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Why is the LSAT Paper-Based?

Why is the LSAT Paper-Based?

As you may know, the LSAT is a paper-based test. Like the grade-school tests we’ve gotten used to, this means that test-takers use an old-fashioned number two pencil to “bubble in” their answer choices. However, the times are definitely changing. We as a society, especially younger students, are becoming much more used to using devices for most facets of their education. Many students are now given tablets to do their work and study. Entire courses can be done online. And students are much more used to typing than hand-writing their work. So why is the LSAT still paper-based?

Benefits of Computer-Based Test

There are many benefits to computerized tests. For one, a computer-based test is more in line with the current trends in education. More and more students are accustomed to typing, researching online, and using screens to read and do their work. Transitioning from this to a paper-based test might be a process for students who have mostly done all their work on computers. Clearly, the writing section would be significantly easier for many test-takers who are used to typing quickly.

Additionally, with a computer-based test, students might be able to have more testing date options and morning, evening, or afternoon sessions. Most importantly, if the LSAT were administered through computers, test-takers would be able to quickly see their scores, like with the GRE.

Why is the LSAT Paper-Based?

The short answer is–fairness. Because most students are extremely used to paper-based tests and it is the traditional testing method, the reliability of the results is more stable than with a new method like computer-testing. The main question that the Law School Admissions Council must evaluate is whether a move to a computer-based test would disadvantage one group over another. Not all kinds of students are equally comfortable using computers or are as proficient in typing (although in the future, all students may be as equally comfortable as they are using pencils and paper).

LSAC Research on Students’ Readiness for a Computer-Based Test

The LSAC has been in the process of evaluating how the test can be moved to computers without losing the validity and reliability of the test results. In one published study, they noted that “since 1996, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has collected data on test taker computer usage in an effort to understand how a move to computer-based testing might affect Law School Admission Test (LSAT) takers.”

They started out by asking test-takers on 1995 and 1996 tests two questions–how comfortable they felt with computers and how often they used them. The purpose was not only to see how comfortable students were as a whole, but to check that comfort levels were similar across demographic groups. If men were more disproportionally more comfortable than women or one ethnic group were significantly less comfortable, it would show that computer-testing might not be best. The LSAC tries to be as fair as possible and cannot claim the LSAT is valid if it significantly disadvantages one group as compared to another.

Will the LSAT Be Computer-Based in the Future?

In the near future, we can expect that the LSAT will remain the same paper-based test it has always been. But certainly, as research advances and the LSAC gains confidence in the desirability and feasibility of a computer-based test, we will probably see a transition to a computer-based one!

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2 Responses to Why is the LSAT Paper-Based?

  1. Obsessing over the small stuff October 23, 2016 at 9:00 AM #

    This may sound like a really crazy question, but some test prep companies offer supplemental practice tests on recycled/newspaper material, but the official prep tests from LSAC come on regular printing/copy paper.
    Is the official test on test day printer/copy paper or recycled/newspaper material?


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 16, 2016 at 2:10 PM #

      That’s a great– if unusual– question. I got curious enough about this to contact LSAT customer service. They said that their answer sheets are not printed on recycled paper. They also informed me that the paper for their test booklets is purchased in bulk form a paper manufacturer, and that their contract with their paper vendor does not specify that the paper has to be recycled or “new growth.” So there’s no guarantee that the test-booklets are made from recycled paper. But there’s a possibility some of them might be.

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