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About the LSAT

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What is the LSAT?

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized examination for applicants to law schools in the United States, Canada, and Australia.The LSAT tests logical and verbal reasoning skills that are considered to be important in the study of law; thus, it is meant to predict applicants’ future performance in law school. It is not at all necessary to have any background knowledge of law to perform well on the LSAT, as it is purely a reasoning test.

The test is administered four times every year, and it is required for all US law schools and for most Canadian law schools (the exceptions being French civil law schools in Quebec, which do not require the LSAT because it is offered only in English). The LSAT is a crucial part of the law school admission process because it allows law schools to evaluate applicants objectively, without the biases that an applicant’s undergraduate GPA is subject to, such as grade inflation and differing levels of difficulty across different majors. While a high LSAT score does not guarantee entry into law school, a low score does render acceptance into selective schools unlikely.

The LSAT is a 3.5 hour test with scores ranging from 120 to 180, the median being about 151. There are six 35-minute sections on the LSAT, although only four of the sections determine the score. The other two are an unscored experimental section used to test new types of questions and a writing sample which is not scored, but a copy of which is sent to each law school a student applies to.

The LSAT is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). The test is offered in June, September/October, December, and February every year. When a student applies to a law school, LSAC sends all LSAT results for tests written over the past five years. Although some law schools consider the highest of the applicant’s scores, others consider the average of the scores; therefore, if an applicant feels that he has performed poorly on the LSAT, he might choose to cancel the score and try the test again the next time it is offered. However, an applicant may only cancel a score within six calendar days after the test took place (in other words, long before the the score becomes available); therefore, a candidate must decide whether or not to cancel the score before knowing the actual score. Also, applicants are limited to taking the LSAT a maximum of three times in a two-year span.

It is recommended that every student taking the LSAT prepare for the test beforehand, because the format and logic of some of the questions on the LSAT are unfamiliar to most people, and a student’s performance on the test generally improves significantly with increased familiarity with the questions and methods to tackle the questions. Also, since many students have trouble finishing each section within the allotted 35 minutes, it is suggested that students practice writing the test under actual time constraints beforehand. We, at Ivy Global are prepared to equip you with the skills and strategies needed to maximize your results. Ivy Global offers both LSAT Classes and LSAT tutoring.

What is the format of the LSAT?

The LSAT is 3 hours and 30 minutes long. It is composed of six sections, 35 minutes each:

  • Two logical reasoning sections (24-26 questions each)
  • One reading comprehension section (26-28 questions)
  • One analytical reasoning section (22-24 questions)
  • One experimental section (22-28 questions)
  • One writing sample section

The essay is always the last section on the LSAT, but the other five sections, which are in multiple-choice format, may come in any order. The experimental section is not identified as such. The experimental section may be a logical reasoning, reading comprehension, or analytical reasoning section, and is used by LSAC to test new questions for designing future tests.

The raw score is the number of correct answers from the four scored sections. There is no penalty for wrong answers. Raw scores are converted to scaled scores ranging from 120 to 180 using a statistical method called equating. Below is a table correlating scaled score to percentile rank. Thus, if a law school requires that applicants score above the 90th percentile, they must score above approximately 163.

See a list of LSAT percentile scores here.

Analytical Reasoning

The analytical reasoning section (also known as the “games” section) tests students’ ability to logically analyze a system of relationships created by a set of rules. With 22-24 questions to be completed within 35 minutes, it is the most abstract section on the LSAT and is meant to evaluate a student’s capacity for the conceptual problem solving required in legal studies. Many students, especially those with backgrounds in the arts and humanities, find it the most difficult of all the sections on the LSAT, partly because it is so different from questions ordinarily encountered in school.

Each analytical reasoning section contains four separate “games,” each of which contains 5-7 questions. Each game involves a situation involving various people, objects, or events, and various rules governing how these entities can be organized. Games involve grouping, sequencing, or matching. The questions require students to draw logical conclusions from the rules; a question might also add or negate a rule and ask how the possible ways to organize the entities are thus affected.

