Taking the LSAT
As part of their education at Calvin, pre-law students are enrolled in courses that give them the foundation to take the Law School Admission Test. Historically, Calvin students do well on the test, with the average score of recently graduated seniors reported in the 70th percentile at a score of 156.9 points.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
Everyone applying to a law school in the United States or Canada must take the LSAT; the test will be offered nine times during the 2019-20 testing year. The schedule is published by the Law School Admission Council.
Generally, students are advised to take the LSAT in February or June, a full year before they plan to attend law school. You would then receive your score in the spring, allowing you to make decisions about whether to apply and where.
You may take the LSAT more than once and most schools now take the highest score. However, some law schools average multiple scores or take the lower of the scores.
Frequently asked questions
Who must take the law school admission test (LSAT)?
Everyone applying to a law school in the United States and Canada must take the LSAT, which is offered at various locations in the United States and Canada and throughout the world. The LSAC website contains specific test locations and scheduling information.
How do I register for the LSAT?
All registration is handled by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). They will issue you an official admission ticket to take the test, which you must present when you arrive at the test site. You must register four to five weeks prior to the exam.
- The admission ticket specifies the date of the test, instructions and procedures that must be followed as well as the site where you are registered to take the exam.
- On the day of the exam, at your scheduled site, you must present currently valid government-issued photo identification bearing your signature (such as a valid driver's license or un-expired passport) as well as your printed admission ticket.
- Your name on the admission ticket, on the photo identification and on the LSAC-prepared registration sheet held at the exam site must match exactly!
You must pay a registration fee to the LSAC (at the time of online registration) each time you take the exam. In cases of extreme financial need, the LSAC may waive the registration fee. There is an LSAC Fee Waiver Program to assist applicants with extreme financial need (more than routine financial assistance requests). The LSAC accepts applications for a waiver of the fees (which is effective for a two-year period) which would be equivalent to:
- Two LSAT examinations
- Credential Assembly Service (CAS) with four reports and Letter of Recommendation Service
- One copy of the Official LSAT SuperPrep
What is the LSAT like?
The LSAT is made up of five 35-minute sections:
- One reading comprehension section
- One analytical reasoning section
- Two logical reasoning sections
- One variable section, used by the LSAC to pre-test new test items
Four of the sections are used for the student's score; the section being “pre-tested” for validity (which is not identified by the LSAC) is not scored. Beginning in July 2019, the LSAT will transition to a digital format, rather than the traditional paper-and-pencil test. Tablets will be provided at the testing sites which will be used by the participants, and test takers can familiarize themselves with the digital format using the digital practice tests available through the LSAC website.
The exam takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete, and there is a 15 minute break given part way through the test when participants may rest and have a snack.
The LSAC publishes a specific list of items that are permitted and prohibited in the LSAT exam room.
The required writing sample which is part of the LSAT will be administered separately from the LSAT multiple-choice test (as of June 2019) and is administered on a secure online platform. The essay can be completed at a time and place of the test taker's choosing, and candidates are only required to have one essay on file to include with their LSAC Law School Reports. The writing sample gives a prompt that presents a decision problem, and the test taker is asked to choose between two positions or courses of action, defending their choice. There is no "right" of "wrong" position; the writing sample is designed to demonstrate argumentative writing skills. The writing sample is not scored, but is sent to all schools where test takers apply.
How do LSAT scores work?
LSAT scores range from 120 to 180, with a median score of 150. The scores are not distributed evenly along the scale.
- Approximately 80 percent of participants score in the middle 25 points of the 60 point scale
- A modest percentile difference near the upper and lower ends of the scale can significantly impact your score
LSAT scores can be accessed over the web or by phone (for a fee) from the LSAC within three weeks after the exam. Your score will be mailed to you four to five weeks after the test.
For individuals who take the test more than once, some law schools will average the scores or take the lower of the test results. Historically, students do not improve their score significantly by retaking the exam; although, if there is a substantial reason for low performance the first time (for example, a death in the family, illness or a mechanical problem with the exam itself), you may want to consider taking the LSAT again.
What about LSAT percentiles?
LSAT percentiles are an important metric in evaluating your overall competitiveness in the law school admissions process. For each admissions cycle (June through February of the following year), LSAC releases a new table which gives the aggregate percentiles for the prior three cycles. Cambridge LSAT (a private test prep provider neither affiliated with nor endorsed by the Law School Admission Council) provides information about the percentage of test takers who scored below each listed score during spans of various years. They recommend that when you are targeting schools, you check their median LSAT scores for the previous cycle and verify that you are within their 25th–75th percentiles for both your LSAT and your GPA. The Cambridge information is available here.
How should I prepare for the LSAT?
Please note that Calvin does not endorse or employ any of the listed services included on this website, but is providing the information as a service for students.
Since you should initially plan to take the test only once, advance preparation is important! You should plan to spend four to six hours per week studying and preparing for the exam for the four to six weeks beforehand. There are various ways to prepare:
- Review old LSAT exams to become familiar with the types of questions asked (a copy of one exam is included in the LSAT Registration and Information Book). Additional copies of former exams are available in Calvin's Pre-Law Library
- LSAC publishes a variety of books that include previous exams, some of which are available in Calvin's Pre-Law Library
- Shortly before taking the test, practice with the most recent exam versions available from LSAC ($8 each on the website)
- Practice by taking the sample tests under the actual time constraints
- Bookstores have various publications available that provide assistance in preparing for the LSAT
- Free preparation materials, tests, explanations and videos are available from Get Prepped and Khan Academy
- Some students find preparatory courses offered by Kaplan, Princeton Review, Magoosh, Bar Bri or Prepmaster Review Service to be helpful (Calvin does not endorse any specific preparatory course)
- Additional information about how to understand and prepare for the logic that is used in the LSAT, check out Logic Fundamentals: A Lesson in Conditional Reasoning
For the 2020-2021 academic year, Calvin's Pre-Law Program is offering LSAT Prep Course scholarships for Calvin students to assist them in preparing thoroughly to take the test. More information is available here under the Calvin Pre-Law Program LSAT Scholarships tab.
Testing.org provides good information on their website about how to evaluate the best preparation method for you, based on your schedule, budget and individual needs. They also give some evaluation of the different test preparation companies and options, including strengths and weaknesses as well as cost.
An excellent booklet prepared by the Michigan State University College of Law (Preparing for the Law School Admission Test: Preparation Tips, Plan Insights, Resources) is available in the Pre-Law Library. Additional copies can be picked up by the Pre-Law Program Bulletin Board (second floor of the DeVos Communication Center)
When should I take the LSAT?
Generally, students are advised to take the LSAT in February or June during their junior year of college or university. You would then receive your score in the spring, allowing you to make decisions about whether and where to apply during the summer. Most law schools require applicants to take the LSAT by December at the latest to be considered for admission the following fall.
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