprehension, and that is, as you read the passages when you’re preparing, or certainly on test day, always pay attention to the main point. All of our passages have a main point. Pay attention to the main point and see if you can identify it as you’re reading along.
There are two reasons why that’s a helpful thing to do. One is that the main point — like I said, every passage has a main point — it’s sort of like the organizing principle of the whole passage. If you understand the main point, you’ll understand how all the pieces fit together. It’s like the key of the whole thing. So it actually helps with comprehension.
The other, more practical benefit is that not absolutely every single passage comes — or not every single set comes — with the main point question, but probably around 95%, the first question is going to be, what is the main point of the passage? Or it could be phrased somewhat differently, but that’s the basic idea. Even in the comparative reading, we might ask, how do the main points of the two passages compare to each other, or what’s the primary purposes of the two passages? Something like that.
So in 95% of the cases, we’re going to ask you some variation of the main point question. So you’ll definitely have a head start on that question if you’re paying attention to the main point as you read.
One other thing I’ll mention is that our passages are complex. They’re dense. They involve argumentation. So you don’t want to skim. You definitely want to read carefully. Of course, you have 35 minutes, so you can’t read really slowly. That’s one way that practicing and preparing for the test is really important, because that’ll help you figure out what your optimal pace is in terms of getting through the content, but also maximizing your understanding of what you’re reading.
All right. So now let’s talk about logical reasoning. This is the second of the three types of sections that I’ve been talking about. By the way, on test day, they can come in any order. So I’m presenting them in this order, but they won’t necessarily appear to you in this order on test day.
So logical reasoning questions are designed to test the ability to understand, analyze, evaluate, and draw inferences from short arguments. So basically, logical reasoning is argument analysis. Again, I’ll refer to what I said before. If you know much about law school or about the practice of law, it should make sense, because a lot of what law does is, it involves making arguments and certainly analyzing arguments put forth by others.
So how does that work? Well, you’ll read a short argumentative passage. They’re typically between 20 to 100 words long, so they’re fairly short, and you’ll answer one question about each passage. So there are about 25 questions per logical reasoning section. That second piece there, about 50 per test, that’s out of date. I didn’t realize that was still there. That’s from when we had four sections. So you get about 25 per logical reasoning section, which means you’ll get 25 scored logical reasoning questions on test day.
These are also, by and large, developed from published sources, and they can cover any kind of topic where we find a source out there on the internet or in a magazine that involves an argument. That could be politics, government, economics, medicine, et cetera. Pretty much any topic where there’s an argument that we can adapt and put on our test. They come in different formats. They can be excerpts from articles, editorials, et cetera.
So it’s worth knowing, it’s worth mentioning, that in order to do well on logical reasoning and in order to do well on the test as a whole, you don’t need to take logic — you don’t need to take a formal logic course. If you’re not familiar with argument analysis at all, it can be helpful to take, say, an introduction to logic or a critical reasoning class. Those can be helpful, but they are not required.
That said, even though it’s not required, we do expect you to be familiar with certain key terms that are used in argument analysis. The first is the word “argument” itself, in the sense of an argument in the logical sense, not in the sense of two people who are angry and yelling at each other.
What is an argument in the logical sense? It consists of those other terms, which you also should be familiar with. So an argument is a series of statements called premises, and those premises together logically support a different statement that’s called a conclusion. So the premises together allow you to logically draw a conclusion. That’s what an argument is.
Inference is the name of the process, the logical step to get from the premises to the conclusion. Sometimes the conclusion itself is also called an inference. Then an assumption is an unstated premise.
So, again, these are in wide use. They’re familiar terms to lots of people. But you do need to know them on test day. So if you’re not familiar with them, you might want to take a critical thinking, critical reasoning class, or at least you can use a book. You can look up a critical thinking book and get some more familiarity with these terms. They’re very important. They’re also going to be very important in law school and in the practice of law.
All right. What about analytical reasoning? Again, usually, in popular discussions, referred to as logic games. So analytical reasoning is designed to test your ability to understand a structure of relationships and draw conclusions about that structure.
I know that’s very abstract. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s hard to imagine exactly what that means. So I’m going to actually show you a quick example in a minute. But first let me just give you some more of that general information.
So the way it works is, you read a passage of up to 130 words. That passage describes a scenario and a set of rules that apply to that scenario. Based on the scenario and the rules, you’re going to answer five to seven questions about what could be the case or what must be the case, or also what can’t be the case. So the rules will require certain things, or they’ll allow certain things but not require them, or they’ll prohibit certain things. You have to answer questions about that.
