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What is the LSAT?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a standardized test which is administered to most applicants to law schools in the United States and Canada. The test has a serious of questions which are designed to test the critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills of applicants to law schools. Scores on the LSAT range from 120-180, reflecting an adjustment of raw scores along a data curve. For people who are interested in becoming lawyers, the LSAT is an extremely important examination.

Standardized tests and intelligence tests became popular in the United States in the early 20th century, with tests being administered as early as the 1920s. In 1948, the first version of the LSAT was administered and the test began to be widely adopted by law schools as an important part of admissions criteria. All members of the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) require LSAT scores as part of their applications, and most major law schools belong to this council.

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Generally, the LSAT lasts around half a day, and it is administered four times a year. Applicants are encouraged to register well in advance, as test centers can fill up, especially in crowded areas. During the exam, students answer a series of questions in sections which are interrupted by brief breaks for stretching, bathroom use, and other needs. Students may not talk to each other during the exam or while on break, and compromises in the testing environment such as ringing cellphones can result in having all of the results for that day thrown out. As a result, testing centers are closely monitored.

There are six sections on the LSAT. The first five cover three styles of questions, and the sixth section is an unscored writing sample. The multiple choice section of the exam covers logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, and reading comprehension. There are always two logical reasoning sections, and the fifth section is experimental, including various test questions which may be used on future exams. The experimental section is not counted in the final score, but it is also not marked; the test administrators want their experimental exams to be tested in a real test situation to determine how useful and valid the questions are.

The writing sample is administered at the end, and it proves that the test taker can write a coherent, well organized essay even after hours of grueling testing. LSAT scores and copies of the writing samples are sent to the schools the student applies to, and they are supplemented by other application materials such as personal essays and interviews. People who want to study law tend to invest a lot of energy studying for the LSAT, to ensure that they will perform well on this very important exam.

Like other standardized tests, the LSAT is often criticized. Some critics are concerned that the test may be slightly biased, especially for minorities and people from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is also some concern about whether or not the test is really a valid measure of intelligence; since the LSAT is such an important part of a law school application, these criticisms have been carefully considered by administrators.

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