Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a 3.5 hour standardized test that applicants must take in order to apply to law school. It is offered on limited testing dates throughout the year- traditionally in June, September, December, and February, but recently the LSAC has added a few test dates. Tests are now offered in June, July, September, November, January, and March.
The LSAT does not test your skills of memorization, and it does not require any pre-existing knowledge of the law. Further, it is not an IQ test. Instead, the LSAT is a skills-based test, with six sections testing your logical reasoning, analytical reasoning (also known as Logic Games), reading comprehension, and writing skills. The skills tested on the LSAT track the types of skills that can be most useful in law school and the practice of law. They are skills that can be learned with sufficient preparation. As with learning a language or a musical instrument, learning the skills tested on the LSAT requires significant study and practice over an extended period of time.
The UW-Madison Center for Pre-Law Advising (CPLA) provides a number of free services to students to help them prepare for and take the LSAT. Pre-Law advisors are ready to help you with the following, including, but not limited to:
- deciding when to take the LSAT
- putting together or evaluating a study plan
- finding the right study materials or program, including free options
- deciding if you are ready to take the test or if you should postpone
- deciding whether and when to retest
Click here to view profiles of our advisors or to schedule an appointment.
Substantive questions about specific LSAT practice questions or practice sections can be directed to Pre-Law Advisors through the collaborative email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please see answers to frequently asked questions about the LSAT below, including more information about CPLA’s LSAT Workshop.
What is a good score on the LSAT?
It is important first to understand the scoring system on the LSAT. There are approximately 100-101 scored questions on each LSAT, and the total number that you answer correctly is your Raw Score. Note that there is no penalty for wrong answers. Raw Scores are then scaled based on the difficulty of each particular test. The Scaled Score range is 120-180.
A “good score” on the LSAT is a score that will help you gain admission to your preferred law schools. The Law School Admission Council publishes the 25th/75th percentile and median LSAT scores for each law school, and many law schools also include this information on their websites. To determine a “good” score for a particular school, look at the school’s median LSAT score. The median score is calculated by putting in order the scores of all the students who were admitted, and selecting the middle value. While the median LSAT score is a “good” score for purposes of admission to that school, admission isn’t a sure thing just because you attain that score. Law schools will closely evaluate all other elements of your application before deciding whether to admit you.
To determine a “great” score for a particular school, look at a school’s 75th percentile score. The 75th percentile score is considered a “great” score for that particular school because the score is equal to or better than 75% of that school’s admitted applicants. Note, however, that a score at or above the 75th percentile still doesn’t ensure that you will be admitted; it just increases the likelihood of admission.
If your LSAT score is not quite at or above the median or 75th percentile scores for a law school you wish to attend, don’t panic. Many students are admitted with scores below the published median. To determine how far below, look at the school’s 25th percentile LSAT score. This number gives you a sense of the lower end of the range of scores that might be sufficient to help you get into that school. A full 25% of applicants were admitted with a score lower than the 25th percentile score, so if you don’t have a score equal to a law school’s median, don’t assume that you won’t get in. It may still be worth applying if you have an LSAT score relatively close to the 25th percentile score and if you have other strong factors in your application that might compensate for the lower LSAT score.
Additional useful information to offer perspective:
- During 2010-2013, a score of 150 was at or around the 44th percentile on the LSAT. A score of 160 was at or around the 80th percentile. A score of 170 was at or around the 97th percentile.
- UW-Madison graduates who take the LSAT had an average score of 157 in 2012-13.
You can find more information on LSAT scores and how they are calculated at the test maker’s website: https://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/your-score
When should I take the LSAT?
In an ideal world, you should try to take the LSAT for the first time at least 15 months before you plan to enter law school (approximately five months before you intend to apply). That schedule leaves sufficient time to retake the LSAT if necessary and to apply early in the application cycle. But that timeline doesn’t always fit an applicant’s individual circumstances and interests. The important thing is to understand the ideal schedule and then to adjust the timing based on what is best for you individually.
Students Planning to Go Straight to Law School
If you are planning to go straight to law school after graduating, your options for when to take the LSAT are relatively limited. You should try to take the LSAT for the first time no later than the June/July in between your junior and senior year. Then, if you aren’t satisfied with your June score, you can retake the LSAT in September/October and still apply to law schools relatively early in the admissions cycle.