They can involve various kinds of relationships. They could be spatial, above, or next to, they can be ordering in time, what happens before or after other things happen, or they can involve group membership, like assigning people to committees or to teams in a sports league or something like that. There are four of these scenarios with the rules and the five to seven questions in each analytical reasoning section.
So here, let me show you the example. This is one that was used. It was used on an LSAT I think about 15 years ago. So it was used a while ago, but they still look pretty much like this.
So, what you have in this scenario, you have six guideposts, and they’re numbered 1 through 6. They are arranged along a mountain trail. Each one of these guideposts has a different one of six animals on it. So there’s a fox, there’s a grizzly and a hare, et cetera.
Then the following conditions apply. These are the rules. They tell you things about what order on those guideposts 1 through 6 the animals can appear. So the grizzly, you learn from the first rule, must either be on guideposts 3 or number 4.
You also know that the moose guidepost is going to be numbered lower than the hare guidepost. So, for example, if the hare guidepost is number 2, then you know the moose has to be number 1. If the hare post is number 5, you know the moose is going to be somewhere from 1 to 4. The lynx guidepost is numbered lower than the moose guidepost but higher than the fox guidepost. So the lynx is between the moose and the fox.
Then, again, you’re going to answer questions like: Which one of the following could be true? What’s allowed by the rules, in other words? The correct answer might be: The moose is on guidepost number 2. I haven’t done these in a while, but that would be the kind of thing it would look like.
So real quick, I just want to talk briefly about why this is on the LSAT. Sometimes people are a little bit confused by this because, on the surface, this doesn’t look much like what you think about when you think about what you’re going to do in law school. The scenarios are fictional. They’re always fictional. They seem somewhat artificial, like this one, animals on guideposts.
So why is it on the LSAT? Well, this gets back to the theme I was talking about at the beginning. The LSAT is a test of skills that are important for success in law school. If you step back a little bit and think about it, this particular task is applying constraints to a situation, or applying rules to a situation, and then drawing conclusions about what the rules allow or require or prohibit.
In law school and in the practice of law, you’ll be doing that a lot. Basically, the law is a set of rules, and it gets applied to all kinds of different scenarios, and you as a law student or as a lawyer after that will be drawing conclusions about what the law allows or what it requires or, in many cases, what it doesn’t allow, what it prohibits.
So that’s why this is on the test. I like to mention that and I like to emphasize that, not just because I want to justify the design of the test, but I think this is one of the areas where it can actually help, again, with that anxiety that sometimes people can experience on test day.
If you believe that the analytical reasoning section is an artificial hoop that you have to jump through — and people will say this kind of thing on the internet or whatever, an artificial hoop that you have to jump through, that doesn’t have really anything to do with law school. Well, that increases the frustration or the anxiety, and those kinds of emotions are actually a distraction. They occupy some of your mental capacity and some of your mental energy, and they prevent you from performing your best in terms of displaying your reasoning skills.
So if you think of it that way — the law is all about applying rules and drawing conclusions about what the rules allow or prohibit and so on — it helps it make a little more sense. Maybe, hopefully on test day, it helps keep the anxiety in check a little bit.
All right. So let’s talk quickly about how the scores work, and then we’ll talk about the writing sample. Then we will talk about preparing for the test. So basically, the scores are on a standard scale from 120 to 180. You’ll see that in that fourth bullet there. So the scores start at 120, that’s the lowest. They go up by one point from there, 120, 121, 122, all the way up to 178, 179, and 180.
There is what’s called a conversion table that basically converts your raw score. So on those three scored sections, you’re going to get roughly 75 questions and you’ll get some number right. Let’s say you get 60 right. Then there’s a table that you can look up and see how many questions you got right. That will tell you what your reported score is on that 120 to 180 scale.
All the test questions are weighted exactly the same. Sometimes people wonder if one section is weighted more heavily than another, or some people might wonder if harder questions count for more than easier questions. The answer is no. If you get 60 questions right, you’ll get the same score, whatever that might be, no matter how you get those 60 questions right. If you get 20 right on each section, you’ll get the same score. If you get 25 and 25 and 10 on the third section, same score.
We don’t deduct for incorrect answers. So there’s no harm in guessing. It’s been a while, but in previous years, the SAT used to deduct for incorrect answers. But we’ve never done that, and we still don’t.
