The Law School Admission test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test administered by the lovely folks at the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Pretty much all the common-law schools across North America think the LSAT is a pretty big deal for admitting students, which is a pretty good reason for you to care about it. Unless you're not applying to law school, which means you're probably reading this for someone else. That's cool too.
So the LSAT is a paper-based test, all multiple-choice and graded by a scantron. It's administered four times a year: February, June, October, and December. It's administered at 8:30am, except for June when it's administered at 12:30pm. Why is June different this way? Because LSAC felt like it.
The test is made up of six sections, each 35 minutes long. There is one break between sections three and four, and otherwise the sections are taken back to back. The sections of the test are given relatively randomly, but there are a number of things you can count on to be true: - There will be two Logical Reasoning ("LR") sections. - There will be one Reading Comprehension ("RC") section. - There will be one Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games, or "LG") section. - There will be one "Experimental" section (unscored). - There will be one Writing Sample, always positioned as section six (unscored).
Effectively worth half your score, the Logical Reasoning sections, also known as "arguments", present you with 25-26 questions in each of its sections. The questions themselves are each preceded by a short piece of text colloquially known as the argument.
The reading comprehension section presents you with four lengthy reading passages, often devoid of anything you might find to be remotely interesting. Each of these passages is then followed by 5-8 questions for a total of about 27-28 questions for the entire section.
Colloquially known as the "games" section, this section presents you with four "games" which consist of an artificial situation and a set of rules that you need to keep track of. For example, you might be presented with a group of people that need to be placed in a certain order, with rules such as "Joe cannot precede Peter", and "If Larry goes 1st, Joe cannot go 5th". Each game setup is then followed by 5-7 questions for a total of about 23-24 questions for the entire section.
This section will be an extra section of any one of the above, but which will not count towards your score. For example, you might have an extra Reading Comprehension section as your experimental section, but that will not actually count. Unfortunately, there is no real way to know which section is your experimental so you have to do your best on all of them.
Why does LSAC do this? Well, basically they need to test questions out prior to actually using them on future tests, and what better way to do it than on (grudgingly) willing people sitting for existing LSATs?
Your sixth and final section will always be the 'writing sample', which is essentially a 35 minute period in which LSAC expects you to write a short argumentative essay on a topic that they provide you with.
Thing is, though, LSAC doesn't actually score this section either. However, they will forward a copy of your writing sample alongside your LSAT score to law schools that you apply to. Most schools say they don't put very much weight on the writing sample so it's generally considered a write-off, but some law schools will take a look at it so you do want to write something relatively competent.
In short, write something that won't incriminate you and you'll likely be okay on this.
LSAT scores range from a 120 (just for writing your name) all the way to a 180. More importantly though, is what these scores actually mean. Each LSAT score is actually a reference to a percentile rank, and this conversion changes very little from test to test. For example, a 152 puts you in the 50th percentile, meaning that you're doing better than 50% of the test taking population. A 160 means that you're in the 80th percentile, and so on. The full range or scores and percentiles can be found below:
Because tests do vary in difficulty between each other, LSAC also slightly adjusts the number of questions that you have to answer correctly to get a certain score from test to test (colloquially referred to as the 'curve'). For example, while one test might require 77 correct answers to score a 160, another test might require only 73 correct answers to score a 160. Below is a sample table from June 2007, but as noted, these numbers will change from test to test.
From scoring a 143 on my first diagnostic exam, I was consistently scoring in the 164-168 range. — Vince Francis Di Vito
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