Everyone applying to a law school in the United States and Canada must take the LSAT, which is offered four times each year at various locations in the United States and Canada and throughout the world. The LSAC website contains specific test location and scheduling information.
You must have an official admission ticket to take the test, which is obtained by registering online with the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). You must register four to five weeks prior to the exam.
- The admission ticket specifies the date of the test, instructions and procedures that must be followed, and the site where you are registered to take the exam.
- You must present current valid government-issued photo identification bearing your signature (such as a a valid drivers license or unexpired passport), as well as recent passport-size photo of yourself at the exam site.
- Your name on the admission ticket, on the photo identification, and on the LSAC-prepared registration sheet held at the exam site must match exactly!
You must pay a registration fee to the LSAC (at the time of registration) each time you take the exam. In cases of extreme financial need, the LSAC may waive the registration fee (see the Sidebar for more information).
The LSAT is made up of five 35-minute sections:
- one reading comprehension section
- one analytical reasoning section
- one logical reasoning section
- one variable section, used by the LSAC to pretest new test items
- one writing sample
Three of the first four sections are used for the student's score (one of the sections is being "pre-tested" for validity; LSAC does not identify which one is the "pre-test" section). The writing sample is not scored, but a copy is sent to each school where the student applies.
The exam takes approximately 7 hours to complete, and there is a 15 minute break given part way through the test when participants may rest and have a snack.
The LSAC publishes a specific list of items that are permitted and prohibited in the LSAT exam room.
LSAT scores range from 120 to 180, with a median score of 150. The scores are not distributed evenly along the scale.
- Approximately 80% of the participants' scores fall in the middle 25 points of the 60 point scale.
- A modest percentile difference near the ends of the scale can significantly impact your score.
LSAT scores can be accessed over the web or by phone (for a fee) from the LSAC within three weeks after the exam. Your score will be mailed to you in four to five weeks after the test.
For individuals who take the test more than once, some law schools will average the scores or take the lower of the test results. Historically, students do not improve their score significantly by retaking the exam, although if there is a substantial reason for low performance the first time (for example, a death in the family, illness, a mechanical problem with the exam itself), you may want to consider taking the LSAT again.
Since you should plan to take the test only once, advance preparation is important! You should plan to spend four to six hours per week for the four to six weeks before the exam studying and preparing. There are various ways to prepare:
- Review old LSAT exams to become familiar with the types of questions asked; a copy of one exam is included in the LSAT Registration and Information Book
- LSAC publishes a variety of books that include previous exams (see the Sidebar on this page for a partial listing)
- Shortly before taking the test, practice with the most recent exam versions available from LSAC ($8 each on the website)
- Practice taking the sample tests under the actual time constraints
- Bookstores have various publications available that provide assistance in preparing for the LSAT
- Free preparation materials, tests, explanations and videos are available from Get Prepped
- Some students find preparatory courses offered by Kaplan, Princeton Review Bar Bri, or Prepmaster Review Service to be helpful (Calvin does not endorse any specific preparatory course)
Generally, students are advised to take the LSAT in February or June during their Junior Year of college. You would then receive your score in the spring, allowing you to make decisions about whether and where to apply during the summer. Most law schools require applicants to take the LSAT by December at the latest to be considered for admission the following fall.