What Is the LSAT?

By Rachel Shapiro Updated April 15, 2021

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized exam used by law schools as part of their application process. If you’re wondering what the LSAT is and how to get ready for it, here’s what you need to know about this test.

What is the LSAT?

The LSAT is a 3 hour and 30-minute long test that features about 99 to 102 multiple-choice questions. The test is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

Most law schools require prospective students to take the LSAT. The LSAT is designed to test the skills you’ll need to be successful in law school. This includes reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and writing.

The LSAT is a computer-based test. You get 35 minutes for each section. There’s one break in the middle of the test.

The LSAT doesn’t penalize you for wrong answers. Because of this, you should answer every question, even if you’re not sure about the right answer. Guessing is always better than leaving an answer blank.

The score range for the LSAT is 120 to 180. When you send your score report to a school, they’ll see your total score and your percentile rank. If you’ve taken the LSAT more than once, your past scores will also be on your score report.

What’s on the LSAT

The LSAT is comprised of four sections: Reading Comprehension, Logical Reasoning, Analytical Reasoning, and LSAT Writing. There’s also one unscored variable section. Here’s what you’ll find in each of these sections.

Reading Comprehension

There’s one Reading Comprehension section on the LSAT. This section is 35 minutes long and has about 26 to 28 questions.

The Reading Comprehension section tests your ability to comprehend lengthy and complex material. You’ll need to be able to understand the purpose of the passage, its structure, and its point of view. These are skills that are vital for law school.

You’ll read through four passages in this section. Each passage will have around five to eight multiple choice questions. These questions will ask you about things like the main purpose of the passage, information that can be inferred, the author’s attitude in the piece, and the organization or structure of the passage.

One of the passages is called a “paired passage.” This portion features two passages from different sources. Both passages are on the same topic. These readings will often directly relate to what you’ll learn in law school. For example, you may first read a trial court decision and then read the decision from an appellate court that overturned it. You’ll be asked to compare and contrast the two passages. Test-takers often find this part of the Reading Comprehension section to be the most difficult.

Logical Reasoning

There are two Logical Reasoning sections on the LSAT. Both are 35 minutes long and have 24 to 26 questions.

The Logical Reasoning section tests your ability to understand and analyze arguments. You’ll read through short passages and then answer a question about the passage’s argument. These passages use everyday language. They’re drawn from newspapers, magazines, and advertisements.

Some of the skills tested in this section include recognizing the parts of an argument and their relationship. You’ll also be tested on your ability to recognize patterns of reasoning. The section also tests your ability to identify flaws in an argument and reason by analogy.

While the questions use simple vocabulary, you will need a strong understanding of assumption, conclusion, argument, and premise to do well on this section.

Analytical Reasoning

The Analytical Reasoning section is also commonly known as the “Logic Games” section. There’s one Analytical Reasoning section on the LSAT. It’s 35 minutes long and has around 22 to 24 questions.

This section tests your basic logic skills. The types of ‘games’ that appear on the LSAT include sequencing, grouping, matching, distribution, selection, mapping, and hybrid games. These games test your deductive reasoning skills, your ability to understand the effect of rules on outcomes and decisions, and your ability to apply logic to complex and ambiguous situations.

Variable Section

When you take the LSAT, you’ll have one extra 35-minute experimental section. This section could be Reading Comprehension, Logical Reasoning, or Analytical Reasoning. This section is ungraded and used to test new material. You won’t know which section is the experimental one, though, so you’ll have to treat every section like it’s being graded.

LSAT Writing

The LSAT Writing section features a 35-minute long essay. You won’t complete it on the same day as your test, though. You’ll be sent the essay eight days before your LSAT, and you can do it any time before your test date. You can access the essay from your LSAC account.

The essay is ungraded, but you’ll have to complete it to get your LSAT score. The essay will be sent to law schools alongside your LSAT score.

The essay itself is argument-based. You’re given two arguments and asked to choose a side. Both arguments will be defensible. You’ll be graded based on how well you support your side and criticize the other side.

How to Sign Up for the LSAT

To sign up for the LSAT, create an account on LSAC’s website. Then, you’ll be able to pick your test date and test center. The registration deadline is usually about a month before the test.

The LSAT is administered seven times per year. You’ll typically get your score about three to four weeks after the test. Your score will be sent to all the law schools you’re applying to. Before choosing a test date, look at the application deadlines for schools you’re applying to. Keep in mind that many law schools accept applicants on a rolling basis, so the earlier that you apply, the better.

How Law Schools Use the LSAT

The LSAT is an important part of your law school application. It will be looked at alongside your Credential Assembly Service application, your letters of recommendation, and your personal statement.

Many law schools consider your LSAT score to be one of the most important parts of your application. At some schools, an LSAT score carries more weight than an undergraduate GPA. Because of that, make sure to spend plenty of time studying for the test.

How to Prepare for the LSAT

Since the LSAT is such an important part of your law school application, you’ll want to spend ample time preparing. Here are some of the ways you can get ready for the LSAT.

Using LSAT Prep Courses

An LSAT prep course is a great choice if you want a directed approach to your studying. These courses have practice questions, video lessons, and in-person classes. Many test prep companies also have live proctored practice tests.

There are courses available for every type of test-taker. Some test prep companies, like Magoosh, offer fully online courses. Other companies, like Manhattan Prep and Princeton Review, have both fully online and classroom courses available. Many companies also have one-on-one tutoring packages.

Spend some time researching all of the LSAT prep courses available. Do a few free trials or attend a free online class. Doing this will help you find the LSAT prep course that’s right for you.

Preparing on Your Own

If you decide to prep on your own, be sure to check out LSAC’s website. They offer a free practice LSAT with an answer key. This practice test helps you get a good sense of what taking the LSAT is like.

If you want to do more practice tests, consider purchasing LSAC Prep Plus. For $99 a year, you’ll get access to every past LSAT. This includes over 80 tests.

You can also consider buying some LSAT prep books. Many major test companies offer prep books, such as Princeton Review and Kaplan. These books include practice questions, test-taking strategies, and official practice tests.

There are also many free or low-cost apps available to download. While these apps typically don’t have as much material as prep courses, they do have flashcards and practice questions. They’re perfect for quick study sessions.

When to Start Studying for the LSAT

Generally, students start preparing for the LSAT about three to four months before their test-date. However, some students will need less time and some will need more.

To ensure that you’re doing enough prep work, create a study schedule. Think about your study habits and the amount of time you typically have in a week. Then, create a study plan that fits well with your schedule.

Summing Up

The LSAT is an important standardized test that can make or break your law school application. Before your test date, study strategies for the test. You’ll also want to learn all about the different concepts tested on the LSAT. Make a study schedule and try out some different prep books and LSAT test prep courses. Doing this will help you feel ready when your test day comes.