Types of Games

Sequencing games require analyzing the different possible ways in which the entities can be ordered. For example, the rules might govern how the employees in a store can work various shifts on different days of a week, or how a doctor can order the patients that he sees during 30-minute time slots on a certain day.

Grouping games require analyzing the different possible ways in which the entities can be organized into one or more groups. For example, the rules might govern how eight politicians can be grouped into three committees, or how a student might choose three summer courses out of six offered. Matching games require matching an attribute or characteristic to each of the entities. For example, the rules might govern whether each of five flights is domestic or international, or whether each of six members of a team is a man or a woman. Many games do not fall under one of the three categories but contain elements of two types.

Study Strategies for the Analytical Reasoning Section

  1. Practice drawing diagrams. This is absolutely essential for the games section; it is practically impossible to keep all the information and every step in a chain of logic in your head.
  2. Before even looking at the questions, scrutinize the situation and the rules and make as many deductions as possible. Games always require you to follow one logical deduction with another, followed by a third, etc. Make sure that your diagrams exhaust all the logical deductions that can be drawn from rules. Once you do this, you might already have the answers to some of the questions.
  3. Replace each object with the first letter of its name. The games sections are designed so that no two entities in the same game ever start with the same letter. What the objects actually are does not matter at all, and will only distract you; for example, if a game involves traveling to different combinations of cities, out of Moscow, Nice, Oakland, Portland, and Quebec City, forget that they are cities and simply think of them as M, N, O, P, and Q to help you focus on the systematic relationships between them.
  4. Often, the different possibilities in a situation can be divided into two main groups. For example, if you go to Portland, one set of sub-rules applies, but if you do not go to Portland, a very different set of sub-rules applies. Draw two different diagrams for these two groups of possibilities, and practice identifying such situations.

Logical Reasoning

The logical reasoning sections (also known as the “arguments” sections) are perhaps the most important, because they make up two of the four scored sections and thus determine half of the LSAT score. The logical reasoning sections have 24 to 26 questions and must be completed within 35 minutes.

Every logical reasoning question consists of a paragraph and a question. The paragraph is an argument or a set of facts, and the question asks about some aspect of the paragraph’s logic. The logical reasoning questions are meant to assess students’ ability to comprehend, analyze, and find flaws in arguments expressed in standard English, skills that are deemed important to legal studies. These questions require students to identify the evidence and the conclusion in an argument, to draw analogies between arguments using parallel logic, to identify logical flaws and assumptions, and to identify additional information or principles that might strengthen or weaken an argument.

Although the majority of paragraphs are followed by only one question, occasionally a paragraph might be associated with a pair of questions.

Types of Logical Reasoning Questions

The questions in the logical reasoning sections can be categorized into several types. When studying for the logical reasoning section, most students find it helpful to become familiar with each type of question one at a time and to develop a strategy for tackling each type of question. The first three types in the list below appear most commonly.

  1. Assumption and Principle questions ask you to identify an unwritten assumption or principle on which the argument depends. A good way to solve these questions is to think of the inverse: if the assumption or principle were not true, then the argument would not hold.
  2. Strengthen/Weaken questions ask you to choose an additional piece of evidence that would strengthen or weaken the argument. Note that it is not necessary for the correct answer to actually prove or disprove the argument, but only to bring it closer to or farther away from validity.
  3. Flaw questions ask you to identify a flaw in the argument. Often, these involve visualizing the chain of logic leading from the evidence to the conclusion and identifying the one specific point in the sequence of logic which is not necessarily true.
  4. Method of Argument questions ask you to analyze and explain the method with which the argument links the evidence to the conclusion. Note that this type of question does not ask you to find the flaw in the argument, even if there is one.
  5. In Parallel Logic questions each answer choice provides an argument, and you are required to find the one which employs the same method of argument as the original argument. Some students find these questions very time-consuming because they essentially involve six Method of Argument questions; therefore, it is a good idea to leave these questions untill the end.
  6. In Disagreement questions two arguments by two authors are given, and you are asked to identify the point on which they disagree.
  7. Paradox questions ask you to identify an additional piece of evidence or fact that would resolve an apparent paradox in the argument.
  8. Inference questions ask you to logically draw an additional conclusion from the evidence provided in the argument.

