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What is the LSAT?

So, what is the LSAT? Great question! The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is the exam you have to take if you want to apply to JD programs at law schools in the US or Canada. It’s administered worldwide by LSAC (the Law School Admission Council), and is designed to provide “a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills.”

In other words, it tests your ability to read critically and think logically.

LSAT Overview

But what is the LSAT like, in terms of structure and content?

The LSAT consists of three types of multiple choice sections (Reading Comprehension, Logical Reasoning, and Analytical Reasoning) and a writing sample. While the exact number of questions can vary by one or two from test to test, there are always roughly 100 scored questions on the exam.
 

Reading Comprehension (>25%)

If you’ve ever taken a standardized test, you’ve probably seen a section like this. The Reading Comprehension section presents a number of passages (usually an excerpt from an essay, article, book, etc…) and a group of multiple choice questions for each passage. The questions typically ask you to assess the passage’s purpose, main idea, structure, or tone. They also might require you to analyze and compare the perspectives of various voices within the passage.

There is one Reading Comprehension section on the LSAT and it usually contains around 27 questions. It is divided into three single passages (each with their own set of questions) and one pair of passages (which share a single question set between them). The paired passages aren’t very different from the single passages, but the accompanying questions demand that you compare the two passages and find points of agreement and points of divergence.

This section is worth just over 25% of your total score.

Logical Reasoning (50%)

The Logical Reasoning section will probably be new to most of you, unless you’ve taken the GMAT. In Logical Reasoning (LR), you’ll be provided with a short stimulus (an argument or a set of facts) and you’ll be asked a single question about it. There are many question types within this section, but each revolves around one of a few basic skills: identifying unstated assumptions in arguments, making valid inferences based on facts provided, or accurately analyzing the structure of an argument.

There are two Logical Reasoning sections on the LSAT and each contains about 25 questions. There is rarely more than one question per stimulus, but now and then you’ll see two questions in a row that relate to the same stimulus. Questions tend to get more difficult as the section progresses, but it’s not a straight progression; there are usually a few tougher questions early in the section and a few easier questions toward the end.

The Logical Reasoning sections are worth about 50% of your score.

To learn more about this section, visit Magoosh’s Logical Reasoning Library for dozens of articles covering question types, strategies, and where to find practice material targeted to your specific needs.

Analytical Reasoning (<25%)

The Analytical Reasoning section is commonly referred to as Logic Games (LG), and is the most notorious section of the LSAT. It has gained its reputation mainly because it’s unlike any section on other standardized tests, so many people are unsure of how to handle it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the most difficult section. In fact, it’s the most learnable section on the exam, and it’s where the largest score gains are typically made.

The section consists of a number of “games.” Each game will revolve around a fairly common task (picking teams, scheduling classes, matching clothes, etc…) and a set of rules limiting the ways in which the task can be performed (for example, your team must include two males, or you can’t take Chemistry before Algebra). There will be a set of 5-7 accompanying questions, all of which will essentially ask you to determine various outcomes, both possible and impossible.

There is one Analytical Reasoning section on the test, and it always contains four different games. In recent years, the section has consistently had 23 questions. There is no predictable order of difficulty to the questions or games. However, you can be sure that the four games will not be equal in terms of difficulty. There is usually at least one very difficult game and one fairly easy game.

The Analytical Reasoning section is worth about 23% of your score.

If you’re looking for more help with this section, check out our posts on Diagramming Common LSAT Logic Games, or Logic Games Tips and Tricks. You can also visit our Analytical Reasoning Library for quick access to all of our posts related to the Analytical Reasoning section.

The Writing Sample (0%…sort of)

The writing sample on the LSAT is always the last section of the exam. It is an argument prompt, presenting you with some background facts about a decision that needs to be made. There are always two options to choose from, and you will be provided with some criteria on which to base your decision. Your task is to state and defend your decision using the facts presented and any outside knowledge or independent reasoning.

The writing sample is not scored. Instead, it is included in your LSAC law school report and sent in its entirety to any schools to which you apply. Law schools vary in the weight they give the writing sample in their admission decisions, but it can almost certainly tip the scales when two applicants are otherwise evenly matched.

In other words, don’t ignore it just because it isn’t scored. It can make the difference for some applicants.

Conclusion

The LSAT is going to test your ability to read carefully, think clearly, and argue effectively. These are skills that will be critical to success in law school. Thus, the LSAT is widely considered one of the most valuable predictors of law school performance. Admission officers regard LSAT scores highly when looking at an application–only undergraduate GPA and work experience come close to the LSAT’s importance as factors in admission decisions.

So, prepare thoroughly for the exam and give yourself plenty of time to reach your full potential before registering. If you take it multiple times, some law schools will average your scores (though that policy is fading fast). Thus, it’s better to do it right the first time rather than fighting an uphill battle to increase your average score over multiple takes.

I hope this gives you a good idea of what to expect from the LSAT. If you have other questions, check out the rest of the blog for tons of helpful info. If you can’t find an answer to your question there, contact us! We love hearing from you and we’d be happy to answer any questions you have. 🙂

Best of luck with your prep journey! We hope Magoosh can provide you all the help you need!

 
 

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