The Law School Admission Test, more commonly known as the LSAT, has long been the measuring stick by which applicants are judged for admittance into law school. Can you get into law school without taking it? Possibly, but your odds of admittance are much better if you do and if you ace it.
What Is the LSAT?
The LSAT evaluates your reasoning skills as well as your aptitude for organization. It tests your ability to clearly and concisely get your points across in writing. The writing segment is a critical component because it's submitted to all law schools to which you apply along with your test score.
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The American Bar Association (ABA) sets the rules that law schools must follow for admittance and quality of education. The rules prevent them from arbitrarily accepting anyone who applies, then providing a less than adequate legal education so they can't possibly become attorneys.
This goal was largely achieved by requiring that all potential students take the LSAT, which is administered by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). The test is designed to measure whether you'll be able to succeed in your first year of law school.
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Taking the LSAT
The LSAT is a two-part test. The first part involves multiple-choice questions divided up into three sections, and the second part is your writing sample. Material covered in the multiple-choice sections include reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and logical reasoning. The writing sample is a response to a hypothetical question that requires you to make a decision, then defend that decision.
An unscored section was added to the multiple-choice test segment in August 2021 after being temporarily eliminated in response to COVID-19 to shorten the time necessary to take the test. It's intended to assist the LSAC in determining questions for future years.
The average test score is 151 on a scale ranging from 120 to 180. Some schools, such as Princeton, provide test prep guidance.
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How Much Does It Cost?
Taking the LSAT will cost you $200. One free score report is included in the fee. Additional reports cost $45 each. You must also pay the Credential Assembly Service $195 for a subscription that will provide your test results to most law schools. Waiver applications for this fee and for the LSAT cost are available on the LSAC website.
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How to Take the Test
The LSAC is providing the test in an online, live remote-proctored format through June 2022 in response to COVID-19. It's back to the classroom after that, however, unless the LSAC extends this provision. You're allotted three hours and 30 minutes to complete it.
You can do the writing sample segment in the comfort of your home too, regardless of COVID. The LSAC provides online software that you can download to your computer. You can take it up to eight days before you take the multiple-choice part of the test.
Is Taking the LSAT Required?
The ABA is in the process of lifting its rule that students must take the LSAT as part of the admissions process. Law schools are currently permitted the option of using another type of test, but schools must first conduct a study to prove that its results are as reliable as those of the LSAT. They can lose their ABA accreditation if they don't test, then admit students who can't succeed in the curriculum.
The bottom line is that you will have to take a test, but which one is left up to the school. Schools that do not require it are few indeed.
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Is the LSAT Worth It?
Taking the test can most definitely be worth it if you perform well. It sets you apart from other law school candidates and greatly increases your chances of admission to the school of your choice if you score in the 150-plus range.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that a good test score can improve your chances for scholarship money.
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- The Princeton Review: About the LSAT
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- Law School Admissions Council: Fee Waivers for the LSAT & Credential Assembly Service (CAS)