Unfortunately, the June or July test between junior and senior year isn’t ideal for everyone. Students studying abroad second semester junior year should not plan to take the June or July LSAT. Students with heavy course loads or significant extracurricular involvement second semester junior year should not plan to take the June/July LSAT. Instead, those students should plan to take the September/October test, 11 months before they hope to start law school. It is important to note that by taking the LSAT for the first time in September/October, the most viable retake option is November which would delay the review of your law school applications until Mid/late December. Many law schools will also accept January LSAT scores, but applications involving January test scores are generally reviewed at the very end of the application cycle, which is not in an applicant’s best interest.
Alumni/Students Planning to Take Time Between College and Law School
If you are an alum or a student planning to take time between college and law school, you have more options for taking the LSAT than a student intending to go straight to law school. An LSAT score is good for 5 years, and the LSAT is offered six times each year. So you will want to think carefully about which test will allow you the most time to prepare in the months leading up to the test. Ideally, you would take the LSAT for the first time at least 15 months before you intend to start law school. Many applicants prefer to take the test early (often while still in college), while others have circumstances requiring a later LSAT date. It is very important to choose a test date that will allow you sufficient time to prepare, but try not to take the LSAT for the first time any later than September/October, 10 months before you hope to enter law school, unless absolutely necessary.
What should I do to prepare? How early should I start?
Ideally you should spend 10-15 hours a week for at least 3-6 months preparing for the LSAT although more time might be necessary in some cases to hit a target score. You should never, EVER, take an official LSAT cold.
The best preparation involves three steps:
- Learning strategies
- Practicing using those strategies on actual, released LSATs
- Reviewing explanations for every answer on every practice test you take to look for not only patterns in your mistakes, but also ways you could have answered faster to both correct and incorrect questions
Do not underestimate the value of taking full, practice LSATs and reviewing the explanations to determine not only what you did wrong, but also how you could have gotten to the correct answer faster.
The skills tested on the LSAT are like any other skill — they require practice in order to master. Further, taking a 3.5 hour standardized test requires intellectual stamina, and practice can help you develop that stamina. It would not be excessive to take a minimum of 15-20 full practice tests. Aim to spend at least 100-200 hours over 3-6+ months following these steps.
What should I know about the LSAT writing sample?
The LSAT Writing section is now taken separately from the rest of the exam, from home, on your computer. We recommend that students do not attempt to take the writing section immediately following the LSAT. Give yourself a chance to decompress for a day or two, and then plan to take the Writing section in a quiet place where others will not be walking in on you.
Law schools will receive a copy of your writing sample along with your LSAT score report. This section is still “ungraded.” Some schools will read every writing sample, and others will only read them if they have a question about your application or need more information to make a determination on your application outcome. It is completely up to the discretion of the school.
Since this is still considered a proctored exam, test takers will need to install a secure proctoring software that will ensure they are not using their computer to look up answers. You will also need to show the proctor that you are alone in the room via webcam and show that both sides of your scratch paper are blank.
The writing prompt will be in the same format as previous LSAT administrations of the writing section, so you may practice with any previous writing prompt. The prompt is designed to elicit the kind of argumentative writing that candidates will be expected to produce in law school. You will still be given 35 minutes to write an essay in response to the randomly selected prompt that is presented. During that 35 minutes, you must read the prompt, craft your response, and finish proofreading. Students will have the ability to cut/copy/paste within the document. The interface also underlines words that it does not recognize, but it is not your typical spell-check feature and does not provide a list of suggested words to select from. There is no word limit for this exercise.
A successful writing sample will choose one of the two options offered, and reasons to support that choice. It will also include reasons why the other option is not ideal. It will be coherent, cohesive, organized, and relatively free from errors.
Once you have completed the LSAT Writing Sample once, you do not need to retake it every time you retake the LSAT. You are only required to have one writing sample on file in order to apply to law schools. Writing samples may be from either a previous (paper) LSAT administration or from the new digital LSAT Writing. The LSAC will include up to the three most recent reportable writing samples with your law school report. You have up to three times to take LSAT Writing per testing year, and no more than five times in five years.
