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The LSAT vs. The Bar Exam


The formal part of your legal education is book-ended by two exams. At the front, the LSAT. At the end, the Bar Exam. While you’re probably familiar—or in the process of becoming familiar—with the LSAT, the bar exam is foreign to most applicants and law students. So what’s the difference between the LSAT vs Bar Exam?

LSAT vs Bar Exam: Two Sides of the Same Coin

The easiest differentiators are the timing and purpose of the exams.

The LSAT is a test you have to take before you get accepted to law school. The bar exam is the test you have to take before you can get licensed to practice law. Simple enough, right?

Both of these exams test different skills, but if you plan on becoming a lawyer, you will need to pass both exams. (Although, admittedly, some law schools don’t require the LSAT.)

Unsurprisingly, there are some similarities between the two. In the rest of this article, we are going to compare and contrast the LSAT vs the Bar Exam to help demystify what’s ahead.

Further Reading

🗺️ Find Out How to Become a Lawyer in This Easy-To-Read Guide!

🏫 Freshman or Sophomore in Undergrad? Discover Your Pre-Law Path!

Comparison 1: The Time Commitment

I’m stretching a little bit here, but the time commitment for studying for both the LSAT and the bar exam is generally the same—around 8-12 weeks. 

However, you may end up studying substantially more for the Bar Exam than for the LSAT because there is so much more material to cover. 

Still, you can basically treat exam preparation as a full-time job for the two to three months you are studying.

Further Reading

💻  An Introduction to the LSAT

📝  Download Free Cheat Sheets for Every LSAT Section!

Contrast 1: The Material

The great thing about the LSAT is that you don’t have to know anything substantive. You don’t even have to memorize anything. Rather, you have to be familiar with the types of questions and the methods for answering those questions. 

The Bar Exam is the complete opposite. You have to know the finer points of law for a wide range of topics and be able to apply that knowledge to fact patterns. You will undoubtedly know more of the law when you study for the Bar than at any other point in your career. 

Additionally, you have to actually write essays on the bar exam not just complete a silly writing sample (let’s be honest here), which, in and of itself, is a key difference in the material. 

I don’t want to belabor this point, but it could be a whole post by itself when looking at the LSAT vs Bar Exam.The Bar tests you on a staggering amount of material.

Comparison 2: Time Management

Time management is essential for both the LSAT and the Bar Exam. You have a lot of questions to answer (and essays to write, in the case of the Bar) and not a lot of time to finish. 

As a result, the habits you develop for moving quickly through multiple-choice questions while prepping for the LSAT will serve you well on the bar exam too (e.g. reading the prompt first). 

You will certainly benefit from the attentiveness you develop for watching the clock as you prepare for both exams. It doesn’t hurt to consider a skipping strategy too.

Contrast 2: Length of the Exam

LSAT test day feels like an eternity. Yet, the Bar Exam is twice as long. This might seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of the months you spend preparing, but it is something you need to take into consideration. 

You should try to simulate the test-day fatigue with practice exams before both tests because it’s probably unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

Final Thoughts

So in the standardized match between LSAT vs Bar, who wins? Having done both, I would much rather take the LSAT again than the Bar Exam. In fact, I think that is universally true across the broad spectrum of lawyers. 

The LSAT provides a good intro to making sure you get used to building your life around a study schedule and building good test-taking habits., However, it does not come close to preparing you for the grind of the Bar Exam. 

It isn’t the end of the world, and there are more difficult tests out there, but it does require an immense amount of memorization. Fortunately, you’ll have time to build up your mental library of information throughout law school.

In the meantime, if you’re at the beginning of your law school journey, focus on the LSAT. Blueprint LSAT students increase their LSAT scores by 15 points, on average! Whether you have the discipline to study on your own with a Self-Paced Course, want to navigate the LSAT with instructors in a Live Course, or prefer one-on-one attention through tutoring, we have the study method that fits your learning style.

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