So, What Fresh Hell is This?
First, let us offer you congratulations.
You’ve taken an important first step on your journey to becoming an advocate, and we’d like you to know that we’re here to help. You can be assured that this website contains the most complete, most cohesive, and most comprehensible system in the world for preparing to take the LSAT.
You will learn a clear, precise, correct approach for every section of the test, and you’ll benefit at every turn from our depth of experience with this material.
Before you dive into the content of your course of study, we thought you might enjoy a quick bit of LSAT introduction:
A Brief History
The LSAT was born in 1948 to a good-hearted father (Frank H. Bowles, then admissions director at Columbia Law School) and an evil mother (ETS, the same people who currently write the SAT).
The test was written by ETS and administered by the Law School Admissions Council (on a 200-800 point scale) until 1981, at which time LSAC took over authorship of the exam (and began scoring it on a 48-point scale).
The test took its current form (with the 120-180 scaling) in 1991, and with the exception of the addition of Comparative Reading in June 2007, hasn’t changed in format since that time.
A Quick Overview
Currently, there are 6 sections administered on every LSAT:
- 2 scored Logical Reasoning sections, each containing 25-26 questions;
- 1 scored Analytical Reasoning section (usually referred to as “Games”), with 4 logic puzzles about which a total of 22-23 questions are asked;
- 1 scored Reading Comprehension (henceforth to be known as the “Reading Comprehension”) section, containing 3 long reading passages and 1 pair of short passages, about which a total of 27-28 questions are asked;
- 1 unscored Variable (or, as we’ll call it, “Experimental”) section, which can be of any of the above three types and is used to pretest questions and to “preequate new test forms” (do you really care what that means?), and;
- 1 unscored Essay
All sections are 35 minutes long, all (except the essay) are multiple choice, test-takers are given a 10-minute break after the third section, and that’s the test.
Of course, that’s only numbers and blankness and is sort of like describing an attack by a pack of feral dogs by recounting the number of teeth they had; it’s just not the whole story.
The LSAT heavily rewards a specific mode of thinking — what we might comfortably call analytic thought. For most of the test, you’ll be tested on your ability to break things down into their component parts, to see what they’re made of, and to see whether the pieces, put together, hold water.
This is an enormous part of the lawyer’s work, and it’s mainly for this reason that we can feel a bit of actual intellectual respect for the test — it isn’t a terribly reliable indicator of a student’s grades in law school, and it may not be a particularly strong indicator of a test-taker’s intelligence, but it is a pretty decent facsimile of the kind of thinking the top lawyers bring to bear on their jobs every day.
To succeed on the LSAT, then, you’ve got to start thinking like a lawyer.
You’ve picked a good place to start.
The LSAT and Law School Admissions
The LSAT is the gatekeeper to law school. At most schools, your score on the LSAT will be more important to the admission decision than your GPA, your Statement of Purpose, or your Letters of Recommendation. After all, your score on this test is a standardized number, and that fact alone makes it appealing to law schools as a means of assessing candidates. Plus, studies have indicated that LSAT scores serve as better prognosticators of student success than do undergraduate grades (LSAT scores are not very strong indicators of success in law school, but they are the strongest indicators out of a weak field).
Roughly speaking, expect your LSAT score to account for 60-70% of the admission decision made by most law schools to which you apply.
Scoring on the LSAT
The LSAT comprises 99-101 scored questions. You earn one raw point for every question that you get right, and (unlike what you remember from the SAT), you neither gain nor lose any points for questions that you miss.
This means that if there are any questions on the test that you don’t answer, you must guess. Part of your strategy may be to leave some questions unanswered in an effort to get all the other questions right. This is an appropriate strategy for almost everyone taking the LSAT. On questions that you don’t answer, we recommend that you bubble (D) for Dave. Or whatever . It doesn’t matter in any real sense, but whichever letter you choose, you should use only that letter for any guesses you make anywhere on the test; it’s the simplest and surest way to maximize your potential for getting questions right by guessing. And that’s more than enough talk about guessing. Let’s talk about the questions you’ll learn to get right.
First, know that the raw points you earn do not indicate your LSAT score in any absolute or necessary way. As do all major standardized tests, the LSAT employs a scaled scoring system, in an attempt to compare student performance across different test administrations. The June test administered in 2008 is not the same test as the October test in 2008. Simply because they’re different, they may vary slightly in difficulty, and scaling scores allows LSAC to account for those minor differences. Therefore, although on any given test a student will need to answer about 81 questions correctly in order to get a 164 (currently the 90th%), on some tests, 79 points will get you there, and on others, it may take as many as 83.
In other words, if a test is more difficult, you will be “rewarded” with a higher scaled score for the points you earned, simply because the scale is a measure of how you compare to other students who took the test, not really a measure of how well you did on the test in absolute terms.
