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Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

2016-17 Test Dates:

  • Saturday, September 24, 2016
  • Saturday, December 3, 2016
  • Saturday, February 4, 2017

The LSAT is an admission requirement for all ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. It is given four times a year (usually June, September/October, December and February) and is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) (link below). The June test is given on a Monday afternoon and the others on a Saturday morning. Individuals who observe a Saturday Sabbath may take the October, December or February test on either the prior Thursday or the following Monday.

You can get a copy of the LSAT & LSDAS Information Book — which gives detailed information about test dates, sites, fees, registration, and deadlines, as well as a full-length sample test downloaded directly from 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. Download a fee waiver packet (link below) from the LSAC website. The application must be submitted in a timely manner to be considered, usually two months before the test date and can be submitted online. Fee waivers are only available if you are a US or Canadian citizen, a US national, or a permanent resident alien of the United States with an Alien Registration Receipt Card ( I-151 or I-551).

Fee waivers are available for the following services: two LSATs (test dates must fall within the two-year waiver period); an LSDAS registration, which includes the letter of recommendation service and the electronic law school application service; four free LSDAS Law School Reports – available only after LSDAS registration is complete; and one free copy of the Official LSAT SuperPrep®. Fee waivers cannot be applied retroactively.

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. Depending on the type of accommodation you require, it may be necessary to submit the results of a recent psychoeducational or neuropsychological battery of tests. This can be a lengthy process so be sure to start at least six months prior to the test date.

More information for people with disabilities (see the Applying to Law School page).

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Release of Information to Home Institution

One item in the registration for the LSDAS/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?

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.

A free sample test is available in the LSAT/LSDAS registration book (link below), or at the LSAC website.

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When to Take the LSAT

It is highly recommended that you take the LSAT in June of your junior year or September/October of your senior year if you plan to go to law school right after graduation. A June test date allows you time to adequately prepare for the test without the demands of course work. You will receive your scores in mid-June when you can assess your record and begin deciding to which schools you will apply.

If a June date is impossible, you may also take the LSAT in late September or early October. 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 recommend waiting 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 $1500 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

In the past, the American Bar Association required law schools to report each admitted applicant’s LSAT score as an average of all scores that a given applicant received on the LSAT. For example, if an applicant took the LSAT twice and received scores of 150 and 160, his or her score would be averaged and treated as 155. And of course, any improvement in score had to be weighed against the cost and investment of time required to retake the exam. As a result of this policy, it was not advised to repeat the LSAT unless they were extremely confident that their score would improve dramatically.

Now, however, the ABA has adopted a new policy that permits law schools to report an applicant’s highest LSAT. This has changed the calculus somewhat for students who are considering retaking the LSAT, since in theory, most schools will now permit you to receive the full benefit of any improvement in your score. However, you should still 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. Given the ABA’s policy change, 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. Note that the new ABA policy does not require law schools to give you the benefit of your highest LSAT score. Someone recently did a careful study, and produced a table showing the announced policies of many different law schools. A good place to begin would be to check your law schools’ policy on this list; you can access the study (link below). However, the Ramapo College Pre-Law Advisor cannot monitor the policies of each law school. 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.

In short, under the new ABA policy, it may now be to your advantage to take the LSAT a second time, but only if you think your score will increase significantly. Also, if you do decide to retake the exam, and if your score does indeed increase substantially, admissions officers will wonder what explains the disparity between the two scores. In order to derive the full benefit from your improved score, you should include an addendum in your application explaining why you performed below your potential the first time you took the test. Also, note that the incentive to take the LSAT in the June following your junior year is now even greater, since if you do poorly, you may wish to retake the exam in September/October.

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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The Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) (link below) is a division of LSAC, and serves as a kind of clearinghouse of information related to your application. LSDAS 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 LSDAS 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 LSDAS, if you are applying to law school, you must register with LSDAS. If you were granted a fee waiver for the LSAT, it will also apply to the LSDAS registration and a total of four LSDAS law school reports. Applications for the following year’s admission are generally available online by August.

After registering, you are responsible for having all undergraduate schools send your official transcript to LSDAS. 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 LSDAS. You are not responsible for sending transcripts to the law schools, only to LSDAS. 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 LSDAS 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 LSDAS 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.

LSDAS also acts as a clearinghouse for letters of recommendation. Recommenders only have to send one original letter to LSDAS 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 LSDAS. Please visit our letters of recommendation page for more information.

Online applications are relatively new, and only became essentially universal during the 2005-2006 admission season. The user interface is not always as self-explanatory as you’d like. Accordingly, it is strongly recommended that you check out the LSDAS online demo video and FAQ page before starting to fill out your applications. These will give you a detailed overview of the process, and greatly reduce your stress and confusion. For more information on the substance of your application, please visit our Applications page.

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