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The Law School Admission Test (LSAT)® is the most standardized test that is accepted by all American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools. While some law schools will also accept alternative tests like the GRE, and to a lesser extent the GMAT, the LSAT remains the primary law school entrance exam. It is used for a variety of reasons and tests an applicant’s ability to use logic, critical thinking and reading ability.
If you plan to take the LSAT, knowing the ins and outs of the test, having a detailed preparation plan and a healthy dose of patience are crucial to securing the score needed to be both a competitive applicant and to earn scholarships.
Securing a strong LSAT score is by no means the only part of your application that matters, but it is a very important one. It also serves as a means of objectively assessing your first year (1L) grades and your likely performance within the class cohort.
Law schools largely use a bell curve so considering your LSAT score and comparing it to the medians in prior classes at a certain school is an invaluable tool. Many applicants give weight to earning either law firm internships or a perfect GPA, but all applicants need to take the LSAT and their preparation for the test seriously.
In this article, we unpack everything you need to know about the LSAT, including exam costs and structure, how long the exam takes and common LSAT score ranges.
Why Should You Take the LSAT?
If you’re wondering how to become a lawyer, the first step is to make sure that you understand what lawyers do and that you have a clear sense that this is a career that you want to pursue. Once you’ve arrived at that decision, preparing for the LSAT is your next major milestone. Developed by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC)®, the LSAT is the only standardized test that is designed specifically for law school and that is accepted by every ABA accredited school.
What Topics Does the LSAT Cover?
While it is not a knowledge or intelligence test, the LSAT taps into the skills that are most essential to succeeding in law school. The exam was historically divided into five sections: reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, writing and a variable section that’s used to assess new exam questions. However, following the COVID pandemic, changes were made to the test that allowed applicants to take the test at home and in an abbreviated form. Currently, the test comprises of three multiple choice sections:
- Reading comprehension
- Analytical reasoning
- Logical reasoning
A fourth section is also administered but consists of experimental future questions and is not graded. After completing these four sections, collectively referred to as the LSAT by many, first time test takers will also submit a written response which is also done remotely, often called LSAT Writing. All sections of the LSAT and LSAT Writing are remotely proctored to insure the integrity of the exam. While many test takers complete the writing component of the LSAT after taking the test, the writing component can be completed up to eight days before the date of the LSAT.
Each section evaluates skills that are critical for prospective law students and include critical reading, the ability to identify key facts in a case or text, deductive reasoning and writing with organizational structure. These skills are tested throughout the law school curriculum and assessment process. Given most law school classes are assessed by a single, end of semester exam, the cultivation of these skills is helpful throughout law school.
Studying and practicing law requires strong reading skills. Legal practitioners must be able to comprehend dense argumentative and expository texts such as court cases, contracts, decisions, evidence and legal codes.
This competency goes beyond simply understanding the text and grasping the subject matter. Law professionals must be able to synthesize these texts, compare them and apply them in practice.
The LSAT’s reading comprehension section entails four sets of questions, each containing a long passage and five to eight related questions. Three of the sets feature a single reading passage. The fourth set presents two shorter passages that are related to each other. The test-taker must compare these passages to demonstrate their ability to determine the relationship between two texts.
The texts in the reading comprehension section come from various subjects, including those unrelated to law. Subject matter may include social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. The texts are challenging due to their density and sophisticated vocabulary.
The questions may ask test-takers to determine a text’s main idea or purpose, identify explicit and implicit information and analyze a text’s organization and structure.
The analytical reasoning section of the LSAT is also known as “logic games.” This section assesses your ability to determine what could or must be true based on specific facts and rules.
This section presents a set of questions based on a particular passage and describes a scenario. These questions are usually unrelated to the law. However, the questions measure the same skills you might use when analyzing a set of regulations, the terms of a contract or the facts of a legal case.
The LSAT’s analytical reasoning section tests your deductive reasoning skills in many ways. In this section, expect to determine the correct solution to a problem based on a set of relationships; reason with conditional or “if-then” statements; recognize when two statements are logically equivalent; and infer truth based on facts and rules combined with new hypothetical information.
Since argumentation is central to practicing law, the ability to analyze, evaluate, construct and refute arguments is paramount. The LSAT’s logical reasoning section measures these skills by assessing an individual’s competency in legal analysis.
Similar to the other multiple-choice sections, the logical reasoning passages are not necessarily related to law. The arguments in this section come from sources like newspapers, academic publications and advertisements, requiring the test-taker to examine, analyze and evaluate arguments found in ordinary language.
This section asks test-takers to answer single questions about shorter passages containing an argument or a set of facts. These questions are central to legal reasoning. They may include recognizing the parts of an argument and identifying flaws, drawing well-supported conclusions, reasoning by analogy or determining how new evidence affects an argument.
Prospective law students must be able to take a position based on given evidence and defend the position logically in writing. This separate, unscored section of the LSAT measures a test taker’s writing ability, a skill that is critical for success in law school.
The writing portion of the LSAT is open eight days before the multiple-choice portion. This section can be taken on demand and is proctored using software installed on the test-taker’s computer. Candidates must complete the writing portion of the LSAT to view their score on the multiple-choice portion.
How Long Does the LSAT Take?
The LSAT takes around three hours to complete, plus the LSAT Writing section. The multiple-choice portion’s four sections are each 35 minutes with a 10-minute break between the second and third sections. Test-takers have 35 minutes to complete the writing portion.
Time is of the essence in the LSAT. Each section comes with dense reading material, and there are roughly 25 questions per section. Although the test is multiple-choice, wrong questions are not counted against you.
How Much Does the LSAT Cost?
Test-takers typically must pay the LSAT exam fee, LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) fee and the law school report fee, among other LSAT-related costs.
