*Updated June 13, 2020
The LSAT, short for Law School Admission Test, is the only admissions test accepted by all law schools accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Among other required documents, such as a personal statement or undergraduate GPA (grade point average), the LSAT score is a common measure for schools to compare thousands and thousands of applicants’ qualifications for law school-level academic work.
If you’re considering taking the LSAT, here’s what you should know.
1. When do you take the LSAT?
Every year, there are nine test dates for the LSAT. Check here for this year’s test dates.
You can register either online or by phone. Walk-in LSAT registration at test centers is not accepted. If you need to change your test date, as long as the deadline for any changes has not yet passed, you can request your change through your LSAC account by submitting a signed and completed Test Date Change form and paying an additional fee of $125.
If you need to cancel your LSAT registration, as long as you send a signed and completed Refund Request form through LSAC by the refund deadline, you can still get a partial refund. Even when the refund deadline has passed, until 11:59 p.m. (ET) the night before your test, you may still withdraw your registration. But, you won’t get a refund.
Also, note that you cannot take the LSAT more than three times in any two-year period. So, if you’re planning to take the test multiple times, plan wisely.
2. How much is the LSAT fee?
The test fee is $200. So it’s not cheap.
Under certain financial circumstances, however, the LSAC (Law School Admissions Council), which owns and administers the LSAT, does offer a fee waiver service.
To be eligible, you must fall under one of these categories:
- Be a U.S., Canadian or Australian citizen;
- Be a U.S. national;
- Be a green card holder;
- Have been granted or have applied for deferred action under DACA; or
- Be a permanent resident of Canada or a refugee in Canada.
If approved, you will be waived from the following fees: two LSATs (test dates must fall within the two-year period); one LSAT Writing; one CAS registration, which includes the letter of recommendation service and access to electronic applications for all LSAC-member law schools and normally costs $195 for registration alone; six CAS Law School Reports, which normally costs $45 per each report; and access to Khan Academy Official LSAT Prep.
NOTE: You need to submit your fee waiver application to LSAC at least 6 weeks before the test registration deadline.
3. What changed in the 2019 LSAT?
Starting from September 2019, the LSAT transitioned to a fully digital tablet-based testing format from its paper-based format.
NOTE: When you walk into a testing center in North America, you will be given a tablet, blank scratch papers, and pen for test-taking. This only applies to North American test centers.
Starting from June 2019, you are no longer required to complete the LSAT writing sample on the same day as the other exam sections. Although the essay task and the time given will remain the same, you can now write your essay on your own computer using Word anytime from the day of the test up to one year afterwards. Of course, the writing sample will be proctored remotely. For those who don’t own computers, you can take your writing section at authorized test centers.
Also, after a legal settlement last month between a legally blind student and the LSAC, the LSAT will gradually remove logic game questions from its Analytical Reasoning sections. The logic game questions, which were meant to be solved by drawing pictures and diagrams, prevented students with visual impairment from presenting their skills to the fullest. LSAC is planning to redesign the way in which the test assesses students’ analytical reasoning skills, which is very crucial to practicing law.
4. Where can I find free LSAT prep courses?
Before you buy any books or pay for classes, save yourself some money by taking a free practice test first. For example, the LSAC, the very creators of the test, offers a free full-length practice test with an answer key online.
Plus, there are plenty of other prep companies offering free study materials. For example, Kaplan Test Prep offers many free resources, such as a free online practice test followed by an analysis on your weak points and a free starter pack, which gives access to all of its online study materials and instruction from expert tutors for a week. Also, Princeton Review offers a free practice test online.
In addition, Khan Academy, in partnership with the LSAC, offers an entire LSAT prep course for free. After signing up, you can enjoy features like a diagnostic test, an analysis on your score, a customized study guide to improve your weak points, interactive video lessons, and practice quizzes.
If you like to use your commute time or before-bedtime to study, be sure to check out Magoosh, which offers two free apps — one for a set of 190 free flashcards on logic concepts and terms tested on the exam, and another for video tutorials and study schedules. Both apps are available on Android and iOS.
5. What is the test format?
There are two parts to the LSAT.
The first part consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Out of the five sections, one is a variable section, meaning it’s unscored and unidentified. The other four sections, which are ordered randomly, include one Reading Comprehension, one Analytical Reasoning, and two Logical Reasoning sections.
The Reading Comprehension section consists of a total of 26-28 questions and lasts 35 minutes, giving you about 1.25 minutes per question.
The Analytical Reasoning section consists of about 22-24 questions and lasts 35 minutes, giving you about 1.45 minutes per question.
Each of the Logical Reasoning sections consists of about 24-26 questions and lasts 35 minutes, giving you about 1.4 minutes per question.
The second part of the LSAT consists of a 35-minute, unscored writing sample, which is now administered online using secure proctoring software that you can install on your own computer. In the writing section, you are given a decision problem and are asked to choose between two positions and defend your position.
The entire test lasts about 3 hours and 45 minutes, including the 15-minute break that comes after the third section.
6. How is the LSAT scored?
Every LSAT score has three different numbers: a raw score, a scaled score, and a percentile rank.
First, of about 100 questions the LSAT contains, your raw score measures how many questions you got right. Since every question is worth one point and only the questions you get right matter, meaning you don’t get any points off for the questions you get wrong, so you don’t want to skip or leave any question unanswered.
