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Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

2020-2021 Test Dates:

  • Saturday, October 3, 2020
  • Saturday, November 7, 2020
  • Saturday, January 16, 2021
  • Saturday, February 20, 2021
  • Saturday, April 10, 2021

The LSAT is an admission requirement for all ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. It is given multiple times a year and is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) (link below).

Note: The LSAC website is very comprehensive and is updated frequently. You should refer to it often, throughout the law school application process.

Fee Waivers

LSAC will grant fee waivers to applicants with demonstrated financial need. Check out the website and instructions (link below) from the LSAC website.

Many law schools will waive their application fees if you have been granted a fee waiver from LSAC. You will find information about fee waivers in the application materials from the law schools.

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Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities

LSAC will accommodate students who cannot take the LSAT at the regularly scheduled testing times or under their usual testing conditions. For instance, you can arrange to take an untimed test or use a large print or Braille test if you can document your needs. You can get an Accommodations Request Packet (link below) from LSAC’s Accommodations website.

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Release of Information to Home Institution

One item in the registration for the CAS/LSAT authorizes LSAC to release your LSAT, biographical, academic, and application information to your “home institution.” That’s us, the Ramapo College Pre-Law Advisor. Please check yes! This numerical data is extremely helpful to us in advising future students applying to law school. LSAC produces reports for Pre-Law Advisors that help us assist other Ramapo College law school applicants to assess their prospects of getting admitted to the school of their choice. The data from these reports are only available in the aggregate, and your personal information will never be released by the Pre-Law Advisor.

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What Will the Test be Like?

Typically, the LSAT consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions, each containing one of three different question types:

  • Reading comprehension questions
  • Analytic reasoning questions
  • Logical thinking questions

One of the five sections is not scored because it is an experimental test question section. You will not know which of the five sections is the unscored one. After you have completed the multiple-choice questions, you will have 35 minutes to write an essay on a given topic. The essay question is not scored and serves solely as a writing sample but copies of the writing sample are sent to all law schools to which you apply. With breaks and administration time, the whole process may take over five hours.

Given the current COVID crisis, the LSAT is for now given in a slightly different format, as LSAT-Flex. The LSAT-Flex is composed of three 35-minute scored sections (compared to the four 35-minute scored sections plus an unscored section in the traditional test). LSAT-Flex includes one section each of Reading Comprehension, Analytical Reasoning, and Logical Reasoning. Test takers continue to take LSAT Writing separate from the multiple-choice portion of the test. 

  • LSAT (see disclaimer below)

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When to Take the LSAT

It is highly recommended that you take the LSAT in Summer of your junior year or September/October of your senior year if you plan to go to law school right after graduation. A Summer test date allows you time to adequately prepare for the test without the demands of course work. For the LSAT-Flex, you will receive your scores 2-3 weeks after the test, for the regular LSAT, 3-4 weeks after the test.

If a Summer date is impossible, you may also take the LSAT in the Fall. Be warned though that you will find many demands on your time at the beginning of the semester and may not have enough time to adequately prepare. Some students, however, prefer the fall date because their minds are more attuned to intellectual matters, they are less tired than at the end of the semester, and they are less distracted by summer’s work or play. Judge the best time for yourself based on what you know about your own mind, test taking skills and work habits.

It is not recommended to wait until December or February of your Senior year to take the LSAT. You will not know your test scores when you have to decide to which schools you will apply. Also, most schools have rolling admissions which means they start accepting students as soon as they receive completed applications. The later you take the test, the longer it takes to complete your application and the fewer seats there are in the law school class for which you can compete. Many schools will not accept February test scores.

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Preparing for the LSAT

The stated purpose of the LSAT is to determine how well you have developed the skills necessary to excel at studying law. Law schools rely on your score as a prediction of how well you will do in your first year in law school.

The LSAT does not test you on any specific body of knowledge but rather on your ability to read and understand complex material, to reason logically, to analyze information, and to perform well in a timed, stressful situation. These should be the skills you have been developing throughout your undergraduate career.

To prepare for the LSAT, plan to spend at least 3-4 hours a week for at least two months prior to the test date. The most important things you can do to prepare for the LSAT are:

  • Review the test format, instructions, and question types. The test should look very familiar to you when you take it.
  • Work through sample questions and explanations to familiarize yourself with the different types of questions. Be sure to take several practice tests so you can get comfortable with the 35-minute sections.
  • Review at least one set of commercial preparation materials for important tips on approaching the problems, especially the so-called “logic games.”
  • Get copies of previously administered LSATs from LSAC’s website — they offer a number of different collections of old tests, some just with answers, and others with answers and explanations. Use a timer to simulate test conditions and work through a complete test. Do as many tests as you can.
  • Be physically as well as mentally prepared on the day of the test. Don’t try to cram the night before. Get plenty of sleep! And don’t forget to eat breakfast.
  • Don’t psych yourself out of doing well on the test. It is very easy to convince yourself that you “don’t do well on standardized tests” or, for whatever reasons, can’t do well on the LSAT. Don’t do this to yourself. Aim for a high score and then prepare well to make it happen. There is every reason to believe that you can do well on this test.

If you spend sufficient time working through previous tests, you will familiarize yourself with the test format and get practice developing your analytic and reasoning skills further. This will improve your test score.

You can get practice materials from LSAC and from commercial publishers. It is recommended that you only practice on actual prior LSATs. Avoid using materials which are called “model LSAT questions.”

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Should I Take a Commercial Preparation Course?