I’ll mention one more thing, and that is LSAT score preview. The first time you take the test, and only the first time, you can buy this benefit, score preview. It costs $45 if you buy it in advance. That gives you the option to see your score first, your reported score, and then decide whether you want to cancel your test or not.
After that, if you take it a second time, or for people who don’t use this service, you don’t get to see your score before you decide if you want to cancel. You can still cancel your score, but you just have to cancel it or decide to keep it based on how you feel like you did or how good your perception of it was. But if you buy the score preview, you can see your score and then decide. You can find information about that on the website.
All right, real quick about the writing sample. Again, as I mentioned, you can take it on the same day as your multiple-choice test. Most people opt not to, for obvious reasons. It’s available for you to take for up to a full year, 24/7. You schedule it at your convenience. You can schedule it at 3:30 in the morning if you want. It’s also 35 minutes long.
It is not scored, though. So that’s one reason that it’s separate from the scored part of the test. It’s not scored, but a copy of your essay that you write in response to this exercise is sent to every law school that you apply to. It means it’s worth taking seriously, even though it’s not scored, because a few years ago, we did a survey of law schools and we asked them, “Do you read some of the work samples? Do you read all of them? Do you read none of them?” A majority of law schools, a significant majority, do read at least some of the work samples. Some law schools do read all of them, and very few that said that they don’t read them.
So chances are that one of the law schools or more, if you’re applying to multiple law schools, that you apply to will read your essay. So, again, it’s worth taking seriously, even though it’s not scored. It’s 35 minutes long.
Just as a reminder, we cannot report your multiple-choice score to law schools that you want to apply to until you have a writing sample in your file. It can take a couple of weeks to process them, especially if there are some kind of flags on them. They’re remote also, and they’re recorded. But sometimes if there’s some behavior that the system is not sure about, it’ll be flagged for human review. In most cases, it’s fine. But that takes time. So you want to take them at least a couple of weeks before you want your first scores to go out to law schools.
All right. So let’s talk about preparing. So the first thing is, sign up for a LawHub account. It comes free with your LSAC account. Visit LSAC and you’ll see links for LawHub, and go check it out.
On LawHub, you’ll be able to access previously used tests, again, in the same interface that you’re going to use on testing for the multiple-choice questions. So you definitely want to familiarize yourself with the interface itself. That’s pretty quick. It’ll only take you like 10 minutes. But you also want to familiarize yourself when you’re preparing with the question types and how to approach them and so on. I’ll give you some more tips for that in a moment.
So what I recommend that you do ... and there are various ways to prepare. There is no right way. There are other places you can prepare besides LawHub itself. You can certainly go to a commercial prep company if you have the money and you want to spend the money.
I’ll also mention that we have a free preparation module that’s available on Khan Academy. So if you just Google “LSAT preparation Khan Academy,” that’s official LSAT prep. We helped them develop it. We approved it. It’s 100% free. So that’s another good option. But I’m going to talk today about preparing using LawHub.
So what I recommend that you do is, especially if you haven’t started preparing yet, so you’re just jumping in, is start by taking individual sections untimed. That is a setting that’s available to you on LawHub. When you start a test, it’ll ask you, “Do you want to do exam mode?” — that means 35 minutes per section, and then it shuts down — or “Do you want to do self-paced mode?”
I recommend starting with self-paced mode. Give yourself plenty of time. Again, the official time is 35 minutes per section, unless you have an accommodation. I would set it at least for double that and just see how long it takes you. Set it for 70 minutes. You can even go longer. It actually allows you to set the time up to 480 minutes, which is literally eight hours. So that’s probably more than you’ll need, but it’s there if you want it.
But give yourself plenty of time, answer all the questions, take as long as you need, and then check your answers. Spend time on the section types that you find most difficult. The way that you’ll start to find out if the section type is more difficult is if under untimed conditions, you get more wrong — even if you give yourself plenty of time, you get more wrong on one of the section types. Let’s just say it’s logical reasoning. That’s a sign that section type is more difficult for you.
It’s not always the case. Some people find them all about equally difficult. But if you do find that one is more difficult, spend more time on that section.
Or another way is, you can do about equally well, but one of them takes you much, much longer. So even though you’re doing about equally well, it takes you a lot longer to get the same results on that section. That’s another way that you would know that maybe that section is more challenging for you. So do more of those. Again, stick with untimed at the beginning.
This last bullet is a really key point. When you’re preparing, always review questions that you got wrong to make sure you understand why the answer you picked wasn’t the best answer and why the one that’s identified as the correct response is the best answer.
