The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a required admission test for most law schools. It is comprised of six sections, with five multiple-choice sections and one essay section. Each section is 35 minutes long. Including breaks, the test lasts a little more than four hours.
The Purpose of the LSAT
The purpose of the LSAT is to assess the skills necessary to succeed in law school in a way that provides a common measure for law schools to assess all candidates. These skills are: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others.
Doing well on the LSAT is very important. It is a significant factor in determining where you will be admitted to law school, and doing well can also help you get merit-based scholarships. For this reason, preparing well for the exam is a must.
When to Take the LSAT
The LSAT is offered four times each year—February, June, September/October, and December—at various locations throughout the nation and abroad, including The University of Scranton. The registration deadline is usually one month prior to the LSAT test date. For more detailed information, visit the LSAC website here.
It is very important to plan when you will take the LSAT exam. This is because many—although not all—schools accept the best LSAT score if you take it more than once, and so it is important to plan so that you can take the LSAT twice should you not perform as well as you want on the first try. For traditional undergraduate students, planning to take the exam in June following your junior year is the best option. This makes the September/October exam date a comfortable back up. The December exam date should be thought of as an emergency plan. This is because law schools usually have rolling admissions—accepting students as they apply—starting in November and so applying after you get the results from the December exam (usually at the beginning of January) will put you at a disadvantage in the application process. The February test date is usually too late to apply for admission to law school for the following fall. You can, of course, take the exam in December or February for the admissions cycle that begins the following year, an option that applicants who have already finished their undergraduate education may want to consider. All applicants should plan to have their applications submitted by mid-November of the year prior to entry into law school.
How to Prepare for the LSAT
One way to prepare for the LSAT is to take steps to build the very skills that the LSAT assesses. Although some are born with a greater aptitude than others, everyone can develop their natural talents. However, this takes time, and so the earlier you start this process, the better off you will be. Indeed, it is nearly impossible to develop these skills by studying a few months before the exam. Instead, you need to make this the focus of your entire undergraduate education. In so doing, you should seek out courses that challenge your reading comprehension skills, develop your ability to organize large amounts of information, and enhance your ability to think critically and analyze arguments. Developing these skills also depends on what you do outside the classroom. For instance, getting into the habit of reading high quality journalism each day will help develop these skills. Again, these skills cannot be developed overnight or even in the few months before taking the exam. Instead, this is a long-term process, and if it is done right, it can really help you succeed on the LSAT, in law school, and in your legal career.
Nevertheless, short-term preparation for the LSAT is absolutely necessary. Imagine two test-takers with the exact same abilities. One test-taker knows exactly what to expect on the exam, has practiced taking the exam under simulated test conditions on multiple occasions, and shows up on the day of the exam well rested and mentally prepared. In contrast, the other test-taker knows nothing about the various sections on the exam or even how much time is given for each section and shows up on the day lacking the mental focus and rest needed to sit through the four-hour exam. Clearly the first test-taker will do far better on the exam than the second, even though both have the same abilities. Thus, the goal in the months leading up to the LSAT is to optimize your understanding of and familiarity with the test so that you can get the best score possible given your abilities.
Almost all of the courses and LSAT prep guides available on the market can help students with this short-term preparation. What follows is a list of the various ways that one can prepare for the exam. Which one is best really depends on one’s learning style, discipline, and financial situation.
Self-Study: One path to preparing for the LSAT is self-study. This is a way to save money, and it can work well for a highly disciplined student. You must be able to pace yourself, and be sure that you set aside enough time to study for the exam. To prepare for the LSAT, you should have at least 50 hours of self-study, using a variety of preparation materials related to the LSAT. Take multiple practice tests under conditions that most approximate actual test conditions to get a feel for what the test will be like. Timing is very important while studying and working on practice tests, and so it is important not to give yourself more time to complete the sections when practicing for the exam. This will only serve to artificially inflate your scores and leave you feeling rushed on the actual test day.
Personal Tutors: Hiring a personal tutor is also a way to prepare for the LSAT. Depending on the hours of tutoring you require, this can be more or less expensive than a full course offered by a commercial company. It can be less expensive if a personal tutor is hired as a supplement to the self-study program outlined above. It can be more expensive if a personal tutor is hired to provide a complete LSAT prep course in a one-on-one setting.
LSAT Preparation Courses: LSAT preparation courses are one of the best ways to prepare for the LSAT. Instructors will teach you helpful tips to study more efficiently and score higher on the LSAT. The instruction is very useful, but also very expensive. Several large test review companies such as Kaplan, Princeton Review, and LSAT Prep Courses offer in-class preparation courses. When deciding on a LSAT prep class, find out how many hours of instruction each course offers; do not count time taking proctored practice tests, but just class time. A typical course offers 20 hours of LSAT review and strategy sessions. Find out how many full-length practice tests come with the course; five or more is optimum, and be sure that they are official exams from the LSAC and not tests developed by the test prep company. You will want to study with real exams. Finally, ask about the prices and any refund policies. After you have acquired all the necessary information for each option, compare and contrast them and choose a course that offers the best quality of preparation, keeping in mind your schedule, your financial capabilities, and the geographical location of the course.