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All the LSAT News from 2018

  • by Ross Rinehart
  • Dec 31, 2018
  • LSAT, News

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We are certainly in the final moments of 2018 — if this year were an LSAT, we are solidly in the Writing Sample portion of the exam, which means we’re mostly just phoning it in and thinking about how hard we’re going to party tonight. But before we close the metaphorical test booklet of the year that was two thousand and eighteen, let’s get contemplative. Believe it or not, this LSAT blog has some stuff to say about the LSAT.

Last week, we spilled a lot of digital ink about the LSAT in 2018, paying special attention to what was on the five exams administered over the course of this year. Today, we’re going to cover the things that weren’t on the LSAT. Today, we’ll give a recap of all the LSAT news that came out over 2018.

And this year had more LSAT news than … maybe any year ever? The LSAT will undergo many changes in 2019, and so we spent much of 2018 scrambling to make sense of the myriad announcements LSAC and others made about the forthcoming changes to the test. Some announcements were a big deal, others were minor blips, but all augured changes to the test in 2019. So let’s review all the LSAT news from 2018 that was fit to print … or post. You get the idea. Let’s go!

A July 2018 LSAT is Announced

In a January announcement, LSAC released a selfie.* A coy smile, its partner supportively grasping its shoulder, its hands gently cupping its slightly-more-rotund-than-usual abdomen … we all knew what this photo meant. LSAC was expecting. It was with child.** And in July 2018, LSAC would give birth to this brand new LSAT, bringing the number of LSATs administered this calendar year to five.

*Technically, it released an updated LSAT schedule on Twitter.

**The child in this rapidly devolving metaphor being, of course, a new LSAT.

The Score Release Date Got a Little Less Stressful

The modern LSAT turned 27 this year. But — as anyone who has seen their temples grey and their bodies ripen into a slack, soft mush as they study for an LSAT that is approaching improbably quickly knows — time moves pretty fast when you’re studying for this test. So the LSAT ages, if not quite in dog years, at least much more quickly than we do. So in 2018, the LSAT was really entering a wizened middle age. And as it reached this maturity, the test lost some of that DGAF spunk of its youth, and began to mellow out and make some common sense solutions to issues that have historically plagued test takers.

The first of these changes came via an early March announcement. The LSAC CEO personally addressed test takers, letting them know that LSAC was making the score release process a little less stressful. LSAC used to release test takers’ scores basically whenever it felt like it … usually a week or so before the announced score release. So test takers would spend a few weeks following the exam as an frazzled ball of nerves, constantly checking their emails and LSAC accounts to see if the scores were released early, on a whim. In March, LSAC announced that it would stop doing that, and would instead release the scores on the promised release date. Now, it didn’t do a great job of keeping that promise, at least early on, but this promise was the step in the right direction.

It’s Now Harder to “Accidentally” Cancel Your Score

Another student-friendly change to the test came quickly after that, when LSAC announced that it was “simplifying” its score cancellation policy. Apparently, there were a bunch of test takers out there who weren’t the best at following directions and would accidentally check the box on their test booklets that cancels their score when they actually … whoopsie … didn’t want to cancel their score. LSAC threw these test takers a proverbial bone when it announced that for future exams, test takers would have to cancel their scores using their online account, hopefully limiting those accidental cancellations.

LSAC Made Good After Screwing Up the Score Release/Registration Dates in July and September

Even with all the calendar and scheduling apps available to me, I still screw up my schedule all the time. So I sympathized with LSAC when it too made a scheduling blunder. But I was still pretty mad, on behalf of my students. After opening registration for the brand new July LSAT, we realized that the last day to register for the subsequent September exam was the same day as the July exam. Which meant that if test takers didn’t feel great after the July exam,* they would have at most a couple hours to decide whether they should drop $190** on the September test. And this was after LSAC created a similar scheduling issue for June and July test takers.

But fortunately, LSAC cleaned up this mess. LSAC announced that anyone who signed up for the July and September exams could get a full refund of their registration fee to the September test if they were happy with their July score once that came out (and June test takers who signed up for July could get the same refund if they were satisfied with their June score). As we wrote at the time, “Who says LSAC can’t be nice sometimes?”

*A feeling shared by pretty much all test takers, regardless of the LSAT.

**A fee that was raised in 2018, to add insult to injury.

The LSAT, for Better or Worse, Fended Off Major Challenges from the GRE and GMAT

Why was LSAC being especially cool this year? Did it finally find that special someone? Did it begin talking to a professional? Meditating? Did it adopt a loving pet and start prominently displaying a bumper sticker on its midsized sedan that reads, “Who Rescued Who [sic]?”

Maybe. But a perhaps more like explanation is that LSAC was feeling the pressure from the GRE and GMAT, as more and more law schools announced that they would accept applicants who took those tests in lieu of the LSAT. In fact, for a minute there it looked like the American Bar Association would drop a rule that made the LSAT the default test for law school applicants. But a year of playing nice was apparently enough for the ABA to keep that rule, further entrenching the LSAT as the king of law school admissions exams.

LSAC Got With the Times and Allowed Cell Phones in Some Test Centers

If you’ve taken the LSAT or have perused the incredibly long and complex list of “Test Center Admissions Requirements” on LSAC’s website (both of which I do more than what would be considered to be “healthy” or “normal”), you’ll know that cell phones are strictly verboten in LSAT test centers. Despite the fact that we do almost everything with those devices — including, for many, coordinating our rides to and from the test center — LSAC wants you to leave your phone at home. Or, if you’re using your phone to hail a ride share service to get you home … maybe in a bush near the test center?

LSAC seemed to recognize that this policy inconveniences many test takers. It offered a few September test takers the chance to try out a new cell phone “pilot program,” in which test takers were allowed to bring their cell phones into their test center, provided they turned the phones off and placed them into an LSAC-provided “lockbox” (shout out to Al Gore jokes from the year 2000). We haven’t heard any updates on how this program went, or whether LSAC’ll offer this service to future test takers, so this is a story we’ll track into 2019.

The LSAT Will Officially Go Digital in September 2019

The biggest announcement of them all came at near the end of 2018. After teasing us for years that the LSAT would make the switch from the traditional pencil-and-paper exam to a digital format used by pretty much every other graduate entrance exam … LSAC finally announced that the September 2019 LSAT would be digital.

Since the announcement of the digital test in October, LSAC has filled in some the details on how the switch from analog to digital will go. The digital exams will be given on Microsoft Surface Go tablets, there will be programs to allow test takers to get comfortable with the digital format before next September, and, best of all, the Writing Sample will be administered at home.

The July 2019 Test Will Be a Freebie (Aside from the Sign Up Fee, Of Course)

Finally, there was a bit of weird announcement with respect to the July 2019 test. Technically speaking, it’ll be the first digital LSAT. Except only half of the test takers will be given the test in its digital format. The other half will be given the traditional paper-and-pencil format. And test takers won’t know whether they’re getting the new or old format until test day.

This, apparently, is consistent with “best testing practices,” but it’s also consistent with “no one’s going to sign up for this.” So to sweeten the pot, LSAC announced that it would allow July test takers to get an early preview of their score, and then decide whether they’d like to keep or cancel the score. Which is maybe the most generous thing the typically miserly LSAC has ever done. Here’s to more of these kinds of announcements in 2019.

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