Law & Legal Studies

The Beginner’s One-Page Guide to the LSAT

The Beginner’s One-Page Guide to the LSAT
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Dan Edmonds July 31, 2014

The LSAT is one of the hardest admissions tests around, but with a little preparation you'll be able to earn your best score. Here is your one-page guide to the LSAT.

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The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is the entrance exam required for admission to American Bar Association (ABA) accredited Juris Doctor (JD) programs in the United States. It is the single most important factor for admissions at virtually every law program in America.

Here, we present the basic facts and need-to-know information to help you get prepared.

Structure of the Test

The LSAT consists of five 35-minute sections and an essay. They are:

  • Two 35-minute Logical Reasoning sections with 24-26 questions each.
  • One 35-minutes Analytical Reasoning section with 22-24 questions.
  • One 35-minutes Reading Comprehension section with 26-28 questions.
  • One experimental section (which will be either a 3rd Logical Reasoning or a 2nd Analytical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension section). The experimental section does not appear on the test for students with extended time, and has no impact on your official score.

These five sections can appear in any order. You will receive a break after the 3rd section. The essay is always the last section.

Test Scoring

The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120 to 180, with a median score of about 151. You can find the 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile LSAT scores for every law school you want to attend. This will help you get a sense of what you score actually means from an admissions perspective.

The essay is unscored, but a copy of your essay is sent to all the schools you apply to. Most schools do not use the essay as a factor in admissions.

Four Test Dates to Remember

The LSAT is given four times a year: February, June, September/October, and December.

Preparing for the LSAT

The LSAT has a well-deserved reputation as one of the toughest standardized tests out there. Most students will need to spend a significant amount of time preparing for the test to get their best score.

If you are considering taking the LSAT, get your hands on a real, recent test. The good news is the LSAC (the company that makes the LSAT) releases the June, September/October, and December tests every year, so there are dozens of real tests that have been released for you to practice on.

If you’re considering taking the LSAT, you should get a real, recent (from within the past three years) test and take it to get a baseline score. This will give you a sense of your native—raw, un-studied— LSAT ability, and can give you a sense of how much work you’ll need to do to prepare.

Most people should prepare for three to six months for the LSAT. Preparing involves learning several entirely different ways to think about organizing, analyzing, and taking apart information, and the process can be difficult and time consuming.

The good news is that there are a lot of excellent LSAT preparation classes. If you need significant improvement over your starting score (and I’d define significant as 5 or more points), I’d strongly recommend some combination of a course and tutoring to prepare for the test.

Multiple Test Dates

Lastly, you should be aware that different law schools have different policies on how the handle multiple LSAT scores.

  • Some schools always average your LSAT scores.
  • Some schools always take the highest score.
  • Some schools always take the most recent score.
  • Some schools take the higher score if there scores are far enough apart (often 5 points of more)

Because some schools average scores when you take the test more than once, you should do everything you can to make sure you’re prepared to get the best possible score the first time you take the LSAT.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle. He has been managing editor of the website for over four years.

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