Conquering the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test)!

What is the LSAT and how important is it? #

The Law School Admission Test evaluates applicants in the areas of reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and logical analysis. The 3 ½ hour exam is the single most important element in your application. The LSAT for law schools is much more important than the SAT or ACT is for undergraduate programs. At most law schools, your LSAT score is weighed more heavily than your GPA. This score will also largely determine the level of any financial aid you receive.

What is a good LSAT score? While national average score is always around a 150, a competitive score varies from school to school for the purposes of admission. In general, a score at or above a school's median LSAT is considered competitive. A score near or below 25th percentile makes the school a reach.

The sooner you begin to familiarize yourself with this exam, the better. The Health Professions and Prelaw Center has all past disclosed LSAT exams available for you to borrow at no charge. No appointment is necessary — just ask at our reception desk (please bring your student ID).

For more information, to register for this exam, find out future dates and registration deadlines, or take a full-length diagnostic test, see the official Law School Admission Council site.

When should I take the LSAT? #

Take the LSAT only when you are ready. In deciding, consider when you plan to apply. Virtually every law school has a "rolling admissions" policy, which means they begin admitting applicants long before the deadline to apply. We recommend that you try to apply in the fall by Thanksgiving. The latest you can submit material without fear of being late is the beginning of January. Note that by the time deadlines arrive the school may have relatively few openings left.

The LSAT is usually offered 8–9 times throughout the year. Check the calendar at the LSAC website.

Many students take the exam in June after their junior year if they are planning to start law school right after graduation. September–November exams are fine, and will give you enough time to submit application material by November or December. Note that the January exam scores may arrive too late for many of the top ranked schools, but may be fine for other schools. If you plan to take the exam in January, call your schools to see if it will put you at any disadvantage. However, many students successfully plan on taking the exam for the first time in November, and, if unavoidable, in January. If you are considering the January LSAT, call your schools to see if this would put you at any disadvantage.

After January 1 the competition for seats at many schools starts to increase dramatically. If you are planning on taking the January LSAT, be sure to submit your material over winter break (i.e., before your scores arrive!).

Keep in mind also the time needed for preparing for the exam — it can be like adding a 4-credit independent study course to your schedule. We suggest that you budget three to four months for preparation (some students may need up to six months).

Come meet with a prelaw advisor to talk over your plans and set a solid strategy for the exam.

How should I prepare for the LSAT? #

Applicants should expect to prepare for the exam for at least three to four months in advance of the test date (some students may need up to six months). Since the LSAT does not test knowledge of a particular subject, the goal of studying is to become familiar with the test format, and develop methods to answer questions with speed and accuracy.

One element of preparation should be to take actual past exams under strictly timed conditions. Standard advice is to try to include ten or more full-length diagnostic exams in your preparation. All disclosed past LSAT exams are available from HPPLC at no charge to students — just ask at our reception desk.

The LSAC offers free LSAT prep material, including a full-length exam. We recommend you take ten to fifteen full-length exams during your preparation.

Take a timed practice LSAT test early on to see how much work lies ahead, and find out if one section is weaker that the others. Don’t worry about preparing before taking a diagnostic exam, and don’t be surprised if your first score is low. The idea is to get a perspective on how much future preparation you will need in order to obtain the score you desire.

Prep courses are not necessary for all applicants, but they can help many students. HPPLC offers a low-cost, 20-hour prep class. Visit the HPPLC website for more information about the HPPLC LSAT Preparation Workshop.

Many applicants will prepare quite well on their own. HPPLC often has names of reasonably priced LSAT tutors—email us if interested. A HPPLC prelaw advisor can help you devise an LSAT prep strategy that is right for you.

In general, the more practice exams you can take under proctored, test-like conditions, the better. But do keep in mind that such events are not offered only as a public service. They are also marketing tools, and some can be offered as part of a strategy to induce you to pay for their commercial course. Diagnostic testing can be stressful, and your score will likely be low, especially if you have not prepared much beforehand. In other words, at the conclusion of the test you might be especially vulnerable to a persuasive sales pitch. We suggest you take your time and not decide on the spot. While many students benefit from commercial courses, many do just as well on their own. You need to thoughtfully decide what is best for you.

"My LSAT is on the low side, but I have a high GPA, three majors, great letters, two internships with law firms, I was a TA, am a leader in lots of extra-curriculars.....I should be okay, right?"

With rare exceptions, it is very difficult to compensate for a relatively lower LSAT score. If you do not do well on standardized tests, start preparing as soon as reasonably possible. If you have a record of outperforming what standardized tests have predicted for you (e.g., you had low SAT or ACT scores, yet have a high GPA in college), an explanatory letter of addendum may be in order. A HPPLC prelaw advisor can help you with this document.