The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test administered four times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. The LSAC offers LSAT (Law School Admission Test), which provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants. The LSAT is an integral part of the law school admission process in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries.
The LSAT 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 variable section in the LSAT will vary for each administration of the test.
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.
The LSAT contains two logical reasoning ("LR") sections, commonly known as "arguments", designed to test the taker's ability to dissect and analyze arguments. LR sections each contain 24–26 questions.
Each question begins with a short argument or set of facts. This is followed by a prompt asking the test taker to find the argument's assumption, to select an alternate conclusion to the argument, to identify errors or logical omissions in the argument, to find another argument with parallel reasoning, or to choose a statement that would weaken/strengthen the argument.
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.
The LSAT contains one reading comprehension ("RC") section consisting of four passages of 400–500 words, and 5–8 questions relating to each passage. Complete sections contain 26–28 questions.
Though no real rules govern the content of this section, the passages generally relate to law, arts and humanities, physical sciences, or social sciences. The questions usually ask the examinee to determine the author's main idea, find specific information in the passage, draw inferences from the text, and/or describe the structure of the passage.
Both law school and the practice of law revolve around extensive reading of highly varied, dense, argumentative, and expository texts (for example, cases, codes, contracts, briefs, decisions, evidence). This reading must be exacting, distinguishing precisely what is said from what is not said. It involves comparison, analysis, synthesis, and application (for example, of principles and rules). It involves drawing appropriate inferences and applying ideas and arguments to new contexts. Law school reading also requires the ability to grasp unfamiliar subject matter and the ability to penetrate difficult and challenging material.
The Reading Comprehension section of the LSAT 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.
Analytical Reasoning questions are designed to assess the ability to consider a group of facts and rules, and, given those facts and rules, determine what could or must be true. The specific scenarios associated with these questions are usually unrelated to law, since they are intended to be accessible to a wide range of test takers. However, the skills tested parallel those involved in determining what could or must be the case given a set of regulations, the terms of a contract, or the facts of a legal case in relation to the law. In Analytical Reasoning questions, you are asked to reason deductively from a set of statements and rules or principles that describe relationships among persons, things, or events.
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.
The current LSAT contains one analytical reasoning section, which is referred to colloquially as the "logic games (LG)" section. One section contains four "games" falling into a number of categories including grouping, matching, and ordering of elements. Each LG section has 22–24 questions. Each game begins by outlining the premise ("there are five people who might attend this afternoon's meeting") and establishing a set of conditions governing the relationships among the subjects ("if Amy is present, then Bob is not present; if Cathy is present, then Dan is present..."). The examinee is then asked to draw conclusions from the statements ("What is the maximum number of people who could be present?"). What makes the games challenging is that the rules do not produce a single "correct" set of relationships among all elements of the game; rather, the examinee is tested on their ability to analyze the range of possibilities embedded in a set of rules. Individual questions often add rules or modify existing rules, requiring quick reorganization of known information. The analytical reasoning section is commonly regarded by LSAT takers as the most difficult section of the test, as well as the section that requires the most pre-test preparation.
The current test contains one experimental section which Law Services refers to as the "Variable section". It is used to test new questions for future exams. The performance of the examinee on this section is not reported as part of the final score. The examinee is not told which section of the exam is experimental, since doing so could skew the data.
Previously, this section has always been one of the first three sections of any given test, but beginning with the administration of the October 2011 LSAT the experimental can be after the first three sections. LSAC makes no specific claim as to what section(s) it has appeared as in the past, and what section(s) it may appear as in the future.
The writing sample appears as the final section of the exam. The writing sample is presented in the form of a decision prompt, which provides the examinee with a problem and two criteria for making a decision. The examinee must then write an essay favoring one of the two options over the other. The decision prompt generally does not involve a controversial subject, but rather something mundane about which the examinee likely has no strong bias. While there is no "right" or "wrong" answer to the writing prompt, it is important that the examinee argues for his/her chosen position and also argues against the counter-position.
LSAT does not score the writing sample, but copies are sent to all law schools to which you apply. According to a 2015 LSAT survey of 129 United States and Canadian law schools, almost all use the writing sample in evaluating at least some applications for admission. Failure to respond to writing sample prompts and frivolous responses have been used by law schools as grounds for rejection of applications for admission.
The writing prompt presents a decision problem. You are asked to make a choice between two positions or courses of action. Both of the choices are defensible, and you are given criteria and facts on which to base your decision. There is no “right” or “wrong” position to take on the topic, so the quality of each test taker’s response is a function not of which choice is made, but of how well or poorly the choice is supported and how well or poorly the other choice is criticized.
The LSAT writing prompt was designed and validated by legal education professionals. Since it involves writing based on fact sets and criteria, the writing sample gives applicants the opportunity to demonstrate the type of argumentative writing that is required in law school, although the topics are usually nonlegal.
You will have 35 minutes in which to plan and write an essay on the topic you receive. Read the topic and the accompanying directions carefully. You will probably find it best to spend a few minutes considering the topic and organizing your thoughts before you begin writing. In your essay, be sure to develop your ideas fully, leaving time, if possible, to review what you have written.
No special knowledge is required or expected for this writing exercise. Law schools are interested in the reasoning, clarity, organization, language usage, and writing mechanics displayed in your essay. How well you write is more important than how much you write. Confine your essay to the blocked, lined area on the front and back of the separate Writing Sample Response Sheet. Only that area will be reproduced for law schools. Be sure that your writing is legible.