Rice University logo

Structure of the LSAT

Facts About the LSAT

The LSAT is a five-section, multiple-choice, standard-scored "aptitude" test, followed by a 30-minute writing sample. Taking the test requires 3 hours and 25 minutes, not including rest breaks and the time needed for the distribution and collection of test materials, as well as other test center procedures.
The five multiple-choice sections, containing a total of about 120-130 questions, are separately timed at 35 minutes apiece, with a brief (usually 10-15 minutes) break in between the third and fourth sections. There are three different question-types:

• Reading Comprehension: Typically, a section of this type will include about 26-28 questions, arranged into four sets, each containing a passage followed by 6-8 questions.

• Analytical Reasoning: Also called Logic Games of the "matrix" type, the typically come in sections containing approximately 24 questions, arranged in four sets of analytical problems or "setups" with 5-7 questions apiece.

• Logical Thinking: Typically, a section of this type will include around 24-26 questions that are not for the most part grouped into sets.

One section of both Reading Comprehension and Analytical Reasoning and two sections of Logical Reasoning questions are used to produce your LSAT score; a non-scored section, that can be of any type, is included in each test but cannot be identified as such while you are taking the test.


Scoring of the LSAT

The LSAT score is a three-digit number ranging from 120 to 180, determined by the number of correct answers on the four scored sections, generally covering a total of about 96-104 questions.

LSAT scores are not absolutes: a 180 does not necessarily mean that every question is answered correctly (you could have as many as 2-3 incorrect answers on the four scored sections and still have a score of 180), nor does a 120 necessarily mean you answered every question incorrectly. Generally, you will need approximately 15-17 correct answers before your score moves above a 120. Once you reach that "threshold," each additional correct answer will help raise your score with, roughly speaking, about two points gained for every three additional correct answers.

While the four scored sections used for each administration of the LSAT are most likely to be the same for each test at every test center, there are different editions in which the non-scored section is not the same and the order in which the scored sections appear will vary. After the five-section, multiple choice test has been administered, and after a second short (c. 5 minutes) break, the writing sample will be administered. The writing sample is unscored; however, copies of your sample will be sent to each law school to which you apply.


Preparation for the LSAT 
The LSAT seeks to measure not what you already know but, rather, how well you might respond to training in law, so it goes after your basic skills and abilities along certain lines, testing all of the following:

• critical and accurate reading

• dispassionate, flexible, intelligent, inferential thinking

• distinguishing fact from opinion and the relevant from the irrelevant

• stability under pressure

• tolerance of ambiguity and of abstraction

• quick adaptation to unfamiliar procedures and strange circumstances

There is no standard pre-law curriculum. Therefore, the test-makers cannot assume that any applicant has a common body of knowledge or discipline with any other applicant. They can only assume that you read and write English at a suitable level. Applicants can help themselves by working with an elementary logic text, learning to recognize common fallacies, many of which may exist in their own thinking.

The LSAT consists of a series of demanding, often strange intellectual games, at times having little to do with real life or academic subjects. Preparation consists of learning the game rules, both those set forth in the different sections of the test and those implicit in its construction and scoring method.


Four Important Points

1. Scores are determined entirely on the basis of the number of correct answers only. Nothing is deducted or subtracted for wrong answers. There is no penalty for guessing. Never Leave a Question Unanswered!

2. The LSAT is deliberately "speeded." You will often find you do not have enough time to complete every question. It is not unusual to find you are not able to finish each section of the test without a certain amount of guessing.

3. While individual questions do vary in difficulty, each correct answer makes the same contribution to your score regardless of how easy or difficult it may be. No Question Is Worth More Than Any Other!

4. Within each section, questions are not arranged in order of difficulty. You should not assume that the next question or set of questions will necessarily be either more or less difficult for you to answer than earlier ones.

