The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized test that is “required” for admission into law school. We say “required” in quotes because more and more law schools are accepting the GRE as an alternative exam. The LSAT is designed to measure reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning skills. The LSAT is administered eight times per year. The test is designed to assess the skills necessary for success in law school, including critical thinking, reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning.
Due to COVID (and maybe other reasons) the LSAT went to an online, live remote-proctored format. This means that you take the test online at home (or wherever you are comfortable) and a proctor monitors you to make sure you are not cheating.
A positive that came out of the shift to an online experience is that the LSAT is now administered 8 times a year instead of the historic 4.
The LSAT is the only test accepted by all ABA-accredited law schools, though more and more schools are accepting the GRE from applicants.
The LSAT is a unique test that measures your comprehension and reasoning ability. Unlike many other standardized tests, there is very little memorization required to prepare for the LSAT. Instead, preparing for the LSAT is more like training. In order to succeed, you have to learn HOW to answer questions instead of WHAT the answers are.
For some people this is very unlike any test they have taken before. Depending on your relationship with tests this may be welcome or unwelcome news.
The good thing about the LSAT is that it is learnable. Questions in each section are simply variations of relatively consistent concepts. This means that nearly everyone has the ability to succeed at the LSAT with the right combination of focus, training, and perseverance.
The LSAT consists of four sections of multiple-choice questions, one of which is experimental and unscored, as well as an unscored writing sample submission that you can do outside of the LSAT test hours. Although unscored, the writing sample is sent to schools along with your score.
Number of Questions
(AKA Logic Games)
The LSAT is approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes long, excluding breaks. This time is divided into six sections, each lasting 35 minutes. There are four scored sections (one Reading Comprehension, one Analytical Reasoning, and two Logical Reasoning sections) and one unscored variable section, which is used to test new questions for future exams. In addition, there is an unscored 35-minute writing sample section that is completed separately on a different day.
Your LSAT score is based on the number of questions you answered correctly. All test questions are weighted the same, and the total number of questions you get right is the only thing that matters for your score. This means that longer sections are worth a little more when it comes to your final score since there are more questions to get right. There is no deduction for incorrect answers, so you should put an answer for every question. Guessing on the LSAT can only help, not hurt.
Since some LSAT tests might be slightly harder than others, the LSAC converts your raw score to a standardized score of between 120 and 180, which is the score that schools actually use.
The LSAT was first administered in 1948 by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and has since undergone multiple revisions to adapt to the changing needs of law schools and test-takers. The most significant change occurred in 1991 when the test switched from a paper-and-pencil format to a multiple-choice format. In 2019, the LSAT transitioned to a digital format, with tests administered on tablets.
There are three kinds of questions on the LSAT:
There are 5 sections on the LSAT:
This section tests a candidate's ability to understand, analyze, and draw inferences from complex written material. Test-takers are presented with four passages, followed by 5-8 questions each. The passages cover a wide range of topics, including law, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
Reading Comprehension is the LSAT section you’re probably most familiar with from past standardized tests. Reading Comprehension tests your ability to make sense of dense writing by giving you a chance to show your understanding of the passages’ structure, purpose, and points of view, rather than the facts. During the LSAT, you’ll see four passages, each with a set of 5–8 questions to answer. One of four passages will be “paired passages” which ask you to compare and contrast the passages. According to test prep company Kaplan, reading comprehension is the section which test takers often find it most challenging to improve.
This section, split into two parts, assesses a candidate's ability to analyze, evaluate, and complete arguments. Test-takers are presented with a series of short passages, each followed by a question that requires them to identify assumptions, draw conclusions, or identify flaws in the argument.
LSAT Logical Reasoning questions test your ability to analyze arguments and evaluate them. Logical Reasoning questions require you to read short passages and answer one question about each one. So you have one question per short passage vs multiple questions per longer passage as you have in the Reading Comprehension section.
The Logic Games section of the LSAT is technically known as the "Analytical Reasoning" section, this part of the test measures a candidate's ability to understand and analyze relationships among different entities. Test-takers are given four sets of problems, each containing 5-7 questions. The problems require test-takers to identify patterns, relationships, and deductions based on the given information.
Logic Games test you on logic, systems of order, and outcomes. The LSAC calls these questions analytical reasoning, so that is the official name of this section, but logic games are what they are called, I don’t care what LSAC says.
Your goal in this section is to make deductions from a set of statements, rules, or conditions. You will see multiple questions based on a single passage. Many test takers find this section to be the most intimidating, mostly because it is the most unlike anything that you see in everyday life (unless you really love brain teasers). Although the most intimidating, this is also the section where test takers often have the easiest time improving with training and practice.
The LSAT Experimental Section can be any of the other types of sections. The experimental section on the LSAT is used by LSAC to see how questions will perform on future LSATs. The experimental section does not count towards your LSAT score. Although the section is experimental and unscored, it will look just like another one of the sections. Since all the sections are presented in a random order you will not be able to tell which section is experimental.
The writing sample section, though unscored, is still an important part of the application process as it provides law schools with an example of the candidate's writing skills. Test-takers are given a prompt with two alternative courses of action and are asked to choose one and provide a well-reasoned, persuasive argument in its favor.
According to LSAC, the writing section gives law school candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their persuasive writing skills. Although this section is unscored, your response will be available to law school admission committees when reviewing applications. Law schools each choose how they use the LSAT writing sample.