However, the test is pretty well standardized by this point, so we can say that there is a pretty close correspondence between points earned, percentile rank, and scaled score. Like this:
|People who score:||Typically get about this many questions right:||And have done better than this percent of all testers:|
The Average Question
In June of 2006, the American Bar Association changed its rule on score reporting for its accredited member schools. This bit of arcana is important to you because (if you’ve taken the LSAT more than once) it may have the effect of making you more attractive to law schools nowadays than you would have been before. Here’s how:
Prior to the ‘06 change in reporting, the ABA required its schools to report the average of the scores from any students or prospective students who had more than one active LSAT score on file with the Law School Data Assembly Service (notable, but not unique, among those agencies is the publication US News and World Report, which compiles, among other things, annual rankings of law schools based in part on the LSAT scores of applicants and admitted students).
In other words, if you took the LSAT in February of ‘03 and scored 155, then you took a class with us, took the test again in June and scored 165, the ABA required every law school to which you applied to report your score to any reporting agency as a 160.
This meant that even though you had scored 165 on the LSAT (roughly in the 93rd percentile of all test-takers) your score would have been published to all reporting agencies as 160 (roughly the 80th percentile). This reporting requirement made it more likely for schools to treat your application as though you’d scored just 160.
But, with the ABA’s decision to allow its schools the option of reporting the higher of an applicant’s scores, if you were to take both the February and June tests in 2012, and achieve the same results as in the earlier example, you would most likely see your score reported as 165. You would then be correspondingly more likely to be treated by law schools as a 165-scorer.
So, that’s better, right?
Now, mind you - it’s still the best advice to take the test only once. It’s good to know that re-taking the test is now a much more viable option than in the past, but you want to do this: Study hard, work it out, and get your highest score the first time you take it. Then, you won’t have to worry about it ever again.
Now, Do The Math
Look; we know you’re not here just because you feel like boning up on some symbolic logic. You’re not here because you have oodles of free time on your hands and can’t think of anything better to do with it, nor because you burn for the nonstop thrill ride that is the average LSAT Reading Comprehension section.
You’re here because you understand that conquering the LSAT is a necessary step along the road you’ve chosen. You’re here because you want to go to law school.
Right here at the beginning, then (if you have not already done this), let’s take a minute to do some math and set some concrete goals. On the LSAT, as with so much else in life, you’ll find it easier to get where you’re going when you know where you want to end up. Here are some questions that we think you should consider as you begin your quest for global domination:
- What law school/s do you want to attend? Why that/those school/s?
- What’s the median LSAT score at those schools? What’s the 75th%? The 25th%?
- What’s your current LSAT score? (If you don’t know this, then put this book down right now and go take a real, previously administered LSAT (you can find one at lsac.org). Then come back. We’ll wait here for you).
- How many more questions will you need to get right in order to have an LSAT score that’s competitive at the school/s you’re looking at? (The chart above can provide you with the comparative data you need to answer this).
Now, you have a number. The size of this number goes a long way toward telling you how much work you have ahead of you; refer to it for motivation, to help track your progress, and to meter your success. Plus, if you’re feeling spunky, you could take it to Vegas and bet it heavy at the Roulette wheel.
The Bottom Line
The LSAT is a difficult test that rewards your ability to think quickly and clearly under pressure, to read well and deeply in a limited time frame, and most importantly, to balance a succession of claims against the evidence offered in their support. An awful lot like law school, actually. An awful lot like the practice of law, too.
In our comprehensive, ass-kicking LSAT video course, we’ll walk you through a rigorous, carefully constructed program that will help you develop the skills essential to your success on this test. Every lesson is organized around three central tenets:
- First Principles.
In every section, we’ll introduce to you the rules of logic that dictate the structure and content of the LSAT. These principles are the foundations upon which the LSAT is built, and understanding them is the first step toward mastering the test. In addition to principles of logic, we’ll also demonstrate for you principles of approach – you’ll learn a cogent, global plan for attacking the LSAT, and for teaching it not to mess with you.
- Test Patterns.
In these pages, we’ll also use our deep knowledge of the history of the LSAT to introduce to you the repeated structures of thought and practice in the test-writers’ approach to the material. You’ll benefit from our experience and learn to anticipate the common formulations of test material, questions, and right – and wrong! – answer choices.
- Attack Plans.
We’ll show you detailed and specific methods for understanding what each question on the test asks from you, and powerful, consistent methodologies for dealing with each. Our task-specific Attack Plans derive from the demands set forth by the test-writers, and reflect both First Principles and Test Patterns in order to build a systematic, cohesive advance against the evil monolith of the LSAT. (OK. Maybe the prose got a little away from us there. But still; you get the point).
The bottom line? By the time we’re done with you, you’ll have all the tools you’ll need to be a fierce logician and an LSAT Kung Fu master.
The rest is up to you. Are you ready?