Should I take a commercial course?
The decision whether or not to take a commercial course is an individual one that you should make based on your budget and study style. Commercial courses have the following advantages:
- Convenience — they assist you in each step of the preparation process by providing strategies, practice LSATs, and explanations
- Interactivity — there is an instructor with whom you can discuss any questions that arise
- Structure — for people who have trouble motivating to study, courses provide a study structure that can help keep you focused on your LSAT preparation.
Commercial courses are expensive though, ranging in price from approximately $500 for online courses to $1500 for in person courses. To the extent that you can afford a commercial course, think of it as an investment. The higher you can get your LSAT score, the more potential you have to receive merit-based financial aid (which is based in part on your LSAT score). But it is not necessary to take a course in order to do well on the LSAT, as long as you put significant time and effort into self-study.
What commercial courses are available in Madison?
Commercial LSAT prep courses with in-person or online options in Madison may include:
*may have in person tutoring availability as well
Additional commercial LSAT prep courses are available from:
NOTE: Discount codes for some commercial courses may be available. Contact your Pre-Law Advisor for more information.
What alternatives are there to commercial courses?
If you can’t afford a commercial course, don’t worry. There are also a number of free and low-cost ways to help you prepare for the LSAT:
The Center for Pre-Law Advising (CPLA) LSAT Workshop ($100):
CPLA offers an LSAT workshop three times a year: February, May, and October. The workshop meets once a week for 5 weeks, with each session lasting 3 hours (with a 15-minute break in the middle).
The Workshop is best for those who are in the earlier stages of their LSAT prep, as it will introduce some high yield concepts and strategies, and help you learn more about how to structure a self-study plan. The workshop will not cover topics in the same breadth and depth as a commercial course, and will require students to continue studying once the Workshop is over. Many students take the Workshop as part of a self-study plan. Some students choose to take both the Workshop and a commercial course.
A limited number of scholarships to cover the $100 cost of the CPLA Workshop may be available.
To see more information about the CPLA LSAT Prep Workshop, click here.
Khan Academy Online Course (FREE):
As the Official Partner of the LSAC (LSAT Testmaker), Khan Academy features free online instructional videos, articles, practice problem sets, and official practice tests, which are already in an online format similar to the new digital LSAT.
Commercial Course Tuition Assistance or Fee Waivers:
If you qualify for an LSAC fee waiver to cover the cost of taking the LSAT and registering for the Credential Assembly Service, you will also qualify for some commercial test prep courses. Both Kaplan Test Prep and LSAT Max have agreed to provide free courses to students who qualify for a fee waiver. Other test prep companies may start to offer these services as well.
If you do not qualify for an LSAC fee waiver (most students), you still may be eligible for financial assistance of up to 50-60% off the cost of some commercial prep courses based on financial need. It is always a good idea to ask your test prep company if they offer any need-based tuition assistance.
How do I prepare for the new Digital LSAT?
It is important for students who may be taking the new Digital LSAT (July 2019 and beyond) to get some practice on tablet in a realistic format. For students and alumni in Madison who do not have access to their own tablet to study with, tablets are available for checkout either through the UW-Madison library system (College Library) or through the local Public Library (Downtown Central location only). Each location has a limited number of tablets, so you may want to go online or call ahead to determine availability.
For more information on checking out tablets at the public library, visit: https://www.madisonpubliclibrary.org/services/computers-central
To check the availability of tablets for checkout at College Library, visit: https://ecs.library.wisc.edu/?type=9
Realistic Practice Tests
2019 is bringing some big changes to the format of the LSAT. While the content of the test remains exactly the same, the test is in the process of transitioning to a fully digital format. Instead of being administered via paper and pencil, the test will begin to be administered by tablet (some July 2019 test takers will receive and digital test, and all test takers will receive the digital test starting in September 2019). The digital test will include new functions such as a highlight tool that students will want to become familiar with prior to test day.
The LSAC (the Official LSAT test maker) has provided an FAQ on the new digital format, and has also provided a tutorial on the new digital test functions. They have also released three free practice tests in the new format for students to practice with.
