What is the LSAT?
Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a 2.5 hour standardized test that applicants may take in order to apply to law school. The other option is the GRE. Unlike the GRE, the LSAT is accepted by all law schools in the US to fulfill their standardized testing requirement. The vast majority of applicants choose to take the LSAT over the GRE.
Tests are now offered in January, February, March, April, June, August, October, and November.
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 admissions officers feel 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.
LSAT Flex is here to stay through at least June 2022, and all official (rough) dates through June 2022 have been released. The reason it says “TBD, week starting…” is because each test taker will get a few options of test dates to choose from that week (usually Saturday, Sunday, and a weekday), but you will not schedule your individual test date and time until after registration closes. You can find the schedule information here on the LSAC website.
Starting with the August 2021 test, there will be some changes to the LSAT Flex format:
- The test will have four sections instead of the three section format that began in 2020. Three sections of the four will be scored, and the unscored section will be experimental.
- Test-takers will be given a short break between the 2nd and 3rd sections of the test.
- Comprehensive information on the LSAT Flex can be found here on the LSAC website.
See the Testmaker’s LSAT FAQs here: https://www.lsac.org/lsat/taking-lsat/lsat-faqs
CPLA LSAT Resources
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 (email@example.com)
Please see answers to frequently asked questions about the LSAT below, including more information about CPLA’s LSAT Workshop.
CPLA LSAT FAQs
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What is a good score on the LSAT?
It is important first to understand the scoring system on the LSAT. There are approximately 73-78 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.
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 June in between your junior and senior year. Then, if you aren’t satisfied with your June score, you can retake the LSAT in August and still apply to law schools relatively early in the admissions cycle.
Unfortunately, the June 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 LSAT. Students with heavy course loads or significant extracurricular involvement second-semester junior year should not plan to take the June LSAT. Instead, those students should plan to either take the LSAT before spring semester, or test in August, 13 months before they hope to start law school. It is important to note that by taking the LSAT for the first time in August, the most viable retake options are October or November. Testing in November would delay the review of your law school applications until Mid/late December, which is past the most advantageous time to apply. 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 August, 13 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 2.5 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 180-200 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. However, do not delay taking the Writing section for too long. Law Schools will not consider your application complete until they have received a copy of at least one LSAT writing sample.
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.
For more information on LSAT writing: https://www.lsac.org/lsat/taking-lsat/about-lsat-writing
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 staying motivated to study or who prefer external deadlines, courses provide a study structure that can help keep you focused on your LSAT preparation.
Commercial courses can be expensive though, ranging in price from approximately $69/month for an online synchronous course like 7 Sage to around $1200-1300 for live courses with providers like Kaplan or the Princeton Review. 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.
You may want to consider the CPLA LSAT workshop ($100) if you are not sure whether you would prefer a live course, or if you are planning to study on your own and looking for a good place to start. It includes 5 live sessions and additional asynchronous lessons.
What commercial courses are available in Madison?
Commercial LSAT prep courses with online options that have also offered in person options in Madison include:
Additional commercial LSAT prep courses are available online 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? Does CPLA offer LSAT prep support?
If you can’t afford a commercial course or feel that self-study will be a better option for you, we’re here to help! Besides 1:1 advising consultations on general study strategies, we also want you to know about other free and low-cost ways to help you prepare for the LSAT:
The Center for Pre-Law Advising (CPLA) LSAT Workshop ($100):
For example, CPLA offers an LSAT workshop three times a year: February, May, and October. The workshop meets virtually once a week for 5 weeks, with each session lasting 1 hour.
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, please contact CPLA advisor Janet Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Many students may choose to prep with a book or set of books for the LSAT. Keep in mind that since the test will be digital, you’ll want to use a separate sheet of scratch paper when working out of a physical book to mimic the test day experience. You should also plan to take some of your practice tests online through LSAC’s Law Hub (2 free flex tests are available here).
There are many good publishers in the LSAT arena, but some of the most popular books include:
(Both of these options provide custom study plans based on how many months/weeks you have to prepare)
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. LSAT Max has agreed to provide free courses to students who qualify for a fee waiver.
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.
Example: Kaplan’s Tuition Assistance Program
Where do I find realistic practice tests?
While the content of the test has remained exactly the same for a very long time, the LSAT is now solely a digital exam that you will take from home on a desktop or laptop computer. There are some features of the digital test such as the highlight tool that students will want to become familiar with prior to test day. Not all practice tests include all of the features you will be able to use on test day, so it’s best to do at least some practice tests in the full digital format.
The LSAC (the Official LSAT test maker) has provided an FAQ on the digital format, and has also provided a tutorial on the new digital test functions. They have also digitized all previously released LSAT exams and made them available for purchase. For $99 students can get unlimited access to the practice tests through LSAC’s Lawhub site (be ready to log in with your free LSAC account). There are also a few free practice exams available here, including some in the new shorter “Flex” length of the test, with only 3 scored sections. All students should plan to take the free flex tests available through Lawhub and familiarize themselves will all of the functions prior to their real test day.
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, no “bubble bar” at the bottom). 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)