The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized test administered four times a year and can only be taken at designated testing centers. It is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). While not the only part of a student's application to law school, it is an essential part of the entire admission process and those seriously considering law school should plan to prepare for the LSAT for many months in advance.
The test consists of five sections of multiple choice questions and each section must be completed in 35 minutes. Only four of the sections comprise the test taker's score, and the test taker will not be informed which section will not be assessed. Following the multiple choice sections, a writing sample which must be completed in 35 minutes will be administered. The writing sample will not be scored by the LSAT but will instead be sent to all schools to which the LSAT score is being sent.
The test is offered four times a year and the registration deadline is one month before the exam. However, because the test is offered only four times a year and there is limited seating for every exam, administered test takers are strongly encouraged to register for the exam well over a month prior to the exam date. In addition, the test center is assigned by LSAC, not selected by the test taker, and the earlier the registration, the more likely it is that the desired testing center will be available. The fee for taking the LSAT is $165 and there are additional fees that may be incurred, such as for changing the test date or the test location. In addition, there is a charge of $25 for each school to which the score is being sent. For those who have difficulty paying the registration and associated fees, fee waiver applications are available.
The LSAC also provides a variety of free materials on its website to help prepare test takers for the LSAT. The LSAT may very well be the exam for which the most outside study guides and study services exist, given the competition that still exists to be granted admission to the most competitive law schools in the country.
The LSAT is a challenging test and measures skills that many consider essential for success and for practicing law following law school. The three groups of multiple-choice questions in the LSAT are reading comprehension questions, analytical reasoning questions, and logical reasoning questions.
Test takers should plan for the LSAT to take approximately seven hours. There are very specific times when test takers are instructed to arrive and these vary based on the date of the test. There are also very strict rules about what items are and are not allowed in the testing center and test takers should review very carefully the allowed and disallowed items on the LSAC website. Test takers also have an obligation to report all instances of suspected cheating that may become known to them.
The LSAT does make accommodated testing available, and provides a number of accommodations such as large print tests, braille tests, and others. Those who may require accommodations are required to contact LSAC well in advance of the registration deadline with any requests. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis as to whether accommodations will be granted.
Test takers are allowed to retake the LSAT and many elect to do so, though it cannot be taken more than three times in a two-year period. The LSAC does report that those who elect to retake the LSAT on average see a slightly higher score on subsequent exams. However, scoring higher is not guaranteed and does come with the risk that a test taker's score will drop. The LSAC is required to report all LSAT scores from a test taker to schools. If the LSAT is taken more than one time and there is a noteworthy reason for a significant difference in scores, students are strongly encouraged to notify law schools to which they are applying of any facts that may help explain the difference, such as an illness or any other extenuating circumstance.
The LSAC also takes significant fluctuations in scores very seriously. A variety of reviews can be undertaken when a drastic shift in a test taker score takes place, including a handwriting analysis of the writing sample, comparison of answers to those of other test takers seated nearby, and others. Reports of misconduct as part of the process of taking the LSAT can endanger a student's ability to gain admission to law school and practice law, even if the misconduct is discovered years later when a student is in law school or even practicing law. Failure to comply with the ethical standards put forth by the LSAC could lead to a test taker being barred from admission to law school.
LSAT test takers will receive their scores by email approximately three weeks after taking the test. The raw score of the LSAT (based on the number of questions that are answered correctly) are converted to an LSAT scale from 120 to 180. The LSAT score can be cancelled either on the day of the test or by sending a written cancellation request to the LSAC within six calendar days of taking the test.