LSAT Preparation Overview
Got logic? Check. Got verbal reasoning skills? Check.
Now as long as you can learn to apply these skills directly to the LSAT, you’re on your way to law school!
The good people of the Law School Admission Council – LSAC – create and administer the LSAT, and they recommend that prospective law students prepare specifically for the test over a period of about three months. Even if you have a fantastic GPA or relevant work experience, your LSAT score is going to make a big difference in your overall application. Although the LSAC does not approve the practice, the Princeton Review reports that LSAT score is the most important element of the application for most law schools. The good news is that the test is very “coachable”: you can improve your LSAT score through preparation.
How do I sign up for the LSAT?
Most law schools require that prospective law students take the LSAT by December, to apply for the following fall. The LSAC administers the LSAT four times a year, normally on dates in February, June, October and December. Registration deadlines are usually about a month before the date of the test; but testing centers can fill up, so register early if possible to avoid being put on a waiting list. If you miss the deadline completely, you may still be able to register, for an additional $58 late fee. The normal cost of the test is $115.
To register online, follow the “Online Registration” link on this website: www.lsac.org. You can also register for the LSAT by telephone by calling (215) 968-1001.
What kinds of multiple-choice questions are on the LSAT?
Currently the LSAT is an old-fashioned, fill-in-the-bubble, No. 2 pencil and paper test. There are five multiple-choice sections, one of which is experimental (called “variable”) and will not count toward your score. The four regular multiple-choice sections will consist in one section of reading comprehension, one section of analytical reasoning, and two sections of logical reasoning. You will have 35 minutes to complete each of these sections. The multiple-choice sections may appear in any order on the test; the separate writing sample section will always be last, after you have finished the five multiple-choice sections.
The Reading Comprehension Section:
In this section, you will read four 400-500-word texts and answer about 27 questions. The format will differ little from that of other standardized tests with reading comprehension sections, like the SAT or GRE; but the content of the passages will be difficult and dense. You will need to find relevant information in the passages, determine the main ideas, and make inferences based on the texts.
The Analytical Reasoning Section:
Who says the LSAT isn’t fun? The analytical reasoning or “games” section will require you to solve hypothetical logic problems and answer about 25 questions about them. You will read the details of a situation, such as a group of people sitting in an unknown order in a movie theater row, as well as a list of predetermined rules or limiting factors (“Julia is not sitting on the aisle”). You will need to make deductions and predictions based on your application of logic to the situation.
The Two Logical Reasoning Sections:
In these sections, you will answer a total of about 50 questions analyzing and evaluating arguments. You will read a statement and follow the directions, which might be to select the answer choice that strengthens or weakens the statement’s argument, or to select the answer choice that represents the statement’s logical conclusion.
The multiple-choice sections of the LSAT add up to a score range of 120 to 180.
What about the LSAT writing sample?
After you have finished the multiple-choice sections of the test, you will have 35 minutes to plan and write a writing sample. Plan well, and write small, because you can only use two sheets of paper. This is an opportunity to show prospective law schools your writing skills, critical thinking, and ability to think on your feet: all things that will make you a good law student and a good lawyer.
There are two types of prompts for the LSAT writing sample, and you will receive one or the other of these types of prompt randomly. If you receive a decision prompt, you will read a scenario that presents two possible positions or courses of action. You will need to choose one and defend it with clear and reasonable arguments, while criticizing the other option. If you receive an argument prompt, you will read a short passage in which an author makes an argument and supports it with his or her own evidence and logic. For this prompt, you will need to critique the argument presented, and discuss whether it is well-reasoned.
The LSAC names “reasoning, clarity, organization, language usage, and writing mechanics” as crucial elements in both types of writing sample. The LSAC will not grade your writing sample, however, but will send copies of it to all of the law schools to which you are applying. Reportedly, the LSAT writing sample often serves to break a tie between two otherwise equally qualified applicants. Rather than letting yourself focus on that potentially stressful possibility, use the writing sample as a chance to practice your writing and reasoning skills, and show the law school admissions committees a more human, yet still incisively logical and rational, side of your personality.
What resources are there for LSAT preparation?
The LSAC provides a free practice test and downloadable practice questions from their website, and also has official LSAT preparation books for purchase. These are a great place to start. However, if financially feasible, most law school applicants either take an LSAT preparation class or receive individual tutoring.
Local test preparation specialists or individual tutors with high LSAT scores themselves and great teaching abilities may be well worth looking into, depending on where you live. The two largest national LSAT preparation specialists are the Princeton Review and Kaplan. Both offer classroom courses, online courses, and individualized tutoring either online or in person.
If you live in a city or town of decent size, or a college town of any size, you are very likely to be able to find a classroom course in LSAT preparation through either Kaplan or Princeton Review. Taking a classroom course will familiarize you with the specific types of questions on the test, help you begin to develop strategies for the various sections, and keep you on track with your practice tests and other preparation. Kaplan offers a regular course and an intensive course. In the standard Kaplan LSAT preparation course, you will take ten 3 1/2 hour classes, plus four additional practice test sessions, over the course of around eight weeks. This course costs $1249. For even more practice exams and additional class time, try Kaplan’s “LSAT Extreme.” It is only slightly more expensive, but is not an advantage for people who already have very busy or fluctuating schedules or who prefer to do more of the work on their own.
Princeton Review’s LSAT class meets three times a week for about eleven weeks, and costs $1399. There is also an intensive class that meets three times a week for just one month. This class costs $1099. All of the classes for both Kaplan and Princeton Review are scheduled so that the class concludes just before one of the administrations of the LSAT, so that you can take the test while you still remember everything you learned.
Both companies offer online LSAT preparation courses: a great option for someone whose schedule will not accommodate a classroom course or who just wishes to study for the LSAT in the comfort of his or her own home. Princeton Review offers a wide array of online courses, of varying intensities: from a $99 mini-course to 24 hours of online tutoring for $2000. The LSAT experts at Kaplan also pride themselves on a very well organized, structured yet individualized online course. Kaplan’s premium online course costs $1099.
Private, in-person LSAT tutoring can be extremely expensive, from $2000 for 16 hours with one of Princeton Review’s “Standard Tutors” to $7200 for 24 hours with a “Premier Tutor,” who is an Analytical Reasoning machine, and will be available to you “around the clock” — at least until your 24 hours run out. Kaplan’s private tutoring options for the LSAT do not quite as high as Princeton Review’s, although they do not offer the three-tiered system of ranking tutors into Standard, Master, and Premier tutors. With Kaplan 35 hours of tutoring cost $4049, and 15 hours cost $2049.