Each attempt at the LSAT costs $215 and LSAC does not offer the writing portion as a standalone test. However, if you are content with your LSAT writing performance and want to retake the rest of the exam, you may do so without retaking the writing portion.
Credential Assembly Service Subscription (CAS)
ABA-approved law schools require LSAT test-takers to submit their scores using CAS, which simplifies the application process. It also standardizes applicant GPAs and accounts for grade inflation. A CAS subscription currently costs $195 and remains active for five years.
Through a single account, CAS provides access to electronic application processing for all ABA-approved law schools.
CAS Report Fee
CAS also compiles a full report of your required documents and LSAT scores for each school to which you apply. Each CAS report costs $45. Depending on the number of schools you apply to this CAS report fee can add hundreds to the cost of your applications.
The LSAT score preview lets you view your results so you can decide whether to keep or discard the score. This preview costs $45 if purchased before your test day and $75 if purchased afterward.
You can also buy an official LSAT score report, which includes all LSAT scores earned, including non reportable ones. This score report costs $50.
If you would like your LSAT score reassessed, a score audit is available for $150.
Schools can see all of your official LSAT scores when considering your application, but the overwhelming approach taken by schools is to use your highest official LSAT score when considering your application.
How Is the LSAT Scored?
Completing the LSAT results in two scores: a raw score and a scaled score. The raw score is the number of correct answers you have since incorrect answers do not count against your score. This raw number is then converted into a scale score ranging from 120 to 180. Each LSAT is unique and some have slightly more or less questions than others.
Despite your score taking on two forms, your scaled score is what law schools use when considering your application.
Why Does the LSAT Matter?
When it comes to the LSAT, there is a lot of discussion about the LSAT and the recent decision of the ABA to allow schools to be test optional in the future (2025 to be specific). This doesn’t mean that the LSAT is going away.
Currently, the LSAT is still the best predictor of 1L academic performance and while not an aptitude test, it is a great tool for applicants to use when deciding where to attend. After all, the use of a bell curve at most schools perpetuates the adage that at most schools it’s better to be the big fish, than the minnow at the bottom of the class. Class placement remains a factor when it comes to the internships, clerkships and job opportunities for graduates.
What should you know for LSAT? ›
- You're in charge (sort of). ...
- Every LSAT question is worth the same. ...
- There's no penalty for wrong answer choices. ...
- Read every word on the LSAT carefully. ...
- Read actively and take notes. ...
- Spend more time studying LSAT Logical Reasoning. ...
- Know the basics of formal logic.
The LSAT Is A Very Challenging Exam
The reality is that the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is extremely difficult. It's designed to predict how well the brightest students across the world will fare in law school.
The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120–180. In the last couple of years, only 0.1 percent of test takers have scored a 180 on the exam. For reference, a 180 usually equates to getting at least 98 of the 100 scored questions correct. This extremely low percentage of perfect scores highlights the difficulty of the LSAT.Is it hard to get a 170 on the LSAT? ›
170 score: Scoring a 170 on the LSAT is almost always considered a good score — that means you are in the 2-3% of test-takers. Still, it won't guarantee you admission at a top law school. Other parts of your application are still a factor.What GPA do you need to take the LSAT? ›
All applicants must submit an acceptable LSAT (law school admission test) score with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.How many times can you fail the LSAT? ›
Three times in a single testing year (LSAT testing years run from July 1 through June 30). Five times within the current and five past testing years (the period in which LSAC reports scores to law schools). A total of seven times over a lifetime.What is the hardest part of LSAT? ›
Many students will find this section to be the most tedious of the LSAT because this section was designed so that test-takers have no prior knowledge of this section. Those who find themselves in the throes of the LSAT reading comprehension section will have 35 minutes to complete four parts.
Understanding Your LSAT Scores. The LSAT scores range from 120-180, with 120 being the lowest possible score. If you are wondering what a good LSAT Score is, there is no failing or passing score on the LSAT.Is LSAT based on IQ? ›
The LSAT is not an IQ test. Contrary to popular belief, the LSAT does not measure intelligence. Therefore, the test does not render those with higher scores smarter than those with lower scores. The LSAT is one of many factors relied upon by law schools to predict a person's chances of first-year success.What was Obama's LSAT score? ›
The easiest to predict, by far, is President Barack Obama's score, mostly because we have some data. Based on admissions records, we can deduce — somewhat reliably — that Barry-O scored between the 94th-98th percentile on his LSAT. Using today's grading system, that'd place him somewhere around a 170.
What is a 70% LSAT score? ›
Table updated as of March 4, 2011.
|Raw Score||Scaled Score||Percentile Rank|
Most prestigious law schools require a GPA of 3.85 or higher. However, statistics show that some undergraduates have been accepted at Yale and Harvard with a GPA score of 3.56 and 3.50, respectively, although they likely had a higher LSAT score, excellent recommendations, and an optimal personal statement.How hard is a 180 LSAT? ›
With the LSAT, the percentile for a 180 is 99.97%. Thus, in numerical terms, if you have a 180, then in a room of 10,000 people you have one of the three highest scores. With roughly 100,000 LSATs administered in the past year, that would suggest that about 30 people received a perfect score.Is a 153 on the LSAT good? ›
The LSAT is scored between 120 and 180, with 153 being the average score.Is a 172 on the LSAT good? ›
For last year's admissions cycle, a candidate with a 172 LSAT score and a 3.8 undergraduate grade-point average would have likely been accepted to the top eight law schools, says Mike Spivey, a law school admissions consultant for applicants.What is the most effective way to study for the LSAT? ›
Taking previously administered LSATs is the best way to prepare for test day. You can get started with the free Official LSAT PrepTests ® available in your LawHub account. However, most test takers will benefit from taking additional practice tests under actual, timed conditions.