About the LSAT
WHAT DOES THE LSAT MEASURE?
The LSAT is an aptitude test.
Like all aptitude tests, it must choose a medium in which to measure
intellectual ability. The LSAT has chosen logic. Other tests, such
as the SAT, use mathematics and English.
The question is--does it measure aptitude for law school? Now if
you think analytically and like to fiddle with crossword or logic
puzzles, then you will probably warm up to the LSAT. On the other
hand, if you think intuitively and synthetically, then you will
probably find the medium (Logic) less palatable. Whether the ability
to determine the possible arrangements of people around a circular
table is an important skill for a lawyer is debatable. Nonetheless,
the Law School Admission Council has chosen this type of question
to test your aptitude for law school, so you must master their solution.
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FORMAT OF THE LSAT
The LSAT is a three-hour-and-twenty-five minute test. Only two
hours and twenty minutes of the LSAT count toward your score--the
experimental section and the writing sample are not scored. There
are six parts to the test.
|Number of Questions
|Analytical Reasoning (games)
|Logical Reasoning (arguments)
NOTE: The order of the format is not fixed: the sections can occur
in any order--except for the writing sample, which is always last.
The experimental section can be a game section, an argument section,
or a reading comprehension section. You won't know which section
is experimental. You will know which type of section it is, though,
since there will be an extra one of that type.
The final section of the LSAT is the writing sample. This part of
the test is not scored, but a copy of it, along with your LSAT score,
will be sent to the law schools to which you apply.
THE THREE TYPES OF PROBLEMS
The LSAT uses three types of problems to measure your aptitude
for law school: analytical reasoning (games), logical reasoning
(arguments), and reading comprehension.
The game section comprises one-quarter of the LSAT. It contains
four games; each has about six questions for a total of about twenty-four
The game section is the most difficult and most mathematical part
of the LSAT. Indeed, the games actually fit into a branch of mathematics
called Set Theory--though we won't use any mathematical tools to
While the entire test should be read with care, the games must be
read with extra care. In particular, pay close attention to words
that limit relationships, such as "only," "never," "sometimes,"
Adam, Bob, Carl, David, Eric, Frank, George, and Hank are basketball
Frank is the same height as Hank.
George is taller than Frank.
Eric is taller than Adam.
Adam is taller than David and Carl.
Bob is shorter than Carl.
Which one of the following must be false?
(A) George is taller than Hank.
(B) Carl is taller than David.
(C) Adam is taller than Frank.
(D) David is the same height as Carl.
(E) Bob is the same height as Eric.
If George is taller than Frank who is as tall as Hank, then George
must be taller than Hank. Hence (A) is true. This dismisses (A).
Next, the fourth condition tells us that Adam is taller than both
David and Carl; it does not, however, tell us who is taller between
Carl and David, nor do any other conditions. Hence (B) is not necessarily
false. This dismisses both (B) and (D). Next, no condition relates
the relative heights of Adam and Frank. Hence (C) is not necessarily
false. This dismisses (C). Finally, Eric is taller than Adam who
is taller than Carl who is taller than Bob. Hence, Eric must be
taller than Bob. This contradicts (E). Thus (E) must be false, and
therefore it is the answer.
Arguments (logical reasoning) test your ability to understand the
validity, or invalidity, of a line of reasoning. On the LSAT, an
argument is a presentation of facts and opinions in order to support
a position. The style of the arguments varies from informal discussions
to formal dissertations.
Some arguments are intentionally poorly written and many are fallacious.
This portion of the LSAT looks as though it came right out of a
logic book--hence the name "logical reasoning." Now, logic is the
study of the connections between statements, not the truth of those
statements. On the LSAT, many students hurt themselves by tenaciously
pursuing the truth--favoring answers that make true statements over
those that make false statements. Although there will be cases where
the truth of an argument is a factor, there will be as many cases
where it is irrelevant.
In the game of basketball, scoring a three-point shot is a skill
that only those with a soft-shooting touch can develop. Wilt Chamberlain,
however, was a great player. So even though he did not have a soft-shooting
touch, he would have excelled at scoring three-point shots.
Which one of the following contains a flaw that most closely parallels
the flaw contained in the passage?
(A) Eighty percent of the freshmen at Berkeley go on to get a bachelor's
degree. David is a freshman at Berkeley, so he will probably complete
his studies and receive a bachelor's degree.
(B) If the police don't act immediately to quell the disturbance,
it will escalate into a riot. However, since the police are understaffed,
there will be a riot.
(C) The meek shall inherit the earth. Susie received an inheritance
from her grandfather, so she must be meek.
(D) During the Vietnam War, the powerful had to serve along with
the poor. However, Stevens' father was a federal judge, so Steven
was able to get a draft deferment.
(E) All dolphins are mammals and all mammals breathe air. Therefore,
all mammals that breathe air are dolphins.
The original argument clearly contradicts itself. So we are looking
for an answer-choice that contradicts itself in like manner. Notice
that both the argument and the correct answer will not be true--again
searching for truth can hamper you.
Choice (A) is not self-contradictory. In fact, it's a fairly sound
argument. This eliminates (A). Choice (B), on the other hand, is
not a sound argument. The police, though understaffed, may realize
the seriousness of the situation and rearrange their priorities.
