How do I prepare for the LSAT?

What is the LSAT?

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a standardized test that allows law schools to compare the diverse pool of applicants who come from schools around the country and study different subjects. The LSAT is very important in helping law school admissions committees decide whom to admit.

The LSAT includes five sections (each consisting of about 25 questions and lasting 35 minutes) of three different types of questions. There is one section of Reading Comprehension, one section of Analytical Reasoning questions, and two sections of Logical Reasoning questions. The fifth section of the exam is unscored and is used for the purposes of evaluating potential exam questions; it could be in any of the above formats, and you will not know which it is when you take the test. The LSAT also includes a 30 minute writing sample that is not scored by the LSAC, but is sent to the law schools with your scores.

The exam is given four times a year: in June, in late September or early October, in December, and in February.  Starting in mid 2018, the exam will be offered six times a year: June, September, November, January, and March. (NOTE for you late-risers: the June exam is the only one held in the afternoon). Most students should plan on taking the exam no later than September/October of the year before they intend to enroll in law school, as the results from the June and September/October exams arrive early enough for students to adjust their application strategy based upon their scores and to take it again if necessary.

Students should prepare thoroughly for the LSAT, and should NOT take it on a whim or take it “just to see how I do.” Students may re-take the LSAT. Law schools will accept the higher score, but all scores are reported, so a low score received after inadequate preparation will stick around and could signal to an admissions committee that you did not initially take the application process seriously.

The Law School Admission Council administers the LSAT.  You can register for the exam at www.lsac.org. As of Fall 2017, registering for the LSAT costs $180. Students who demonstrate an “absolute inability” to pay for the LSAT may qualify for a fee waiver from LSAC. Note that only those with “extreme need” should apply, and that it can take up to a couple of months, so if you’re going to apply you should apply early.

When you register for the exam, be sure to check “yes” when asked whether you wish to allow your results to be reported to your university’s pre-law advisor.  Your scores remain confidential and allow pre-law advisors on UNI’s campus to give better advice to students.

Preparing for the LSAT

Students should structure their coursework so that they have the skills necessary for success on the LSAT. Elementary Logic (PHIL 1030) is a very useful course, as are courses that require the reading and writing skills that improve reading comprehension and logical, analytical thinking.

Beyond this, however, students should also plan on devoting considerable time to LSAT prep. We recommend that students aim for at least 200 hours of preparation time before taking the exam.

There are a number of private companies that sell test prep materials. These include PowerScore, Kaplan Barrons, Princeton Review, to name just a few. Additionally, you can buy books of 10 old LSAT exams for about $25—this is an economical way to give you additional practice questions.

The best way to prepare for the exam on one’s own is to buy a couple of LSAT prep books and carefully study their tips about how to answer the various types of questions they identify in each section.  Work through sample problems while reading the chapters, and then work through problem after problem without books and notes.  At this point, start timing yourself while taking individual sections.  Finally, time yourself as you take some whole exams under simulated test conditions.

The LSAT is a long exam. It is very important to structure your study time so that you build up your test-taking stamina. You must work up to study sessions that are at least 2 hours long with minimal breaks. You should turn off your cell phones during your study sessions and minimize all other distractions.

Students who do not trust their discipline in carving out time for studying may want to check into one of the many commercial preparation classes. These classes are not cheap, though their cost varies by how much personalized instruction you receive.

What does my LSAT score mean?

LSAT scores range from 120-180, with the median typically between a 151-152.  The middle 50% of all test-takers score between 144-158. As one might expect, students who score below median have a pretty tough time getting into law school.  At the other end of things, students who score in the mid 160s or higher will probably be in the enviable position of having schools competing against one another to attract them.

For those who score in the middle, successful applications to law school depend largely on finding the right law school for you, based on your record and the law school’s pattern of admission.

Here are some key percentage breaks for LSAT scores from the 2015-2016 testing year:

Score Percent Below
174 99.2
165 91.2
160 79.5
157 70.4
154 59.6