The rest is practice on specific types of problems, but it must be practice of an analytical, self-teaching nature. There are two warnings about compulsive practice:

a) It can become a kind of wheel-spinning, sinking you deeper into the book supplies a crutch you won't have during the test and actually encourages lack of concentration: the habit of making certain kinds of mistakes can be reinforced rather than broken.

b) In any case, you must be sure you're practicing the right game. The only fully reliable practice material is the disclosed-part LSATs, available from Law Services in the form of individual PrepTests.


Test Pointers

1. Prepare to Concentrate immediately, intensely, steadily, and to your utmost. The passive test-taker gets nowhere. There's no time to reread. Attack the problem actively the first time around. And be in condition to keep this up for 3 1/2 hours.

2. Take time to understand the directions. You're being tested on
following difficult and unexpected directions. Pay particular attention to the exact wording of definitions. Some of these are very strange, too.

3. Don't misread, don't skim, don't "speed-read." The time pressure comes from the required speed of thinking, not of reading. Read carefully for exact wording, exact meaning. Underline key words.

4. Never Answer From Your Own Knowledge or Experience-that's not what's being tested. Never answer from your own opinions or prejudices, or because you think one answer is more socially acceptable than another. (You'll often be invited to do that.)

5. Read Nothing Into Any Problem. Deal only with what has actually been said. Beware of thinking you recognize what's going to be said ("Oh, I know that.") because chances are good that you'll miss the actual point. Don't get involved with what you think must also be true, or must also have happened, unless you've been asked to do that. If "if's" and "but's" come into your mind, forget them.

6. Omit Nothing From Any Problem. Read all the options. Read every sentence in the stimulus material. It's true you're sometimes given irrelevant material, but don't dismiss it until you've actually assessed it in terms of what you've been asked.

7. Work With The Test, Not Against It:

a. Work steadily and methodically. Have a method of attack on each type of problem. Avoid galloping off bareback. (Remember the hare and the tortoise.)

b. Use the Four Important Points to Remember listed above. Taken together, they tell you the following: work as fast as possible consistent with accuracy; don't allow yourself to get stuck on any question; don't rush to get the harder problems, thus possibly missing easy ones, since they all count the same; guess where necessary; and Leave No Blanks!!

c. One, and only one, of these options is correct in terms of the question. Accept this; don't fight it. All problems have been thoroughly tested. Every word is there on purpose, and every needed word has been included. Ambiguities are deliberate, and a solution has been supplied.

d. Avoid oversubtlety-don't make the test harder than it is. (People who fight certain questions, as in point c above, tend to be oversubtle.)

8. As you select answers, be aware that one of the benchmarks of the good, professionally written question is the frequent presence of an option that is almost, but not quite, right: the "attractive" distracter.

9. Keep track of time but don't be possessed by it. Resist pressure by working at the fastest pace that is productive for you. Many people don't finish. The score comes from getting questions right, not just from getting them answered, and a correct guess is as good as a right answer, whether you like it or not.

10. Don't waver about guessing. Decide quickly, once you recognize the possibility. Then do it and forget about it. There is no pattern of right answers, so it doesn't matter what option you pick. Don't sit there wondering if you could answer it if you took more time; you've already taken too much time if you worked long enough to get stuck.

11. In general, try to take the questions in order, but that's Not a hard-and-fast rule. Your main concern is maximizing your score by getting questions right, so it often pays to skip around, locating the types of questions you personally favor. Just make sure you get back to the others.

12. Manage the Answer Sheet. Avoid stupid, nerve-wracking mistakes such as getting answers in the wrong column (picking A but marking B) or reversing the wrong number (answering #22 in slot #23). This is more common than you might believe. Have a System. And to insure yourself against panic if you do catch yourself misplacing answers, always mark you answers in your test booklet before transferring them to the answer sheet.

Finally, do try to keep a sense of proportion. This test is a difficult and important set of games. It's not a final judgment about your worth as a person or your potential as a law student. You're not the only one, by any means, who makes a lot of mistakes or who might not finish all sections. Don't waste time during the test worrying about things like that. Just do your job and take the test.

Based on material originally prepared by Dorothy Clerk.