Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated October 2010
Taking the LSAT
If you are considering law school, you will almost certainly have to take the LSAT. The Law School Admission Test is required for all ABA-approved law schools, most Canadian law schools, and many others as well.
When contemplating the LSAT, you might be tempted to echo Oscar Wilde's remark that "We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities." However, since it is necessary for entrance to law school, here's some information to help you as you prepare.
(If you are taking the GRE or the GMAT, see our introductory articles for those tests.)
Overview of the LSAT
The LSAT is designed to measure a person's reading and verbal reasoning skills in a standard way so that law schools can use the test scores to compare various applicants. The test is offered four times a year (generally in October, December, February, and June) at hundreds of locations worldwide.
Although there may be exceptions, most law schools place a great deal of importance on an applicant's LSAT scores so studying and doing well on this test is very important. Studies have been done revealing that a difference of four to five points can ultimately have a significant impact on a student's salary after graduation.
The test lasts approximately 4 hours and is divided into 5 categories. You are allowed 35 minutes for each section of the test.
- Reading Comprehension - 1 section of 26 - 28 multiple-choice questions where you read passages and answer questions
- Logical Reasoning (Arguments) -2 sections of 24 - 26 multiple-choice questions where you analyze statements for logical errors
- Analytic Reasoning (Games) - 1 section of 24 multiple-choice questions where you solve complex logical deductive puzzles
- Experimental - 1 section of some type
- Essay - 35 minutes to complete 1 essay
A few general thoughts on these different sections: Many people find the analytical section the most difficult as it involves thinking in a way that many people are not used to thinking. The experimental section varies according to test and is used to pretest new test questions. The essay is not scored, but is sent to the law schools to which you apply. Taking into account the 4 sections of the test that are scored, the scale is 120 to 180.
For more information on the format, test dates, and to register, you can visit the Law School Admission Council's website.
Preparing for the LSAT
Most law schools require that you take the LSAT by December for admission the following fall. However, it is considered generally advisable to have taken the test by June or October.
What should you be doing now - studying!
Take practice tests. The LSAT tends to be very similar and has not changed a great deal over the past several years. Therefore taking the practice tests can really help you before you walk into the real thing.
You may also want to take a preparatory class that will help you develop strategies for the test and learn what you need to know from the experts. However, you can also get various other materials, either online tutorials or books at your local bookstore, that will help you prepare.
You'll want to study well before you take the test the first time since most schools average your scores rather than simply taking the best score you've earned. It is not generally advised to take the LSAT more than once. However, it is possible to cancel your scores after the test so they are not reported to law schools if you feel they are going to hurt you, and you can then take the test again without having the scores averaged together.
All in all you can view the LSAT as an opportunity to gauge your law school potential. Studies have shown that those who do well on the LSAT are far more likely to do well on the bar exam after they have finished law school. After careful study and preparation, you should be able to perform well on this test if you have the aptitude to do well in law school. Rather than viewing it only as an unnecessary necessity, you may want to think of the LSAT it as an opportunity to evaluate your goals and your decision to pursue a law degree.
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