LSAT Writing is a proctored, on-demand writing exam that is administered online with software provided by LSAC. LSAT Writing opens 8 days prior to the test in which you are enrolled. Candidates must have a complete writing sample in their file in order to see their LSAT score or have their score released to schools, so you can’t skip it.
The multiple choice portion of the LSAT is composed of four 35-minute test sections, and there is a 10-minute intermission between the second and third sections. This means the multiple choice portion of the LSAT is 140 minutes of testing and 150 total minutes, or two and half hours. You also have to do some administrative tasks at the beginning of the test so overall the test will take about 3 hours for the majority of test takers.
When thinking about the question: how long is the LSAT, it is important to know that accommodations are also available for test takers with documented disabilities. Depending on the test taker’s need, these accommodations may grant you more time on the test. If you have a disability that you believe could at all affect your ability to do your best on the LSAT, then we recommend applying for accommodations from LSAC.
Yes, the LSAT is a hard test. However, it is primarily a skills based test and not a content based test. This means that with some practice or training you can learn how to do well. There is very little memorization and you don’t have to learn a ton of Latin roots (sorry SAT, I don’t like you).
Since the test isn’t all about memorization, it is pretty much impossible (at least for the majority of us) to cram for the test. Instead, you have to practice, train, and learn how to do each section over time. This practice allows you to apply the necessary skills (quickly) when you actually take the test. For most people, getting to the right answer is not the main challenge. Instead, getting to the right answer fast enough to finish the whole section is what will make or break your score. Learning to budget your time on the LSAT is a key skill that you will need to practice.
The LSAT is administered by The Law School Admission Council, or LSAC, and you register for the LSAT through your LSAC account. The LSAT is typically offered 8 times per year, though that might change if/when the test returns to being administered in person instead of online. This change back to in-person testing away from the online format is currently scheduled for June of 2023.
You can register up to a year before the exam, and you should register early, as spots can (and often do) fill up. The LSAT costs $215 for tests taken from August 2022 to June of 2023. Do not procrastinate in registering for an LSAT exam. Your law school applications will not be considered until you have an official LSAT (or GRE) score. Generally speaking, the earlier the admissions committees see your app, the better, because the school will have the most seats available. The last thing you want is to have the school’s seats fill up, with your application at the bottom of the admission committee’s pile because you took the LSAT too late.
LSAC offers testing accommodations for those with documented disabilities, and fee waivers for those for whom the LSAT fee(s) would cause financial hardship. If you even potentially fall into these categories, we highly encourage you to apply for either (or both) accommodations and a fee waiver.
There are three mandatory fees (unless you get a fee waiver) that you have to pay LSAC:
is $215 for LSAT tests that take place from August 2022 to June of 2023.
is a one time fee (good for 5 years) that allows you to actually apply to the majority of schools. The CAS fee is $195.
are what actually get sent to each school so that they receive your score, and they cost $45 each. Even though your CAS subscription is good for 5 years you will have to pay for a new law school report if you apply again in a different application year.
So let’s break down the question: How much does the LSAT cost? $215, but maybe a better question is:
Let’s assume that you take the LSAT twice and apply to 8 schools (both of which are very standard choices). Your total cost, just to LSAC, will be $985. So the cost to apply to law school is almost $1000 dollars. Just to LSAC. In addition, you will have to pay an application fee to many law schools as well. These law school application fees can cost up to $85 dollars. So the true answer of what it costs to apply to law school is over $1500 (up to $1665 according to our assumptions above).
This (in my opinion outrageous) cost is why LSAC has a fee waiver, and why many schools will also accept LSAC fee waivers and waive their own application fees. If you are not approved for an LSAC waiver, you can still request a waiver from the school directly to save the $85. Many schools will also email high scorers application waivers to encourage them to apply.
The LSAT is the only exam accepted by all ABA-accredited law schools in the United States and Canada. Although more and more schools accept GRE scores in lieu of an LSAT score, a good LSAT score is widely considered to be the most important piece of a law school application.
There are a few reasons that the LSAT matters to law schools and therefore to you. First, data has shown that higher test scores are correlated with a higher GPA at law school. Second, USNews uses LSAT scores to rank schools. Third, it is an objective measure (with some caveats, see below) that can be used to compare students of different backgrounds.
The number of questions you score correctly on an LSAT is known as your raw score. All test questions are weighted the same; meaning that the total number of questions you get right is what matters for your score, not which particular questions you get right or wrong. There is no deduction for incorrect answers. From your raw score the LSAC determines your LSAT score.
To make it easier to compare scores earned across different LSAT administrations, your “raw score” is converted to an LSAT scale. This is the score you receive in your score report. The LSAT scale ranges from 120 to 180, with 120 being the lowest possible score and 180 being the highest possible score.
The conversion from raw score to your LSAT score of 120 to 180, is slightly different for each test. LSAC determines the conversion based on the relative difficulty of each question and each test. Although this might make it sound like a curve, the LSAT is actually not curved. Instead, the LSAC creates each test to be generally the same difficulty.
After you take the LSAT, you will get your LSAT Score Report. In the LSAT Score Report, you will find:
I am the half of LSD that didn't take the LSAT, or go to law school (Sorry about that). But I did go to MIT business school while surrounded by law students and lawyers, so I am somewhat qualified to talk about the intricacies of law school apps and finances.
Windsor (the dog) didn't write this but he WAS a Resident Tutor and career advisor at Harvard College with me, so deserves some credit.