The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is the standardized test you have to take in order to apply to, and be accepted at, a law school in the United States and Canada. It test takes approximately half of one day and is administered nine times per year, typically across most months of the calendar year. As with any standardized test you have to register early and pay a fee. Sign up to take the LSAT, and find a testing location in your area.
The LSAT Test Sections
The LSAT consists of four multiple-choice sections: one scored Logical Reasoning section, one scored Logic Games section, one scored Reading Comprehension section, and one unscored “experimental” section that will look exactly like one of the other multiple-choice sections. These four multiple-choice sections can appear in any order on Test Day. A short break will come between the second and third sections of the test. There is also an unscored, 35-minute LSAT Writing essay that you will complete online at any time up to one year after your official test date.
The Logical Reasoning section consists of 24–26 questions based on short passages, which we’ll call stimuli, of around two to five sentences each. Each stimulus may be a short argument or a series of statements of fact or opinion. Each stimulus will have one corresponding question that tests your ability to do such things as spot the structure of arguments, identify assumptions and flaws, strengthen or weaken arguments, or find inferences.
This section consists of three passages, typically made up of two to five paragraphs—about 500 words apiece— and one set of paired passages, together about the same length as each of the three single passages. Each passage is accompanied by anywhere from five to eight questions. The Reading Comprehension section has had 27 questions on every LSAT released since 2007 but historically has had anywhere from 26 to 28 questions. Reading Comprehension on the LSAT is an exercise in reading for structure and for multiple points of view. You’ll learn to trace the outline of the passage as you read and to distinguish the author’s viewpoint from the viewpoints of others mentioned in the passage, as well as to stay a step ahead of where the author is going by reading predictively.
Logic Games (Analytical Reasoning)
The LSAT’s Analytical Reasoning section, known popularly and in this book as Logic Games, consists of four game scenarios along with accompanying rules. Each game is accompanied by 5–7 questions. The Logic Games section has had 23 questions on every LSAT released since 2007 but historically has had from 22 to 24 questions. With only 23 questions, it has the fewest of any scored section. Logic Games may nevertheless be the section you fear the most—many students do—but also the one on which you make your biggest improvements. Many students quickly take to the puzzle aspect of this section. Logic Games tests your ability to interpret, combine, and apply rules and to deduce what can and cannot happen as a result. While the games may look daunting at first, they can be mastered with a systematic technique and proper use of scratchwork.
The experimental section is an additional, unscored section of Logical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, or Logic Games. You will not know what type of experimental section you will get, and it can show up anywhere, including after the break. You’ll have to bring your A-game for the entire test, as there is no reliable way to determine which section is experimental while you’re taking the test. In case you’re wondering, the LSAC includes an experimental section on the LSAT as a way to test questions for future administrations of the exam.
Exception: a research section testing brand-new question formats. There is one case you could encounter on test day in which your experience with the unscored section of the LSAT will be different than that described in the preceding paragraph. Here’s why it’s happening and what to expect. Beginning in June 2022, the LSAC began testing questions for a brand-new (and as yet undefined) section type that will replace the Logic Games section in the future. Because these questions will be obviously different than the standard sections of the LSAT, test takers to whom these questions are being administered will be told by their online proctor after Section 3 of their test that they have completed their three scored sections (those students having seen one each of Logical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Logic Games, of course, at that point in their test). These students will then be told that in Section 4, they will see a research section testing novel question formats. LSAC asks that these students please do their best on the new items and then complete a short survey to provide data on their reactions to the questions and the techniques used to solve them.
Remember that no matter which type of unscored section you encounter on test day (standard experimental or new question research), your three scored sections will be identical to those seen by all test takers in your administration. Don’t try to guess which format you have during the exam; doing so is distracting and unproductive. Do your best on each section you see. If you have a traditional experimental section, you won’t know during your test which section is experimental. If you happen to be in the cohort receiving the brand-new items, you’ll find out after Section 3.
Within one year after your official LSAT, you are required to complete a 35-minute LSAT Writing sample online on your own computer. Your task is to write a short essay in which you choose between two courses of action and justify your choice based on facts presented in the prompt’s fictional scenario. While unscored, your LSAT Writing essay is submitted to all law schools to which you apply and admissions officers use it as part of their evaluation process.
Four Core Skills – What the LSAT Tests
Now you may be thinking, “What does the Logic Games section have to do with torts? How can Logical Reasoning predict my success in Civil Procedure?” In this book, you are going to be taught a series of Learning Objectives, which are bundled around four key skills—key because they’re what the LSAT rewards, key because they’re what law school demands. We’ll call them the Core Skills:
Reading for structure and staying ahead of the author (anticipating) is what Strategic Reading is all about. Both your law professors and the LSAT want you to cut through the jargon and explain what the case or passage says. Reading strategically helps you zero in on exactly what opinions are present and how that knowledge will be rewarded in the question set.
The essence of Logical Reasoning and the essence of lawyering is Analyzing Arguments. To analyze an argument in the LSAT sense, you must distinguish the argument’s conclusion from its evidence. Then, determine what the person making the argument is taking for granted. The assumptions the author makes are what allow you to strengthen or challenge arguments on the LSAT. Likewise, in a courtroom, attorneys will need to understand, analyze, evaluate, manipulate, and draw conclusions from the arguments of their opponent, their own clients, and the judge.
Understanding Formal Logic
Conditional, or If/Then statements, are incredibly important in rules of law. “If/Thens” tell you what must, can, or can’t be true in a given situation or when a particular rule is or isn’t applicable. The very first chapter of this book will train you to seek out the Formal Logic embedded in LSAT questions and logic games and to manage its implications flawlessly. For a lot of students, this is the most intimidating of the Core Skills, but facing up to it is incredibly valuable. It brings a rigor to your reasoning that will allow you to answer questions—on the LSAT and in law school—with confidence and precision.
Making Deductions is rewarded in every section of the test, but it is key in Logic Games. In that section, you’re given a set of conditions and rules and then asked to apply them to various hypothetical cases: “If J goes on Wednesday, then which one of the following must be true?” or “If the van has more miles than the sedan, and the sedan has more miles than the motorcycle, then which one of the following could be false?” That’s just what law school exams demand. In law school, the rules and restrictions come from the dozens (potentially hundreds) of cases and statutes you will read during a semester. Just as you’ll learn to do with Logic Games rules, judges synthesize rules in order to determine the outcome of a case.
To find out more information about the LSAT, you can ask your local pre-law advisor, talk to any friends you have in the legal profession, or visit lsac.org
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