Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in the United States
- 1 Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in the United States
- 1.1 Law School Admission Test Format
- 1.2 Measures of the LSAT
- 1.3 Preparing for the Law School Admission Test
- 1.4 The Law School Admission Test Score
According to the Law School Admission Council website, the Law School Admission Test is an integral part of the law school admission process in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries. It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants, since the two factors that can be applied objectively to all candidates and are most predictive of success in law school—undergraduate grade-point averages and the LSAT score—are fundamental to the admission committee’s decisions.
If the law students qualifications more than fulfill a school’s admission standards, the admission committee will usually accept you during the first round of decisions.
If the law students credentials fall below the school’s standards, they will probably be denied admission.
At many law schools, a majority of applicants are neither so well qualified nor so unsatisfactory as to present a clear-cut case for acceptance or denial. These applications require the committee to consider other factors more in depth. The length of time it takes the committee to review these applications varies.
Other factors to consider may include:
- Ethnic/racial background
- Individual character and personality
- Letters of recommendation
- Writing skills
- Personal statement or essay
- Work experience or other postgraduate experiences
- Undergraduate course of study
- Graduate work, if any
- College attended
- Improvement in grades and grade distribution
- College curricular and extracurricular activities
- Community activities
- Motivation to study and reasons for deciding to study law
- State of residency
- Obstacles that have been overcome
- Past accomplishments and leadership
- Conditional admission programs
Law School Admission Test Format
The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. These sections include one Reading Comprehension section, one Analytical Reasoning section, and two Logical Reasoning sections. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions or to preequate new test forms. The placement of this section will vary. Identification of the unscored section is not available until you receive your score report.
A 35-minute, unscored writing sample is administered at the end of the test. Copies of your writing sample are sent to all law schools to which you apply.
Measures of the LSAT
The Law School Admission Test is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school: 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.
There are three multiple-choice question types in the Law School Admission Test:
Reading comprehension questions
The purpose of the test Reading Comprehension questions is to measure the ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those commonly encountered in law school. The Reading Comprehension section of the test contains four sets of reading questions, each set consisting of a selection of reading material followed by five to eight questions. The reading selection in three of the four sets consists of a single reading passage; the other set contains two related shorter passages. Sets with two passages are a variant of Reading Comprehension called Comparative Reading, which was introduced in June 2007.
Comparative Reading questions concern the relationships between the two passages, such as those of generalization/instance, principle/application, or point/counterpoint. Law school work often requires reading two or more texts in conjunction with each other and understanding their relationships. For example, a law student may read a trial court decision together with an appellate court decision that overturns it, or identify the fact pattern from a hypothetical suit together with the potentially controlling case law.
Reading selections for test Reading Comprehension questions are drawn from a wide range of subjects in the humanities, the social sciences, the biological and physical sciences, and areas related to the law. Generally, the selections are densely written, use high-level vocabulary, and contain sophisticated argument or complex rhetorical structure (for example, multiple points of view). Reading Comprehension questions require you to read carefully and accurately, to determine the relationships among the various parts of the reading selection, and to draw reasonable inferences from the material in the selection. The questions may ask about the following characteristics of a passage or pair of passages:
- The main idea or primary purpose
- Information that is explicitly stated
- Principles that function in the selection
- Analogies to claims or arguments in the selection
- An author’s attitude as revealed in the tone of a passage or the language used
- The impact of new information on claims or arguments in the selection
- Information or ideas that can be inferred
- The meaning or purpose of words or phrases as used in context
- The organization or structure
- The application of information in the selection to a new context
Analytical reasoning questions
Analytical Reasoning questions appear in sets, with each set based on a single passage. The passage used for each set of questions describes common ordering relationships or grouping relationships, or a combination of both types of relationships. Examples include scheduling employees for work shifts, assigning instructors to class sections, ordering tasks according to priority, and distributing grants for projects. These questions test a range of deductive reasoning skills.
Analytical Reasoning questions reflect the kinds of detailed analyses of relationships and sets of constraints that a law student must perform in legal problem solving. For example, an Analytical Reasoning passage might describe six diplomats being seated around a table, following certain rules of protocol as to who can sit where. The test taker must answer questions about the logical implications of given and new information. Similarly, if the test taker was a student in law school, he or she might be asked to analyze a scenario involving a set of particular circumstances and a set of governing rules in the form of constitutional provisions, statutes, administrative codes, or prior rulings that have been upheld. The test taker might then be asked to determine the legal options in the scenario: what is required given the scenario, what is permissible given the scenario, and what is prohibited given the scenario. Or the test taker might be asked to develop a “theory” for the case: when faced with an incomplete set of facts about the case, he or she must fill in the picture based on what is implied by the facts that are known. The problem could be elaborated by the addition of new information or hypotheticals.
Logical reasoning questions
Arguments are a fundamental part of the law, and analyzing arguments is a key element of legal analysis. Training in the law builds on a foundation of basic reasoning skills. Law students must draw on the skills of analyzing, evaluating, constructing, and refuting arguments. They need to be able to identify what information is relevant to an issue or argument and what impact further evidence might have. They need to be able to reconcile opposing positions and use arguments to persuade others.
Logical Reasoning questions evaluate the ability to analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments as they occur in ordinary language. The questions are based on short arguments drawn from a wide variety of sources, including newspapers, general interest magazines, scholarly publications, advertisements, and informal discourse. These arguments mirror legal reasoning in the types of arguments presented and in their complexity, though few of the arguments actually have law as a subject matter.
