Real LSATs Have Curves: A Look at the 2013 December LSAT

  • /Reviewed by: Matt Riley
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    December LSAT scores were released yesterday (for most), and a lot of discussion has centered around the test’s forgiving LSAT curve. According to the 2013 December LSAT score conversion chart, you could miss 14 questions and nonetheless get a 170, or 3 questions for a perfect 180. LSAT scoring scales are pre-equated; in other words, your LSAT score is independent of the performance of the other people who took the LSAT that day. So a forgiving LSAT curve means that this LSAT had relatively hard questions.

    And so I sat down early this morning to take the 2013 December LSAT and to try to figure out why the LSAT curve was so forgiving. Question difficulty can be hard to subjectively determine, and can vary a bit from person to person. I fully expected to have to dig deeply to figure out what made this particular test so hard for the average test taker.

    My verdict: holy **** that’s a hard LSAT! The difficulty wasn’t hidden; it was plain to see.

    One of the two LSAT Logical Reasoning sections was one of the hardest I’ve ever seen. In general, the LR didn’t seem to have more killer questions than usual. What made it hard was a profusion of relatively hard questions early in the sections. The aforementioned section in particular had some really tricky questions early on.

    The LR questions weren’t overtly strange for the most part, but a number of them had unusual or tricky elements. There was a describe question for which the correct answer described reasoning we normally think of as flawed, even though the stimulus didn’t appear terribly flawed. There was a parallel flaw for which it was critical to identify both the flaws in the stimulus. There was a strengthen question very well disguised as a soft must be true.

    These questions plus a good number of typical but difficult questions made for a tough slog through Logical Reasoning.

    The Logic Games were hard, too, though the first game was easy. Very easy. Better finish it in less than 5 minutes, with what’s coming next. The second game was a difficult unstable grouping game. The rules weren’t unusually complicated but they fit together in tricky ways. And the conditional questions often gave information that wasn’t easy to incorporate.

    The third game combined ordering and grouping in an unusual way, keeping the two processes separate but for one rule that interrelated them. Once I figured out what was going on, it wasn’t too bad. And the fourth game was a typical game of fairly moderate difficulty.

    The Reading Comprehension section of the 2013 December LSAT seemed fairly typical. The passages weren’t that bad, though one had a kind of hidden main point. And though some of the questions were brutal, that’s the case in any LSAT Reading Comp section.

    Even though this test was more overtly difficult than I expected, it fits my general perception of LSATs with forgiving curves. They don’t necessarily have lots of weird stuff; the vast majority of what was on the December LSAT was perfectly normal. They don’t even necessarily have lots of killer questions. The hardest stuff on the 2013 December LSAT seemed to me to be pretty much in line with the hardest stuff on most other LSATs.

    What made the December LSAT hard is that it had a bunch of harder-than-average questions where you’d expect average questions. On their own, few of those questions would be remarkable. But taken together, they help to explain why you could miss 14 questions on the December LSAT and still get a 170.

    But that’s just one man’s opinion. What did you think of the 2013 December LSAT? Let us know in the comments.

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