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Considering Law School? LSAT time!

Student in shirt reading a book

If you're planning to become a lawyer, then you have the LSAT in your future. This standardized test is part of the law school admissions process throughout the United States, and for many international law schools, as well. It's designed to test the basic skills and talents that a practicing lawyer needs, including critical thinking and the ability to analyze and evaluate a written argument. The test also measures how well you manage and organize information, and how effectively you can infer meaning from complex texts.

 

 

LSAT Format

The exam is 3 1/2 hours long, and it consists of five multiple-choice sections and one essay question:

 

Reading Comprehension

This portion of the test consists of four passages of complex text, about 450 words each, after which you'll be given 5 to 8 questions about each one. The questions measure your reading and reasoning ability. In one instance, you'll be given two related passages which approach a topic from two different angles and you'll be asked questions which compare the ideas in the two passages.

 

Two Logical Reasoning Sections

In these parts of the test, you'll be given a short argumentative passage of about 20 to 100 words, followed by one or two questions about it. There will be a total of about 25 of these short passages in each of the two sections, covering a wide range of topics and formats. A typical question in this section might be "What is the reasoning error in the argument?"

 

Analytical Reasoning

This is the part of the test that the typical test-taker finds most difficult, and it's sometimes referred to as the "logic games" section. In this section, there will be a text of about 120 words that describes a scenario and some rules that apply to it.

For example, the scenario might be: "There are 8 singers, who have been ranked as to quality." You are not told what these rankings are; one of the 5 or 6 rules that you are given might be: "Singer A was ranked higher than singer C but lower than singer H." You'll then be asked 5 to 7 questions about what can or must be the case in this scenario. A typical multiple choice question for this scenario would present you with four possible arrangements of how the 8 singers might be ranked, and you have to apply the rules in order to decide which option is correct.

The scenarios involve relationships of different items within time or space. There will be four of these passage and question sets in this portion of the test. These questions can seem almost like a puzzle, but they delve into your ability to logically combine options within certain stated limits.

 

Writing

You will be given a writing prompt which describes two different sides to an issue, and you'll be asked to write a fluent defense of one or other of these sides.

 

Scoring

One of the multiple-choice sections is unscored, and is given for purposes of testing out new questions for future exams. They won't tell you which part of the test is unscored, however, so you have to do your very best on all sections.  The essay portion of the test is also unscored, but a digital image of your essay will be sent along with your test scores to all the law schools that you apply to.

It's helpful to guess on the LSAT if you can't figure out an answer because there's no extra penalty for getting something wrong. (Wrong answers have the same effect as skipping the question.) Scores range from 120 to 180, and the average is around 150. One helpful thing to keep in mind is that there are about 100 multiple choice questions on the entire test, and the average test taker answers about 58 of these correctly. The test is not scored on a curve, so it doesn't matter who else takes the test at the same time you do.

 

LSAT Study Tips

Since this test is not focused on specialized knowledge, the best way to prepare for it is simply to take challenging courses during your undergraduate years, especially courses that draw upon verbal and logical reasoning. You can also make use of practice tests, but make sure they use material from actual LSAT sample tests.

While LSAT prep doesn't have to include specialized training in logic, it's important to be familiar with the key vocabulary of building arguments. This vocabulary includes such words as "premise," "assumption" and "inference."  It's also important that you develop a sensitivity to qualifier words such as "some," "all," "any," "only," and so on.

Finally, keep in mind that the test is not structured to trick you. If a question seems to have an easy answer, the obvious answer is probably the correct one.