That’s a really great way to get a stronger sense, a fuller sense, of how our questions work. So just, again, review anything you got wrong and figure out why your answer wasn’t the best and why the correct answer is in fact the best answer.
There’s no magic number for the number of times to do this. I would say do this for maybe a couple of sections of each, or maybe three or four sections of each, depending on how comfortable you’re starting to feel.
Once you start to feel like you are getting familiarity with the section types and the question types, then you want to start taking individual sections one at a time under time constraints. So set it to exam mode, 35 minutes per section, or if you have an accommodation, set it to whatever time you’ve been granted in your accommodation. Start taking one section at a time in that 35 minutes or the alternative time.
By doing that, you’ll start to get a sense for what your pace should be, like what pace you have to work on a test day. For example, as I mentioned with reading comprehension, you want to read carefully. You don’t want to just skim. But you don’t have all the time in the world. So you do want to read relatively quickly but carefully. That’s what you’ll start to figure out by taking timed sections.
Again, if there’s one that you find more difficult, more challenging, do more of those. As you’re doing these timed sections, always continue to review your wrong answers and understand why your answer wasn’t the best and the other answer was.
Then start building up. Do this for a while, start building up, take two sections under timed conditions together, then take three. Then, finally, you want to take full disclosed tests. So disclosed tests means these are tests on LawHub that were used before and scored. They’re published on LawHub. They’re also published in books that you can buy, by the way. But they’re all there on LawHub. You want to take full disclosed tests under timed conditions. Basically simulate that test day experience.
When you simulate that test day experience, taking four sections under timed constraints, it’ll help you feel more comfortable with the format, with the sections. Certainly you’ll be more familiar and comfortable with the features of the interface.
You’ll figure out that optimal pace. You don’t want to spend too much time in any question, but you also don’t want to rush too much, because that probably will impact your accuracy and your ability to answer the questions correctly. The only way to figure out what your optimal pace is ... if you go in cold on the first day you actually take the test, you won’t know, and chances are, you won’t work at the right pace for yourself.
Practicing will help you find that pace. You’ll develop the stamina that you need to get through that whole test. So the four scored sections plus the break, that’s, oh, between two and three hours of testing time.
So it’s something that you definitely want to get used to. You’ll build comfort with the question types. You want to get to that point where you’ve seen it all before, you’ll build that confidence. You feel like, “Yes, I’ve got this.”
People sometimes ask, by the way, “How much preparation should I do? Should I spend X number of hours or should I spend X number of months or weeks, or whatever?” The basic answer is that there is no single right answer. It really depends on the individual and where you are with your skills and what score you’re aiming for.
But basically, one way to assess internally whether you’re ready to take the test is when you have that feeling like, “Yes, I’ve seen this before. I know what to expect. I know how to pace myself. I’ve got this.” That’s what you’re aiming for in your practice.
So that is my suggestion for preparing. Again, that’s not the only way, but it is a good way to prepare. The last thing I’ll cover is the question of, “Should I retake the LSAT?”
So it certainly isn’t necessary to retake the LSAT. Some people may want to. Here are some situations where you may want to consider it. So if you take the LSAT the first time and you feel like your score doesn’t actually reflect your real skill level, your ability on these skills — that can be for lots of reasons; you maybe were ill, or maybe you just had more anxiety than you expected, or whatever the case may be — you can definitely retake it. If you feel like your skills are higher than your score would indicate, you can retake it.
You can do that up to seven times in your lifetime. Up to three times in one testing year, seven times in your lifetime. So you can also spend more time preparing between that first time and your subsequent time, if maybe you weren’t fully prepared and fully confident and comfortable the first time.
If things didn’t go as you expected on test day, that’s another reason. Maybe something just went wrong and it threw you off for some reason, that could be another reason. If you had things come up, if you were ill or a personal situation interfered, certainly we understand life happens. You can definitely take it a second time if something interfered with your optimal performance on test day.
All right. So I’m going to leave us here with this slide. This is a message from our president and CEO, Kellye Testy. Then, if there are questions from the Q&A, I’ll be happy to answer them now.
KATYA: Thank you so much, James. We had a question about access to practice tests. Can they take as many practice tests as they choose? I think it might be helpful if you revisit what you mentioned earlier in your presentation about what the options are in LawHub, just so people can now put that in context after you’ve shared all the other useful information.
