- What is the LSAT?
- What is a good score on the LSAT?
- When should I take the LSAT?
- How early should I start preparing?
- What should I do to prepare?
- Should I take a commercial course?
- What commercial courses are available in Madison?
- What alternatives are there to commercial courses?
- Where can I find actual LSATs to practice with?
- Where can I find released LSAT explanations?
- Can I take the LSAT more than once? Should I?
- How long is an LSAT score good?
What is the LSAT?
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a 3-1/2 hour standardized test that applicants must take in order to apply to law school. It is offered four times a year, in or around February, June, late September or early October, and December. The LSAT does not test your skills of memorization, and it does not require any preexisting 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, 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.
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. 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.
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 in between your junior and senior year. Then, if you aren’t satisfied with your June score, you can retake the LSAT in October 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 courseloads or significant extracurricular involvement second semester junior year should not plan to take the June LSAT. Instead, those students should plan to take the 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 October, the most viable retake option is December, which would delay the review of your law school applications until January. Many law schools will also accept February LSAT scores, but applications involving February 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 four 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 October, 10 months before you hope to enter law school, unless absolutely necessary.
How early should I start preparing?
Ideally you should spend 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.
What should I do to prepare?
The best preparation involves three steps: (1) Learning strategies; (2) Practicing using those strategies on actual, released LSATs; and (3) Reviewing explanations for every answer on every practice test you take. Do not underestimate the value of taking full, practice LSATs and reviewing the explanations. 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. See LSAT Resources for customized study plans.
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: (1) convenience — they assist you in each step of the preparation process by providing strategies, practice LSATs, and explanations; (2) interactivity — there is an instructor with whom you can discuss any questions that arise; and (3) 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 courses in Madison include:
What alternatives are there to commercial courses?
If you can’t afford a commercial course, don’t worry. There are several quality alternatives, including University courses and LSAT prep books. UW offers two types of LSAT prep courses. The College of Letters and Science offers an intensive 2-week course several times a year, and the Pre-Law Society offers its members an 8-week course every spring. These courses are helpful for learning strategies, and you can find released LSATs and explanations online.
For more information about the L&S prep course, visit http://cae.ls.wisc.edu/prelaw-lsat. The information is located on the left side of the page.
For more information about the Pre-Law Society course, contact PLS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can I find actual LSATs to practice with?
If you take a commercial LSAT prep course, the company will likely provide copies of released LSATs in the cost of the course. If you do not take a commercial course or if the company does not provide released LSATs, you can purchase released LSATs at:
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?
You can take the LSAT up to three times in two years. Law schools will see all official scores when you apply, but the great majority of law schools only consider the highest LSAT score in the admissions process. Consequently, there is generally no penalty for retaking the LSAT. You might want to consider retaking the LSAT if (a) something went wrong on test day that you believe negatively impacted your test score, (2) you scored significantly lower on test day than you had on comparable practice tests, or (3) there is sufficient time between tests to further prepare.
How long is an LSAT score good?
An LSAT score is good for 5 years.
- Upcoming LSAT dates – http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/test-dates-deadlines
- LSAT fees – http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/lsat-cas-fees
- LSAT Study Calendar – PowerScore-Inspired
- LSAT Study Calendar – Self-Study