Well, this is the $1,500 question. The decision to take a commercial prep course is a personal one. These courses are not a prerequisite to a good performance on the LSAT, nor do they guarantee a higher score than preparation on your own. The courses are very expensive and the quality of instruction can be uneven. If you are considering taking one of these courses, be sure to talk to others who have already taken the course at the same location, and preferably from the same instructor. Remember, however, that not every student has the same study skills, so another person’s experience is only relevant if you are sure you have the same work habits.

Also remember that commercial preparation companies are in the business of making money. Alternate, less costly, means of preparation are available. Be skeptical of any course that makes extravagant claims about its ability to raise your score. Although most courses “guarantee” a higher score at the end of the class, you should realize that this is a very easy claim to make — with even the most minimal instruction, your score is likely to go up from your diagnostic test score. Moreover, the guarantee does not usually offer you your money back, just the right to take the course over.

What the commercial courses do best is provide the structure and discipline to get you to do the work you could do on your own. They may also boost your confidence so that you can relax more when you take the exam. In the end, the decision on commercial prep courses depends on what you know about your own learning skills and the conditions that will best help you prepare.

If you do take a course, remember that just showing up for the classes will not be sufficient. Expect to put in significant time outside of the classes if you want to improve your score.

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Retaking the LSAT

The law schools you applied to will receive your LSAT Score Report, which includes:

  • Your current score.
  • Results of all reportable tests — up to 12 — including absences and cancellations for standard LSAT takers and cancellations only for LSAT-Flex takers due to the ongoing challenges related to COVID-19. An LSAT (or LSAT-Flex) result is reportable for up to five testing years after the testing year in which the score is earned.
  • An average score, if you have more than one reportable score on file. Note that LSAT scores and LSAT-Flex scores are averaged separately.
  • Your score band.
  • Your percentile rank, which reflects the percentage of test takers whose scores were lower than yours during the previous three testing years. A percentile rank is reported for each of your scores.

You should think carefully before retaking the LSAT, bearing in mind the following considerations:

  • The cost and time required to retake the exam. It’s not free and studying takes time and is stressful.
  • The risk that your score may not increase significantly or may even go down. There is a good possibility that you will do the same, or possibly even worse, on the retest. In recent years, data has shown that as many as 25% of retakers saw their test score go down. Of those whose scores went up, the average increase was approximately 4 points. Even if your score does improve, note that law schools will continue to see all of your scores. A score on a second taking of the LSAT that is only a few points higher than the original score will not impress the admissions officers, as it suggests that the applicant consistently performs within a narrow range.
  • How many times you have already taken the LSAT. Currently, you are limited to three times in a single testing year (the testing year goes from June 1 to May 31), five times within the current and five past testing years (the period in which LSAC reports scores to law schools), and a total of seven times over a lifetime. It may be advisable to take the test twice, if you perform below what you consider to be your potential on the first exam. However, it is rarely to your advantage to take the exam three or more times. As noted above, law school admissions staff will see all your scores. Some admissions officers say that the sight of multiple test scores on a candidate’s record does not make a good impression.
  • The specific policies of each school. Law schools are not required to give you the benefit of your highest LSAT score. Therefore, before deciding whether to retake the LSAT, you should check with law schools to which you are considering applying to learn its policy on multiple LSAT scores.

If you become ill during the test, or for some other reason know with certainty that you did not perform at your best, you may cancel your test score by notifying LSAC within a specified period of time.

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CAS

The Credential Assembly Service (CAS) (link below) is a division of LSAC, and serves as a kind of clearinghouse of information related to your application. CAS centralizes all your data, including your academic record, your LSAT score(s) and your letters of recommendation. In addition, access to online law school applications is included with your CAS registration. All schools are encouraging the online completion and transmission of applications, and many are now requiring it.

In short, while you can take the LSAT without registering for CAS, if you are applying to law school, you must register with CAS. After registering, you are responsible for having all undergraduate schools send your official transcript to CAS. Even if you only took one course at another institution, you must have an official transcript sent, unless you took the classes through a Ramapo Exchange program. Courses which were transferred to Ramapo appear on your Ramapo transcript as credit earned but LSAC needs the grade as well. Transcript request forms can be downloaded from the LSAC website. For information on ordering your Ramapo transcript, download the Official Transcript Request Form.

When you submit an application to a law school, the school will request a copy of your report from CAS. You are not responsible for sending transcripts to the law schools, only to CAS. The report that is sent out includes:

  • your year-by-year grade and academic credit summary
  • copies of all your transcripts
  • your GPA for each year and a cumulative GPA
  • a description of your overall grade distribution
  • the mean GPA of other students at your undergraduate school who have registered with CAS and your percentile rank among those students
  • your LSAT scores, including cancellations and absences
  • an average LSAT score if you have taken the test more than once
  • a copy of your LSAT writing sample
  • the mean LSAT score for students from your undergraduate school

Your GPA as computed by CAS may not be exactly the same as your Ramapo GPA. This is because LSAC handles certain grades differently. The most common difference for Ramapo students is when you retake a class — Ramapo does not include the first time you took the class in calculating your GPA. LSAC does include that first grade, so your GPA as reported by LSAC may be lower.

CAS also acts as a clearinghouse for letters of recommendation. Recommenders only have to send one original letter to CAS which will send them out to the law schools you apply to. Most law schools either require or prefer that you submit your letters of recommendation through CAS. Please visit our letters of recommendation page for more information.

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