JAMES: Sure. Yeah, good idea. So, yeah, as I mentioned, there is free access that you can get a on LawHub, and it includes a number of tests. So according to what we went over on the slide before, five full LSATs, including a couple in the new format of three scored sections and one unscored section.
By the way, a lot of the tests that are in LawHub are from before we switched to the three-scored-section model. So you have four scored sections. But that’s actually a really good practice for the current test, because you’re going to take four sections. It’s true that three will be scored and one won’t, but the scores actually are very comparable between the four-section version and the three-section version. So practicing on those four-section tests where all four sections are scored is great practice. So that’s the free version. You can obviously use all those that are accessible for free.
With the subscription version, which is included if you get a fee waiver, again, the subscription version, you have access to the full library of all the previously used and scored tests that we’ve published. That number is currently approaching 80. So lots and lots of tests, probably more than you’ll want to or need to use.
But certainly with that subscription version, which is called LSAT Prep Plus, you have access to all the test content, previously used and scored test content, you can possibly want to prepare with and practice with.
KATYA: Great. Then I love this next question, because this was always the type of reassurance I was looking for when I was preparing for standardized tests. Someone just wants to confirm that it is recommended to answer all the questions in the section, correct?
JAMES: Yeah, absolutely. So as I mentioned on one of the slides, we do not deduct any points for wrong answers. So if you’re running out of time and you have, now let’s just say, five questions that you haven’t got to, I would say definitely take the last few seconds.
It might take you, I guess, 10 seconds or something, and just page through them on the screen and pick a random answer. If there are five, by just random chance, chances are you’ll get one correct. Maybe you’ll get lucky and get more than one. Yeah, definitely in your interest. No harm. It’s definitely best to guess on questions that you don’t get to.
KATYA: Then we had a question about proctoring. I love this question because I think those of us at LSAC take for granted that we understand how that works now that the test is remote. Can you just give a brief summary of how they’re proctored now that you’re testing in your own environment?
JAMES: That’s a great question. I didn’t cover that, so I’m glad this question came up. So, yes, when you take the test on test day, you’re going to log in on your computer. It could be a laptop or a desktop, of course. You do need to have a camera. So if you have a laptop, typically they’ll come with a camera. Your camera has to be functioning, of course. You do need a microphone.
The way it works is, you log in to the system through our company that we use for the proctoring. So we don’t do the proctoring ourselves. We use ProctorU. You login through ProctorU’s system. There will be a proctor who will check your ID. You do a room scan and a few other steps.
Basically, once you start the test, a proctor will be monitoring the activities of a few test takers, basically just looking for anything that shouldn’t be happening, like another person coming into the room and maybe talking to you, or if you consult your cellphone or something like that. Those are behaviors that are prohibited by the rules of the test.
But other than that, you basically won’t really know the proctor is there. You can just focus on the test content. As long as you’re doing everything according to the rules, the proctor won’t interfere with you and your testing session at all.
KATYA: The question was about, how do they know I’m not Googling everything?
JAMES: Ah, good question. OK. I didn’t get to that part. So basically, when you log in to that ProctorU system, it’s what’s basically called a lockdown browser. So basically, you can have that ProctorU system open and nothing else, or even if you had something else open on your computer beforehand, you can’t get out of the ProctorU browser and use that other tool until the testing session is over and then you shut down the ProctorU system, and then you can do all your normal stuff.
But, yeah, once you’re in that test session, you cannot use anything else, browsers or anything else, on your computer. Good question, though.
KATYA: Thank you. We had ...
JAMES: Oh, by the way, your proctor can see what’s on your screen. So even if you found a way around it, your proctor would see what you were doing.
KATYA: Great. Thank you. We had questions about what scores, if you test multiple times, the law schools will see.
JAMES: That’s a really good question. So unless you cancel a score — and, again, if you buy a score preview, the first time you take the test, you can cancel your first score after you see it. Otherwise, you have to cancel your score just based on what you understand your performance was.
But if you cancel a score, a law school will not see that score. Otherwise, they will see every score that you got, that you received, when you apply to that law school.
A lot of law schools, maybe most, will take your highest score into account, but you should definitely check with every law school that you want to apply to, just to make sure you want to understand what it is they’re going to be looking at and, if you have more than one score, how are they going to look at those multiple scores, because they will see every score that you did not cancel.
KATYA: Great. They actually, having worked at a law school, they will see if you canceled scores. They’ll see a C. But they won’t know if you had score preview or not.
So the question about remote proctoring has led to a flurry of questions about the test administration. So can you say, for the record, through June of 2023, what is the testing format?
