What is the LSAT? LSAT Test Basics
- Dec 02, 2011
This is part of our “Intro to the LSAT” series. Our regular readers who are far along in their studies can probably skip it, but if you are starting your LSAT prep we hope this post is helpful! ~ Next Step Test Preparation
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized exam required by all students attending American Bar Association accredited law schools. (You should not attend a non-accredited school if you want to have a serious career as an attorney).
While college graduates have taken tests before, they have likely not faced a standardized exam as challenging as the LSAT. Keep in mind that the LSAT is designed to rate and sort the nation’s most accomplished college grads. The curve is much steeper than in most college classes and certainly steeper than the ACT or SAT.
It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of the LSAT. Most estimates suggest that the LSAT and GPA are together by far the most impotent components of your application. Together they are referred to as law school “hard factors” as opposed to “soft factors” like recommendations, personal statements, and work experience. Although it’s hard to estimate exactly, hard factors are thought to be worth perhaps 90% of an admissions decision.
Students often overestimate their chances of admission based on good letters of recommendation, extra-curricular activities, or work experience. Good hard numbers qualify students to get into the “maybe” file of any given law school. Everything else in your application helps you get into the “yes” pile. Law schools can then look to soft factors to shape their class.
While you will no doubt read about outliers who were accepted to schools despite below-average numbers, these cases are rare and you should not bank on being one of them. (Schools also routinely reject applicants with above-average numbers if the other parts of the application are not excellent).
LSAT LSAT LSAT! What’s on the test?
On the day of your test, you’ll take an exam with 6 sections. Each section is 35 minutes long.
- 2 sections of Logical Reasoning (LR)
- 1 section of Analytical Reasoning (everyone but the LSAC calls this “Logic Games,” and we will do so going forward) (LG)
- 1 section of Reading Comprehension (RC)
- 1 unscored experimental section. This section will be either LR, LG, or RC. The LSAC uses this section to test questions for use on future exams. While it won’t be scored, the section will not be identified to you and, most importantly, will not be identifiable – there won’t be crazy question types or weird formats. That means you’ll have to give your best effort on all 5 sections on test day.
- 1 writing sample. The writing sample can’t be ignored, but as it is not formally scored it deserves very little preparation time.
Logical reasoning, 2 of your scored sections, is made of 24-26 paragraph-length arguments followed by a specific task such as:
- Strengthen the argument
- Weaken the argument
- Find the flaw
- Identify the conclusion
While many of the first questions will seem elementary, the difficulty curve quickly increases, and the hardest LR questions involve complex formal logic. Here’s an example of a more straightforward question:
John never does the dishes. He always ignores them or waits for someone else to do them. This may represent self-involvement or mere laziness, but in either case I don’t think John will make a good husband for Susan.
Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?
As you prepare, you will learn strategies for each question type. Assumption questions can often be solved by asking, “What entity exists in the conclusion that did not exist previously in the argument?” Here, the concept of “good husband” is never really defined. The assumption must make a link between John’s laziness and his status as a bad husband (which is the conclusion).
The Logic Games section includes 4 logic puzzles followed by 23-24 questions divided among them. This is the section that worries students the most initially, but it’s also the section in which Next Step students have shown the most improvement. Smart students draw a diagram for each puzzle and work through the questions efficiently using inference and rapid process of elimination. Students sometimes make the mistake of over-studying for this section; just remember that LR actually counts twice as much in your final score.
Reading comprehension looks a lot like the reading comp from the ACT or SAT, but you will find it to be much harder. There are 4 passages in each section with a total of 26-28 questions divided among them. Passages come from the social sciences, natural sciences, law, and the arts. The challenge will not be the topics, but rather how the passages are structured. Read our guide to RC in Part 2 to understand how to deal with this.
Next Step Test Preparation provides complete courses of one-on-one tutoring with an LSAT expert for about the price of a crowded lecture-style prep course. Email us or call 888-530-NEXT (6398) for a complimentary consultation.
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