The LSAT is used to test the knowledge of the examinee and test their abilities to see if they can handle a legal career. So it’s natural that prospective law students typically all have a similar worry: how hard will the LSAT be?
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC)—the organization that created and administers the LSAT—uses the test to make sure that students are capable of practicing law and serious about it. While some may casually take the LSAT, they are sure to fail. To do well on the LSAT requires months of studying. This process is not only time-consuming but can be very expensive as well.
So yes, the LSAT is hard, and it is designed that way. It’s not so much a test that requires a student to remember random facts, but instead, it is a test that showcases a student’s thought process. Because of this, it is very different from other tests that a student might have taken up to this point, such as the SAT or ACT.
This article will go over why the LSAT is so challenging and what you can do about it. Then, we’ll review each section of the LSAT and even throw in some helpful study tips.
About the LSAT
Unlike other standardized tests that a student would be familiar with, the LSAT isn’t aimed at finding out information that a student already knows. Instead, the LSAT seeks to figure out how a student thinks. Because of this, test prep for the LSAT will be different than it was with the SAT or ACT. Instead of learning what is on the test, students will be urged to learn how to take the test.
Understanding the ins and outs of the LSAT can be as crucial as knowing the material that is on it. LSAC has made an exam that is purposefully hard. The LSAT is known for attempting to trick test-takers, throwing them for loops, and seeing how they come out the other side. Students who do the best on the LSAT are not necessarily the ones who study the most, but instead are the students who understand the aim of the LSAT in the first place.
The LSAT is broken down into five sections—three scored, two unscored—and the three scored sections include multiple-choice questions, logic games, and reading various text passages.
The length of the exam is similar to the SAT and ACT; however, because of the amount of reasoning that goes into answering each question, students typically find the LSAT to be much more stressful than any tests they’ve taken previously.
To mitigate the stress and difficulty, students should do some form of test preparation, whether in online classes or with a private tutor. Students doing LSAT study programs will learn as much about test-taking skills as they will about the content on the LSAT.
How Is the LSAT Scored?
As previously mentioned, the LSAT is broken into five sections, two of these sections are unscored, and three are scored. Each scored section includes around 101 questions, and each correct answer receives a point added to the raw score; incorrect answers do not detract from the raw score.
After the raw score is established, the final score is calculated using a Score Conversion Chart that considers the scores of all of the other students who took the LSAT on the same test day. Final scores range from 120-180.
However, scoring a perfect 180 is exceedingly rare, with only an estimated 30 out of every 100,000 students achieving the mark. The average LSAT score is 150.
Is the LSAT Always the Same?
No. The LSAT changes for each session that it is offered. While it may change in difficulty, that does not affect a student’s ability to get a high mark. This is because the LSAT is scored based on a sliding scale that considers how everyone who has taken it has fared. So, the LSAT taken in June of any given year might be considered more difficult than the LSAT offered in December, but a score of 150 for each would signify equal performance.
Some students think that different sessions of the LSAT may be easier or harder than others. There has been a myth for some time that the December LSAT is the easiest of the bunch. This has been proven to be not true. However, if there were truth to it, it wouldn’t matter because of how the LSAT is scored.
The Sections of the LSAT
The LSAT is made up of five different sections, each offering its own challenge. Four of the sections are multiple-choice, with a fifth section being the written essay.
Knowing what the sections are can in itself help mitigate some of the difficulty of the LSAT. There are also some really useful test-taking tips that you should take into account while you study.
Before we detail each individual section, there is one general tip that every student who takes the LSAT should follow. When taking a mock LSAT, try to recreate the exact scenario you will face when you take the actual LSAT. Have one of your friends act as a proctor. Bring only the things that you are allowed to bring. If you require accommodations for the LSAT, make sure you have those in place when taking the mock test as well.
Logical Reasoning (Arguments)
Logical reasoning is broken into two parts for the LSAT. Each part is 35 minutes long and consists of 24-26 multiple-choice questions. Questions in the logical reasoning section will test to see if a student can correctly identify the main point of a legal argument. Students will also be tasked with being able to apply logic even with the most abstract concepts.
Arguments will need to be analyzed, and students will need to be able to pick out relevant information within the given text. Some students might find this to be the most stressful section of the LSAT because it makes up 50% of an LSAT score.
Logical Reasoning Tips
Because this section is designed to be elusive, students should beware of the obvious answer. Sometimes the answer might be obvious, but most of the time, it is not. A great way to approach this section is to find the argument’s conclusion first, find a premise that supports this, and then find any holes in the argument presented.
