LSAT Overview: Study Guides, Books, Prep Courses & Other Resources
We discuss everything you need to know about the LSAT, including test structure, where to take it, and the most effective strategies for getting the score you want.
By Riley Stoltenburg, Masters Degree in Public Health
What Is The LSAT?
The Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, is the standardized exam taken as part of the law school admission process in the United States. The test is administered by the Law School Admission Council, or LSAC, and is the only accepted entrance exam for admission purposes by ABA-accredited law schools. The exam is specifically designed to test a range of skills which a prospective student will need to be successful in law school, including critical reading, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and persuasive writing. Some law schools do not require the LSAT for admission; however, students are strongly encouraged to take the LSAT, as it can bolster law admission chances in those cases where not required and can assist the test taker in determining if law school is right for them.
What Kind of Test Is The LSAT?
The LSAT is a digitally administered exam comprised of two parts. The first part of the exam is a multiple-choice test and the second portion is a written essay.
The multiple-choice portion of the exam consists of consists of five separate 35-minute sections. Though there are five individual sections, only four of those sections will be counted towards an individual’s score. The one unscored section is used to evaluate future exam questions, and the test taker will not know which of the five sections does not count until the test taker gets their score report following the exam. The multiple-choice sections consist of one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and two logical reasoning sections.
The written portion of the exam consists of a 35-minute, unscored written essay. The written essay portion presents the test taker with an issue requiring the individual to take one of two positions. The test taker must make clear which course of action they would follow and defend their choice through well-reasoned argument. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to the prompt. The essay allows the individual to demonstrate their argumentative writing skills through reason and logically setting out the pros and cons of each position. Though not scored, this written portion allows law schools to evaluate the candidate’s reasoning, organization, language selection, and writing mechanics. Copies of the essay are sent to all schools to which the test taker applies as a sample of their writing ability, an integral component of law school.
Where Can I Take the LSAT?
The LSAT is administered at test centers throughout the world. Check here to find a test center near you: Test Center Locations.
How is the LSAT Scored?
The LSAT is scored based on the number of questions you answer correctly, otherwise known as your raw score. This raw score is converted to an LSAT score on a scale which ranges from 120 to 180, with 120 being the lowest possible score and 180 being the highest possible score. All questions are weighted equally and you are not penalized for incorrect answers. So the focus is on how many total questions are answered correctly, without regard to incorrect answers or particular questions. The average LSAT score is around 150, however, you will need a score north of 160 if you expect to get into one of the top 25 law schools.
How to Study for the LSAT
We recommend studying for several months leading up to the date of the actual exam. The LSAT is not the type of exam that you can cram for. Progress in preparing for the LSAT can be slow and the gains incremental, so it is imperative you leave yourself enough time for adequate preparation. We recommend planning on setting aside 150-200 hours in total to make sure you’re ready for the exam. It takes significant time to figure out how to properly draw deductions, analyze logic games, and assess written arguments. Here are our strategies to improve your LSAT score:
Take a practice exam – start by taking a practice test under real conditions to get a feel for the LSAT. You will quickly see how difficult the questions are and how time matters. This will help you assess your early strengths and weaknesses.
Master the concepts – the LSAT turns on mastering concepts that are applied to the various question types across the exam. You will need to understand and reinforce the most important concepts, including identifying logical relationships, analyzing arguments and the flaws therein, and assessing common rules of logic games.
Lots and lots of practice questions – making progress in LSAT preparation can be slow, but the key to those hard-earned gains will come through practice questions. Like most other things in life, practice makes perfect and repetition is at the heart of that practice. The more you see common concepts and themes, the faster and more accurately you will be able to answer questions.
Imitate actual LSAT test conditions – practice questions alone won’t help you nail the LSAT. Timing is critical in the multiple-choice sections, so it will be key to practice taking a full LSAT exam under real test-like conditions. Only simulating the exam multiple times will help you truly prepare for the real thing.
Stay positive – the LSAT is a very difficult and disheartening exam. Gains are hard to come by and a bad practice score can be discouraging. Stay positive! Keep a good attitude and know that your hard work and long hours will pay off in the end.
Best LSAT Prep Courses
Prep courses are critical to getting a great score on the LSAT. You may be able to study hard and get a decent score on the exam, but a good prep course can be a game changer. These courses vary widely in nature and include instructor-led in-person lessons, personalized study plans, online module-based courses, and more. However, LSAT prep courses can be expensive and reputable companies like Kaplan, Magoosh and Princeton Review can run anywhere from $500 to $1,800. It’s a steep price, but is nearly a requirement if you truly want to nail the LSAT.
Best LSAT Prep Books
If you don’t want to spend that much on a prep course, a more affordable study material alternative is to purchase prep books and study independently by yourself. Self-study with prep books and flashcards purchased online can certainly help, but these materials likely won’t be able to help you jump start your score like a prep course. That said, if your resources are limited and you’re left with no other options, or you’re looking for some good supplemental resources for your prep course, you can purchase prep books on Amazon for as cheap as $15-20. These prep books include LSAT strategies for multiple-choice questions, practice problems and detailed answer explanations. We recommend taking a look at the books from Kaplan, APEX and Mometrix, or get the LSAC’s very own prep book, SuperPrep, if you want to get inside the mind of the test makers.