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Why is the LSAC So Strict on LSAT Test Day?

The LSAC has always been a little excessive in their restrictions and policies, requiring finger printing, prohibiting mechanical pencils and sweaters with hoods (even if you’re not wearing the hood and it’s 20 degrees out), and recently, requiring students to bring a headshot picture of themselves, in addition to their ID. These policies may have been started with good intentions, but collectively they come off as somewhat comical, if not outright paranoid. Are they really worried that I’m going to turn my digital watch into some sort of a James Bond-inspired wireless transponder? Has the LSAC forgotten that I’m going to law school to avoid engineering, not to exploit it?

Add to the picture proctors tasked with interpreting and enforcing these rules, wielding absolute power over the futures of a few hundred stressed out pre-law students, and a whole new level of paranoid nonsense arises. There are notorious examples of the LSAC enforcing their policies in the most coldhearted of fashions. I’ve heard from students about proctors who told the test takers that if they forgot to leave their phone in the car, it was okay, and that they should just put their phone on the registration table before the test started. The twenty students who did so were then dismissed from the test site. Brutal.

And this past October test, the LSAC crossed to a new low. As thousands of anxious pre-law students gathered at testing centers, stressed about taking one of the most important exams in their life, many were turned away for the most frivolous of reasons. Not because they didn’t have ID, not because they brought contraband items, but simply because their headshot did not have a uniform background. Some unfortunate students simply printed their Facebook profile picture for the headshot, and were turned away after months of preparing. Apparently the LSAC has high standards for photography. Other posted reasons why a photo might be ruled unacceptable by the LSAC include: having shadows on your face or in the background, high contrast, improper color, and overexposed pictures. I guess we need a professional photographer just to take the LSAT now.

These extreme policies beg the question, why is the LSAC so strict? Why the borderline paranoia? There are certainly cheaters in the world, but the LSAT is definitely not the kind of test that would be easy to cheat on; you can’t just have a friend look up the answers online. Perhaps someone at the LSAC has simply watched The Perfect Score too many times?

I think the real reason may be simply because they can. The LSAT is their baby; they depend on schools placing extreme faith in the validity of the scores. It’s in the LSAC’s incentive to be overprotective – better to come off callous and cruel if it completely prevents cheating, than to undermine that faith. And while these policies may be extreme, they are posted online, so learn from these poor few and make sure you are aware of all the ridiculous restrictions before you get to the test center (don’t worry, we’ll break down the requirements closer to the test).