Those who have scored very highly on the LSAT even suggest looking for the wrong answers first so you can rule them out right away. Questions in this section will often require a test-taker to find the “best possible” answer. Eliminating wrong answers first will often allow a test-taker more time to figure out the correct interpretation.
Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games)
This is another 35-minute section that is broken down into four parts. Each part is known as a “logic game” and consists of 4-7 multiple-choice questions. This may not seem like a lot, but with a 35-minute time limit, students will only have about eight and a half minutes to complete each individual “logic game.”
These “logic games” are one of if not the most notorious sections of the LSAT because they are meant to trick the test-taker. Students will need to have multiple skills to get through this section with a high score. The point of these “logic games” is to determine a student’s ability to understand the effect that laws and rules have on legal outcomes.
Students will have to determine the relationship between complex and sometimes competing concepts. Students will also have to apply logic where there seems to be little. The situations presented in these logic games are often very ambiguous and very complex.
This is considered one of the most difficult sections of the LSAT because of how abstract it is. Test-takers will be thrown curve balls left and right and have to find a way to keep up. Because this is such a fluid and variable part of the exam, giving one solid piece of advice is hard. However, there is some general advice that could really come in handy.
Those who do the best in this section tend to think creatively. These logic games are designed to make a test-taker think rigidly, but those who are able to keep the big picture in mind typically perform the best.
There are three different types of logic games introduced: assignments, grouping, and ordering. But it’s important to remember that elements of other types of logic games will often be mixed together just to trick the student. For example, just because a student is doing a game centered on assignments doesn’t mean that there won’t be some element of grouping or ordering.
Many students will find this section to be the most tedious of the LSAT because this section was designed so that test-takers have no prior knowledge of this section. Those who find themselves in the throes of the LSAT reading comprehension section will have 35 minutes to complete four parts.
Each part is a roughly 60-line long passage of text with five to six follow-up questions. The four categories are always the same. Those are law, natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Three of the passages will be authored by one person, while the fourth will be authored by two people discussing the same topic. This section is meant to test a student’s ability to understand complex texts in a short amount of time, especially while under pressure. Students should expect to be able to pick out relevant information while determining the main ideas in each passage.
Reading Comprehension Tips
There are three types of questions during the reading comprehension section: identification, inference, and synthesis. Identification is pretty straightforward, while inference and synthesis can be rather abstract.
Quick readers will be at an advantage for this section, though it is crucial to grasp the concepts in the text. A classic strategy for this part of the test is to read the questions first and then read the text so you can pick out the relevant information as you go. Some LSAT experts advise that students work on their reading speed before taking the LSAT.
This is an interesting section because it is unscored. However, while it is unscored, it is also sent to every law school that a student applies to. The purpose of the written section is to determine a student’s ability to come up with an argument based on given facts. Furthermore, students will need to support their argument through reasoning.
A 35-minute time limit adds extra pressure and stress. To mitigate this, expert test-takers advise that students only use 10 minutes to come up with their argument and use the remaining 25 minutes to write their essay.
The most important part of writing your argument is to keep it simple. Eloquence gets you nowhere if your argument doesn’t make sense.
Some students falter in this section because they try to write a masterpiece of an argument. However, masterpieces are hard to write in 35 minutes. Instead, keep it as concise and straightforward as possible. Law school administrators are looking for a well-reasoned argument, not the poetic musings of a law student.
The variable section, also known as the experimental section, is a part of the LSAT that is actually used to test future questions. Because the LSAT changes with each iteration, the LSAC needs to test new questions to see how test-takers fare and create future test problems. This means it may look like any of the previous scored sections: logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, or reading comprehension. The variable section is kept hidden, and throughout the test, you may not know which it is.
Students will not know which section the variable will copy in advance. However, it will include 24-48 multiple-choice questions with a 35-minute time limit.
Of course, many students may try to figure out which one is the variable as they take the LSAT, but it’s best not to waste precious test-time speculating. While it may feel daunting that there’s an extra “unknown” section to prepare for, the thing to keep in mind is that as long as you’ve studied for the other sections, you’re already prepared for this one.
Yes, the LSAT is hard, but it’s important to remember that it’s designed that way because a legal career can be even more challenging. The LSAT not only ensures you have the appropriate legal knowledge but assesses if you have the abilities to take on the legal profession. However, students who prepare for questions and prompts with out-of-the-box thinking and learn to explain their arguments in a clear, solid way are well on their way to LSAT success. If you want to give yourself the best chance for success, always focus on your LSAT prep and get help from a tutor if you’re falling behind.