Study Strategies for the Logical Reasoning Section

  1. Learn to identify which portion of the argument is the evidence, and which portion is the conclusion. Simply underlining the sentence that makes up the conclusion and labelling it “C” can greatly help you visualize the structure of the argument. (Important: the conclusion is not necessarily at the end of the argument!) This is very important even if the question does not directly ask you to identify the conclusion, because it is impossible to understand the sequence of logic in an argument (and associated assumptions, flaws, etc.) without separating the evidence from the conclusion.
  2. Draw diagrams illustrating the sequence of logic leading from the evidence to the conclusion. Although diagrams are not nearly as important for logical reasoning questions as for analytical reasoning questions, they can still be quite useful as a visual method to analyze an argument’s logic. As you become more experienced, you can visualize diagrams in your mind rather than actually drawing them out.
  3. Practice each of the question types individually – for example, do ten Assumption questions, then ten Flaw questions, then five Method of Argument questions, etc. This way, you can more effectively learn strategies for tackling each type of question.

Reading Comprehension

The reading comprehension section tests students’ ability to comprehend and analyze passages of a complexity similar to that of texts encountered in law school. It contains 26-28 questions, to be completed within 35 minutes. It is divided into three long passages and one pair of short passages, followed by 5-8 questions each. The passages may be about any topic within the fields of arts and humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and law, and it is not necessary to have any background knowledge of the topic of a passage in order to answer the questions correctly. Each long passage is about 400-500 words, and each of the paired passages is about 200-250 words.

The questions ask about the passage as a whole as well as about specific details within the passage. Typical questions require identifying a passage’s main idea, delineating the structure of a passage, locating a specific piece of information within the passage, and inferring additional information that is not directly written in the passage. The paired passages also have questions asking whether the two authors agree or disagree and whether the two passages differ in structure or meaning.

Study Strategies for the Reading Comprehension Section

  1. Practice identifying the main idea of a passage and the main points of every paragraph. Translate the main points of the passage into an outline in order to better visualize the structure and organization of a passage.
  2. Be aware of common reading comprehension question types. The same types of questions occur over and over again as reading comprehension questions. You should familiarize yourself with the different ways these questions are asked and keep them in mind while you are reading the passage.
  3. Some students find that it is more effective for them to read the questions before reading the passage. Label on the passage the pieces of information that the questions require, so that you can focus on finding them and skim through the rest of the passage. This method is particularly useful for students who have trouble finishing the section in 35 minutes.

Writing Sample

The writing sample section is not scored, but a digital copy of the essay is sent along with the LSAT score. This section is always at the end of the LSAT. Students are given 35 minutes to write an essay based on a prompt which presents a dilemma or situation and two possible solutions. Students must choose to support one of the two options and write an essay evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the two options and explaining why the chosen one is better.

The importance of the LSAT writing sample depends on the law schools to which you apply and the rest of your application. Since law school applications require personal statements, the LSAT writing sample is unlikely to be the primary way in which law schools evaluate applicants’ writing skills. Nonetheless, surveys suggest the majority of law schools do consider the writing sample at least occasionally when evaluating applicants.

Study Strategies for the Writing Sample

  1. Practice writing a few essays using prompts from previous years' LSATs. Make sure that you are able to create a strong, effective essay with introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion within 35 minutes.
  2. Become familiar with evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of two options to resolve a problem, as is required by the LSAT writing sample prompts.
  3. Make sure that your handwriting is legible and neat.


How can Ivy Global help me?

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