What is the LSAT?

Here’s a quick overview.


The reality is that are two things that determine whether you get accepted to law school and where you will be accepted:  your GPA and your LSAT score, and the LSAT is more important.  These 2 numbers also determine if you get any scholarship money. 

First, Some Vocabulary. 

The Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT, is a standardized test that everyone applying to law school needs to take.

The LSAT is administered by the Law School Admissions Council, the LSAC.

The American Bar Association, or ABA, is an organization for lawyers that sets ethics codes and other standards for the profession (like the bar exam), but also is the organization that “accredits” law schools. Accreditation is “quality assurance.” To be accredited, law schools have to follow ABA policies regarding their admissions processes.

Why does the LSAT matter so much?  Law schools actually have a responsibility to admit students that they think have a high likelihood of succeeding (this is ABA Rule 501). There is a strong correlation between a student’s LSAT score and their performance as a first-year law student (known as a “1L”). Success for law schools is also measured by their bar passage rates (don’t forget that after you finish law school, you have to take the bar exam!). And there is a correlation between LSAT scores and bar passage rates.

You can think of preparing for the LSAT kind of like preparing for the bar exam; while the content is very different, the intensity, dedication, and study skills needed are very similar.

Format:  You have 2 options for how you take the LSAT.  You can take the LSAT online at home on your computer, but it IS proctored (i.e. someone is watching you!). Your other option is to take it on a computer at a testing center.  The LSAC provides a list of where these centers are.

Registering:  The LSAT is offered 8 or 9 times every year.  You register by creating an account through LSAC.org.  Some dates fill faster than others, so pay attention to when registration opens.

Length:  about 3 hours

Cost:  around $200.  But that is just for the LSAT.  To create your LSAC account, that’s another $200.

Score:  A perfect score is a 180 (yes, this is weird).  The national average is about a 151.  It takes about a month to get your score.  Your score is good for 5 years.

Content:  The LSAT has 2 parts.  The main part – the part that causes the most stress — is a multiple-choice test with 4 sections, but only 3 are scored.  One section is “experimental” and not scored. The purpose of this experimental section is to allow the LSAC to test new questions for future LSATs.  Each section has a 35-minute time-limit.

The second part is the “LSAT Writing.” This is a 35-minute essay exam that you do at home on your own computer whenever you want.  You should do this within 2 weeks of taking the multiple-choice part.  Law schools will not consider your application complete without your score on the LSAT Writing.

You should plan on taking the LSAT once, but take it again if you need to.  A very common question is whether you should take the LSAT more than once. You should plan on taking it once, but if you want to take it again, the first thing you should know is that this means spending another $200.  But there may be very good reasons for you to do this. If something happened when you took it the first time that you know would be different if you took it a second time, then take it again.  For example, if you were sick or your dog died the night before (this happened to one of my students!).  If you did not study as much as you should have before you took it the first time – and you have learned your lesson and now know that you must seriously prepare – take it again.

Law schools will receive both your scores, but they will base their decisions on your highest score.

Before taking it again, talk to your pre-law advisor or admissions staff at the law schools you are interested in.

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