Guide to the LSAT Test Structure

The Law School Admission Test, more commonly known as the LSAT, is a complex test meant to challenge your skills of analytical reasoning, reading comprehension, and logical reasoning. Your LSAT score is an important part of your law school application and can determine specific school and scholarship eligibility.

Understanding the structure of the LSAT is a vital first step in preparing for the test. In our guide, we will be breaking down each of the sections you can expect the face on the exam and the type of questions contained within them.

Section Structure

There are five sections in an LSAT test, plus a writing component. The sections are each timed at 35 minutes long and are multiple-choice. The writing sample is also 35 minutes long, but will not be scored or included in your overall LSAT score; it is instead sent directly to any law school you apply for.

Reading Comprehension

The reading comprehension section consists of 4 scholarly articles, 3 of which are written by one author, and 1 of which is written by two authors discussing the same topic. Every article is followed by 5 to 8 questions, and there are approximately 27 questions in total in the entire section.

Subjects for these articles include biology, social sciences, art, history, geography, and law-related topics. The language in each article can be hard to decipher as each author uses very advanced vocabulary, sentence structure, and varying points of view.

The reading comprehension section is intended to test your ability to read carefully, identify main ideas and relevant information in a text, make reasonable inferences, and determine relationships between sections of the article.

Analytical Reasoning

The analytical reasoning section is more commonly known as the "Logic Games" section. It involves 4 games that each have 4 to 7 multiple-choice questions. Some games will require matching, and some will require sequencing. You must be able to group and order the relationships given in the prompt in order to answer each question correctly.

This section is meant to test your problem-solving ability, your skills at analyzing a set of information and drawing conclusions based on rules, and the ability to apply logic in complex situations.

Logic games can seem very unfamiliar and challenging at first, but once you understand the processes and skills needed to solve them, it is one of the easier parts to boost your score on through study.

Logical Reasoning

There are 2 separate logical reasoning sections in the LSAT. Each section consists of 24 to 26 short prompts or arguments, followed by 1 or 2 questions about what you read. Arguments come from a variety of sources such as newspapers, scholarly articles, and advertisements.

In this section you will need to analyze arguments and determine their strengths and weaknesses. Your ability to recognize logical flaws and misunderstandings will be tested alongside the ability to spot assumptions, draw conclusions from evidence, and establish the main points of an argument.

Experimental Section

The experimental section is the fifth, unscored section of the LSAT. It can be a copy of any of the 4 original sections, and while you may know which category the experimental is -for example if you have two reading comprehension sections in your test when one is standard — you will not know which of the two is the experimental section.

This section is used by the LSAC to test future questions and determine the difficulty level of any new questions. The data collected will not be reported to any law schools or included in your overall score. However, since you will not be able to determine exactly which section is experimental during the test, you need to give your best effort at every section just in case. Once you receive your score report, you will be able to see which section was experimental.

Writing Sample

While the writing sample was previously required to be completed immediately after you took the LSAT, in recent years, the LSAC has released the LSAT Writing — a separate writing test to be completed on your own time.

The LSAT Writing is still 35 minutes long. It can be accessed from your LSAC account from as soon as the same afternoon in which you complete your LSAT. It is available for several weeks after your LSAT has been completed, but it is important to note that it is mandatory. The LSAC will not count your application file complete without this sample, and they will not send your applications to schools until the LSAT Writing has been completed.

You only need to complete the writing sample once, even if you take the LSAT multiple times. Your writing sample from the first test will always be attached to your online LSAC account. If you would like to do another one, you will need to pay a small fee. The LSAC will send the 3 most recent samples when you apply to law schools.

Writing Sample Prompts

The writing portion of the test will present you with a prompt containing two choices and some information that can support either one. It is your task to evaluate both choices and then argue for one of them. A reasonable argument can be made for either choice using the facts; there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the writing sample.

Keep in mind that the LSAT Writing is not scored, and does not count towards your overall LSAT score. It is merely a way for law schools to gauge your ability to put together a cohesive argument based on the information in front of you. The LSAC does list a few writing sample prompts for you to practice with on their website.

Test Preparation Strategies

Now that you have a good understanding of the LSAT sections, the next step is to create a study plan. You will probably be better at some sections than others, so it is a good idea to take a practice LSAT, mimicking test-day conditions as closely as possible. As you review your answers, you will be able to identify any weaknesses and begin working on them to improve your overall score.

Once you have a study plan, you can access free LSAT study resources online, or invest in an LSAT prep course. These courses can either be online or in-person, and will help to guide your focus as you study, either through direct instruction or comprehensive study materials, such as videos. Sometimes prep courses use a combination of these techniques to assist you in bringing up your score.

If you are looking for a more individualized way to study, you can hire a personal LSAT tutor. These tutors charge anywhere between $30 — $150 an hour, and can help you overcome specific study challenges, assist you in further identifying LSAT strengths and weaknesses, and give you direct feedback on your study progress.

What Is the LSAT Flex?

Starting in 2020, the LSAC began offering a virtually proctored test, referred to as the LSAT Flex. This test was designed as a solution to the COVID-19 in-person testing restrictions; you are able to take the LSAT Flex from the comfort and safety of your own home. There are a couple of differences between the two tests, however.

Fewer Sections

The LSAT Flex only has 3 sections in it — one each of the reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical reasoning sections. Each section is still 35 minutes long and consists of multiple-choice questions. The test is scored exactly the same way as the regular LSAT, and law schools will not be able to tell if you took the LSAT Flex or the traditional LSAT.

Flexible Writing Sample

Instead of it being available after you complete the LSAT, the writing sample is available up to 8 days before you take your LSAT Flex. It will also be available for a couple of weeks after you complete the Flex.

At this time, it is unknown whether the LSAT Flex will continue being offered after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. It is possible, so make sure to keep checking the LSAC's homepage for updates.

Final Thoughts

The LSAT is a complex test with many different components, all designed to test your logic, reading, and reasoning abilities. While it may seem like an overwhelming obstacle when you are first considering law school, once you fully understand the structure and contents of each section, you will be well on your way to creating a powerful study plan and achieving the LSAT score you desire and get into the law school of your dreams.