JAMES: So right now it’s announced the last test for which we’ve announced the format ... actually, no, you’re right. I’m misremembering. It’s through June of 2023. Every test between now and June ’23, including June ’23, will definitely be remote and remote-proctored like we’ve just been discussing.
At some point, well before that, before June of ’23 rolls around, we’re going to be assessing the situation, seeing how COVID is shaping up, if there are more waves coming or whatever, and other factors, and we’ll decide whether to continue with the remote testing, or maybe we’ll look at other options. But right now, for a year and two months from now, the test will definitely be remote and remotely proctored.
KATYA: This is a great question. I’m so glad this came in. What if you don’t have access to a laptop or a desktop?
JAMES: That is a great question. So just like we have fee waivers for folks who don’t have the financial resources, if you don’t have a laptop, or whatever you have doesn’t have the capacity to run the test or doesn’t have a working computer, whatever the situation may be, or this also applies if you don’t have a quiet space — that’s one of the requirements of test day, is you have to be alone in a room. It has to be a quiet room. You can’t have anyone else with you in that room there.
If that’s something that you don’t have available, or the technology, contact LSAC. Just go to LSAC.org and you can find the information, or maybe one of my colleagues can put the link in the chat, and you can request help. What we can do is we can provide technology. You can take the test on a tablet. We can provide a tablet for you, which has the ability to run the test.
Or if you don’t have the quiet space, we can send you a voucher for help in paying for a hotel room. Also, if you don’t have Wi-Fi, sufficient Wi-Fi, to run the test, you can go to a hotel to get the quiet space, get the Wi-Fi, and take the test there. We can help you with that, or both. You can get a device and a voucher for a hotel room.
KATYA: Great. Then that is definitely an important service. I want to encourage everyone who thinks that they would benefit from it to take advantage of it.
KATYA: For sure. I want to end on a question that I think might take a little more time for you to answer, but I think it’s an important topic that we cover.
KATYA: Someone mentioned that there are some schools now who accept the GRE as part of the admissions process. So she asked, why should someone take the LSAT? Why would it be considered a superior test?
JAMES: Sure. That’s a great question. So one reason why it’s a good idea to take the LSAT is something that I mentioned earlier in this presentation, which is although there are law schools that are currently accepting the GRE, the LSAT is still the only test that’s accepted by every single ABA-accredited law school in the United States. So you get maximum flexibility for applying to law schools if you take the LSAT. If you take the GRE, there are certain law schools that you won’t be able to apply — a lot of law schools that you won’t be able to apply to.
Another reason is that the LSAT is still the only test that was designed specifically for law school admissions. From the very beginning, like I mentioned, in the 1940s, it’s been the test that’s focused on the skills that are necessary for success in law school. Other tests are not designed that way. It’s a one-size-fits-all test with stuff on it that’s not that directly relevant to law school. Taking the LSAT is a way of demonstrating specifically those skills that are important for success in law school.
So there are a number of law schools that do accept the GRE. However, in the most recent year, which was the fall of 2021, 98% of people who were accepted and matriculated at a law school used the LSAT to apply. So the GRE is around, is an option, but it’s not a very widely used option.
There was an article that mentioned that somebody interviewed some law school professionals, admissions professionals, about how they regard the two tests. A lot of them ... hopefully one of my colleagues has a link to that article. A lot of them mentioned that they’ll value the LSAT over the GRE.
So those are some good reasons to take the LSAT. Yeah, like I said, it is the test that’s designed for law school admissions and it’s the test that’s accepted by every single law school. So I think those are the biggest reasons.
KATYA: Great. Thank you so much, James, and thank you to everyone who joined us today. We have done our best to answer as many questions as possible, but we understand it was not possible to respond to everyone. If you have additional questions ...
JAMES: Thank you, everybody.
KATYA: Oh, thanks, James. If you have additional questions, please feel free to email us at ambassadors@LSAC.org. Remember, a link to the recording will be sent via email to all registrants 24 hours after the program ends.
We are adding to the schedule of LawHub webinars. Depending on where you are in your law school application journey, I would like to encourage you to join us later this month for great webinars on April 20, April 28, and as well as a webinar next month, on May 25.
If you don’t already have a LawHub account, be sure to set one up today. Look out for learning opportunities every single month, stay connected with LSAC on social media, and stay tuned for more information about Admissions Unmasked and Law School Unmasked programs coming this summer. We look forward to seeing you all again soon. Thank you all so very much, and have a wonderful day.