Second, your raw score is then converted to a scaled score, ranging from 120 to 180, which is used by law schools. Scaled scores are normally distributed, meaning the higher your score is from the average, the harder it becomes to get an even higher score. For example, the 15 more questions you’ll need to get right to get to 170 from 160 will be harder than the 15 more questions you’ll need to get right to get to 160 from 150.
Click here to convert your LSAT raw score to a scaled score and a percentile rank.
NOTE: This convertor is based on the June 2013 LSAT. While conversion varies from one test to another, they don’t vary by much.
Third, each scaled score is assigned a percentile rank, which puts your scaled score in relation to all other LSAT-takers. Like the conversion from raw to scaled scores, this conversion changes from one test to another, but very slightly.
Understanding your percentile rank can help you know when it’s time to stop retaking the test.
For example, a 150 scaled score is usually a 44th percentile score, meaning you did better than 44 percent of the students taking the test. A 160 scaled score is usually an 80th percentile score, meaning you did better than 80 percent of the students taking the test.
A 10-point improvement in your scaled score means a 36-percent improvement in your percentile rank. Assuming 100,000 applicants applied to the same law school, while at a scaled score of 150, you had to compete against 56,000 of them (56 percent of the total number), at a scaled score of 160, you only have to compete against 20,000 applicants (20 percent of the total number). With a 10-point improvement in your scaled score, you’ve just outpaced 36,000 applicants.
However, a 170 scaled score is usually a 98th percentile score, meaning even if you bump up your scaled score by 10 points and get the highest possible scaled score of 180, your percentile rank would increase only by a mere two percent. Put more directly, if you’re at 170, you’re already competing against only about 2,000 applicants out of 100,000 applicants (two percent of the total number), so your time would be better spent on other admissions materials, such as your personal statement, than in taking another LSAT to increase your scaled score from 170 to 180.
7. What is considered a good LSAT score?
First off, the average score for the LSAT is 150. Usually, the top 25 law schools expect candidates’ LSAT scores to be above 160.
However, for the best estimate, research or contact the schools where you plan to apply directly to find out the average LSAT score for their students. If you already have a list of law schools you want to apply to, knowing their cut-off scores beforehand is very important, particularly for those who need to juggle LSAT on top of other work. Then, plan accordingly to maximize the time and effort you’d want to expend on preparing for the LSAT.
Here are some important questions you should keep in mind before you start your research.
- What LSAT scores do I need to be accepted? You need to have a target score, so you can figure out how much work you need to put in for the LSAT. Check with the schools you’re interested in.
- Are LSAT scores used for anything else? Some schools may use your LSAT scores for course placement or scholarship consideration, in which case, you may want to score higher than just the cutoff score.
- How important is my first LSAT score? If you’re planning to take the LSAT multiple times, it would be good to know in advance how much your school values that first score. If they don’t mind multiple scores, but just the highest score, you can relax a bit on your first test. If not, you need to prepare thoroughly for that first test.
8. When do you receive your scores?
Approximately three weeks after your test date, you will be able to see your LSAT scores online. For mail delivery, it will take about a month.
9. How do I send my scores to schools?
By default, your score is released to you and the law schools to which you have applied through the LSAC. If you want to make your score public for all agencies, such as individuals working for law schools and other programs related to legal education, during registration, you can request your score to be released to other law schools.
NOTE: Unlike the GRE, you can’t “scoreselect” in the LSAT, meaning you can’t pull the best scores for each section from different tests to make your highest possible LSAT score. You have to submit all of your LSAT scores.
10. Does LSAC offer the LSAT in any other languages than English?
Yes. LSAC offers a Spanish version of the LSAT only at the two test centers in Puerto Rico for students to use the test to apply to the three ABA-accredited law schools in Puerto Rico — University of Puerto Rico School of Law, Inter American University School of Law and Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Law.
NOTE: All three schools accept English LSAT scores as well.
You can register for the Spanish LSAT through your LSAC account. The Spanish LSAT costs the same amount as the English LSAT — $200.
Since the Spanish LSAT is not exactly the same as the English LSAT, the Spanish LSAT is measured on the scale of 320-380 instead of 120-180. The Spanish scale has the same number of points as the English scale, but the correspondence between the two scales is not one-to-one.
11. What are some tips and strategies?
It’s important that you are well-rested on your test day. For the actual test itself, you should keep these tips in mind.
- Understand the question: The LSAT is not a test to skim. The test is heavily focused on assessing your understanding of logic. So, reading and understanding what every question is asking for is the first step to choosing the right answer.
- Answer all the questions: Even if you skip hard questions at the time, always go back and answer them. Remember that you will not get points off for questions you answered incorrectly. So, even when you’re clueless about a question, it’s always better to guess than not answer at all.
- Use your time wisely: In all sections, every question counts equally. So, you don’t want to spend so much time on that one hard question. It’s more important to finish each section!
While more than 30 law schools are now accepting both the GRE and the LSAT, there is no question that most law schools still heavily depend on LSAT scores to measure a candidate’s ability to handle the practice of law. With this guide, you’ll be able to first understand the ins and outs of the test, so you can set a clear goal, plan your journey and start tackling the test!
Hyeyeun Jeon is from South Korea and a graduate from Carnegie Mellon University with a double major in Professional Writing and International Relations. She is passionate about non-fiction storytelling. She loves reading, watching, writing and producing stories about extraordinary lives of everyday people.