Testmasters, a for-profit test prep company, has taken all of the previously released paper and pencil LSAT exams and converted them into a new digital format that looks identical to the practice tests released by the LSAC. Those exams are only available to Testmasters students; however, the company has released three FREE practice tests in the new digital format for UW-Madison students (2 of which are not currently offered by the LSAC)
Free Practice Tests from Testmasters (Use Registration Code: UWISCONSINADV)
Khan Academy, the Official Test Prep of the LSAC, does offer a free online course including 10 free full length practice tests, but the tests are not accurate representations of the new test day format (ex. No highlight function). They are still helpful practice for the LSAT, but students should plan to take some realistic practice tests in the new format in addition to prepping with Khan Academy.
Where can I find released LSAT explanations?
If you take a commercial LSAT prep course, the company will likely provide copies of released LSATs and explanations in the cost of the course. If you do not take a commercial course or if the company does not provide explanations, you can purchase released LSAT explanations at:
Can I take the LSAT more than once? Should I?
This is a great question for a 1:1 appointment with a Pre-Law advisor.
The LSAC does allow you to retake the test, and no longer limits the number of times you may retest. However, it is possible to hurt your chances of admission by retesting in certain situations, so proceed with caution.
Law schools will see all official scores when you apply, and different schools may consider multiple scores differently. The LSAC advises schools that your average score is probably the best estimate of your ability—especially if the tests were taken over a short period of time. Some of law schools will only consider the highest LSAT score in the admissions process, but others may take the average of the scores, or your lowest score. Schools are empowered to choose any of these options, and some have stated that they reserve the right to consider whichever score they believe is in line with the rest of the application package.
You might want to consider retaking the LSAT if (a) something went wrong on test day that you believe negatively impacted your test score or (b) you scored significantly lower on test day than you had on comparable practice tests, but in both cases you will want to make sure there is sufficient time between tests to further prepare.
The LSAC has published data showing that scores for retakers often increase slightly, but there is a chance your score will drop.
Some schools may expect to see an addendum explaining a discrepancy in scores if students test multiple times and have a difference in score of 5 points or higher.
Any student who plans to retest more than once should consult with a Pre-Law advisor to determine how this could impact his/her chances of acceptance.
See also: LSAC website on repeating the LSAT
How long is an LSAT score good?
An LSAT score is good for 5 years. If you plan on taking one or more gap years, you do not have to wait to take the LSAT. Depending on what you plan to do after you graduate, it may be helpful to prepare for the LSAT while you are still in school and in the studying mode.
LSAT Policies & Procedures
Borrowing LSAT Prep Books
The Center for Pre-Law Advising Office has LSAT prep books available for check out.
The UW-Madison Library system also has LSAT prep books available. Some are available for use in the library and some are available for checkout. Most of the books are located either on the first floor of College Library, or in the Law Library (The Law Library is open to pre-law students except during finals periods).
Shortcut to search for LSAT Prep titles: https://search.library.wisc.edu/search/catalog?q=lsat
IMPORTANT information when using Khan Academy: We strongly suggest that you read “What should I do to prepare? How early should I start?” above and determine for yourself how many hours to put in and how many weeks to study. While Khan Academy has a very convenient tool to help you visualize how you might want to space out practice exams and plan study time into your schedule, the recommended number of hours suggested by Khan Academy may give you a false sense of security and should be viewed with a critical lens. As Badgers you’ll need to sift and winnow through this resource to find the most beneficial parts for you, but you will find some very helpful exercises, videos, and explanations here, along with free practice questions and tests.
One LSAT study plan does not fit all. Students should adjust any sample study plan to fit their needs, and talking through that process is a great topic for a 1:1 meeting with a Pre Law Advisor. However, here is a study plan example:
- LSAT Study Calendar –16 week Self-Study
- LSAT Study Calendar – 16 week Self-Study using Powerscore materials
Free Proctoring Resources
- Powerscore Virtual Proctor
- 7sage LSAT Proctor (Downloadable MP3 recordings or Phone apps available)
- Proctoring with Testing Accommodations YouTube proctoring video (time and a half)