Each Logical Reasoning question requires you to read and comprehend a short passage, then answer one question (or, rarely, two questions) about it. The questions are designed to assess a wide range of skills involved in thinking critically, with an emphasis on skills that are central to legal reasoning.
Preparing for the Law School Admission Test
Very few people achieve their full potential on the Law School Admission Test without some preparation. At a minimum, the law student should take a practice test, including the writing sample, under actual time constraints. This will help the law student estimate how much time he or she can afford to spend on each question, as well as which question types you should spend additional time practicing.
Law students may familiarize themselves with the test instructions and question types. The test format should not delay or distract them from answering the test questions.
Most law school applicants also study test-taking techniques and strategies. The free materials below are a good place to start.
The Law School Admission Test Score
The Law School Admission Test score is based on the number of questions answered correctly (the raw score). There is no deduction for incorrect answers, nor are individual questions on the various test sections weighted differently. Raw scores are converted to an LSAT scale that ranges from 120 to 180, with 120 being the lowest possible score and 180 the highest possible score. This is done through a statistical procedure known as equating, a method that adjusts for minor differences in difficulty between test forms.
The Law School Admission Test Score Report
The Law School Admission Test, like any standardized test, is not a perfect measuring instrument. One way to quantify the amount of measurement error associated with test scores is through the calculation of the standard error of measurement. The standard error of measurement provides an estimate of the average error that is present in test scores because of the imperfect nature of the test. An error-free score, called a true score, could only be obtained from a hypothetical test that contained no measurement error. The standard error of measurement is used to construct score bands, which are used in score reports to quantify the uncertainty inherent in individual test scores.
The Law School Admission Test Score Report includes:
- The test taker´s current score.
- The test taker´s results of all tests—up to 12—for which he or she registered since June 1, 2011, including absences and cancellations. Scores earned prior to June 2011 are not reportable.
- An average score, if the test taker has more than one reportable score on file.
- The test taker score band, if his or her score was earned on the 120–180 scale. Score bands reflect the precision of the LSAT and are reported to emphasize that his or her test score is an estimate of his or her actual proficiency level. A score band is reported for each individual score, as well as for your average score, if available. LSAT scores are estimates of a test taker’s actual proficiency level in the skills tested. Score bands represent a range of scores that has a certain probability of containing the test taker’s actual proficiency level. The score bands reported for the test are designed to include the test taker’s actual proficiency level in approximately 68 percent of cases. In other words, there is a 68 percent level of confidence that the test taker’s true score actually falls within the band.
- The test taker´s percentile rank, which reflects the percentage of candidates whose scores were lower than the the test taker during the previous three testing years. A percentile rank is reported for each of his or her scores.
If the test taker took a disclosed test, he or she will also has access to test disclosure materials.
Contesting the Score
If the test taker wish to verify or contest the machine scoring of your answer sheet, he or she may request to have his or her answer sheet rescored by hand. If the test taker wish to verify or contest the machine scoring of your answer sheet after he or she has received his or her LSAT Score Report, he or she may request to have his or her answer sheet rescored by hand. If the handscoring results in a score that is different from the original machine scoring—higher or lower—the revised score will be mailed to the test taker and the law schools to which you apply.
Predictive Power of the Law School Admission Test
The Law School Admission Test compares very favorably with admission tests used in other graduate and professional fields of study; however, like any admission test, the LSAT is not a perfect predictor of law school performance. Over the years, the vast majority of law schools have participated in Law School Admission Test validity studies that examine the relationship between students’ LSAT scores and their first-year grades in law school. The studies show that LSAT scores help to predict which students will do well in law school. Moreover, a combination of students’ scores and undergraduate grade-point averages (GPAs) gives a better prediction than either the Law School Admission Test or the GPA alone.
Correlation is stated as a coefficient for which 1.00 indicates an exact positive correspondence between candidates’ test scores and subsequent law school performance. A coefficient of zero would indicate nothing more than a coincidental relationship between test scores and subsequent performance. The closer to 1.00 the correlation coefficient is, the greater the test’s predictive validity. In other words, the closer to 1.00 the correlation coefficient is, the less chance there will be of candidates with high Law School Admission Test scores failing in their studies or candidates with low test scores performing at the top of their law school class.
The correlation between LSAT scores and first-year law school grades varies from one law school to another (as does the correlation between undergraduate grade-point averages and first-year law school grades). During 2014, validity studies were conducted for 178 law schools. Correlations between Law School Admission Test scores and first-year law school grades ranged from .19 to .56 (median is .38). The correlations between undergraduate grade-point averages and first-year law school grades ranged from .06 to .43 (median is .26). However, correlations between LSAT scores combined with undergraduate grade-point averages and first-year law school grades ranged from .31 to .64 (median is .48).
The test taker´s Law School Admission Test score is an integral part of his or her law school application, but it is only one of several factors that law schools consider when determining which applicants to admit. Many unmeasurable qualities also contribute to the test taker ability to succeed in law school, including motivation, obstacles overcome, past accomplishments, and leadership skills. Highlight these qualities in his or her application’s personal statement. In general, the test taker evaluation of actual experiences and past accomplishments has more value to the committee than speculation about future accomplishments. Also, if the test taker has overcome a serious obstacle in his or her life to get where he or she is today, by all means let the admission committee know about it. Any noteworthy personal experience or accomplishment may be an appropriate subject for the essay; however, the test taker should be sure to do more than just state it. The test takers should describe ytheir experience briefly but concretely, and why it had value to them, whether it is a job, their family, a significant accomplishment, or their upbringing. They are simultaneously trying to add information and create structure. The test takers should be brief, be factual, be comprehensive, and be organized.