Nevertheless, (B) does not contain a contradiction. This eliminates
(B). As to choice (C), although the argument is questionable, it,
like (B), does not contain a contradiction. This eliminates (C).
Choice (D), however, does contain a contradiction. It starts by
stating that both the powerful and the poor had to serve in Vietnam,
but it ends by stating that some powerful people--namely, Stevens--did
not have to serve. This is a contradiction, so (D) is probably the
answer. Finally, choice (E), like the original argument, is invalid,
but it does not contain a contradiction. This eliminates (E). The
answer is (D).
The two argument sections, each with about twenty-five questions,
make up one-half of the LSAT. This is good news because as we analyze
these problems you will develop an ability to uncover their underlying
Reading comprehension, like the games, comprises one-fourth of the
LSAT. The section consists of four passages each with six to eight
questions, for a total of about twenty-six questions.
The passages are taken from academic journals. As you would expect,
they are usually quite dry. Nearly any subject may appear, but the
most common themes are political, historical, cultural, and scientific.
Following is a condensed version of a recently given LSAT passage.
There are two major systems of criminal procedure in the modern
world--the adversarial and the inquisitorial. Both systems were
historically preceded by the system of private vengeance in which
the victim of a crime fashioned his own remedy and administered
it privately. The modern adversarial system is only one historical
step removed from the private vengeance system and still retains
some of its characteristic features. Thus, for example, even though
the right to initiate legal action against a criminal has now been
extended to all members of society and even though the police department
has taken over the pretrial investigative functions on behalf of
the prosecution, the adversarial system still leaves the defendant
to conduct his own pretrial investigation. The trial is still viewed
as a duel between two adversaries, refereed by a judge who, at the
beginning of the trial has no knowledge of the investigative background
of the case. In the final analysis the adversarial system of criminal
procedure symbolizes and regularizes the punitive combat.
By contrast, the inquisitorial system begins historically where
the adversarial system stopped its development. It is two historical
steps removed from the system of private vengeance. Therefore, from
the standpoint of legal anthropology, it is historically superior
to the adversarial system. Under the inquisitorial system the public
investigator has the duty to investigate not just on behalf of the
prosecutor but also on behalf of the defendant. Because of the inquisitorial
system's thoroughness in conducting its pretrial investigation,
it can be concluded that a defendant who is innocent would prefer
to be tried under the inquisitorial system, whereas a defendant
who is guilty would prefer to be tried under the adversarial system.
The primary purpose of the passage is to:
(A) explain why the inquisitorial system is the best system of
(B) explain how both the adversarial and the inquisitorial systems
of criminal justice evolved from the system of private vengeance.
(C) show how the adversarial and inquisitorial systems of criminal
justice can both complement and hinder each other's development.
(D) show how the adversarial and inquisitorial systems of criminal
justice are being combined into a new and better system.
(E) analyze two systems of criminal justice and imply that one is
The answer to a main idea question will summarize the passage without
going beyond it. (A) violates these criteria by overstating the
scope of the passage. The author draws a comparison between two
systems, not between all systems. (A) would be a good answer if
"best" were replaced with "better." (Beware of absolute words.)
(B) violates the criteria by understating the scope of the passage.
Although the evolution of both the adversarial and the inquisitorial
systems is discussed in the passage, it is done to show why one
is superior to the other. (C) and (D) can be quickly dismissed as
neither is mentioned in the passage. Finally, the passage does two
things: it presents two systems of criminal justice, and it implies
that one is better developed than the other. (E) aptly summarizes
this, so it is the best answer.
You may have noticed that the three sample problems did not ask
any questions about legal issues. Ironically, the LSAT does not
contain any legal questions. You may have also noticed that some
questions have a rather mathematical appearance.
In your undergraduate studies you probably learned to quickly read
through reams of material. You were also probably taught to seek
out truth and knowledge. This academic conditioning will serve you
poorly on the LSAT. The LSAT does not measure your academic knowledge;
rather it tests your ability to detect patterns and relationships.
Often these patterns are invalid, such as fallacious arguments.
Searching for knowledge and truth can be ruinous to your LSAT score.
Instead, seek out patterns and relationships.
Although time is strictly limited on the LSAT, working too quickly
can also damage your score. Many problems hinge on subtle points,
and most require careful reading of the setup. Because undergraduate
school puts such heavy reading loads on students, many will follow
their academic conditioning and read the questions quickly, looking
only for the gist of what the question is asking. Once they have
found it, they mark their answer and move on, confident they have
answered it correctly. Later, many are startled to discover that
they missed questions because they either misread the problems or
overlooked subtle points.
To do well in your undergraduate classes, you had to attempt to
solve every, or nearly every, problem on a test. Not so with the
LSAT. In fact, if you try to solve every problem on this test you
will probably decimate your score. For the vast majority of people,
the key to performing well on the LSAT is not the number of questions
they answer, within reason, but the percentage they answer correctly.
SCORING THE LSAT
The LSAT is designed so that it is nearly impossible for anyone
to answer all the questions correctly. A "perfect score" can include
as many as 3 wrong answers. The LSAT is scored on a scale from 120
to 180, and 151 is the average scaled score.
In addition to the scaled score, you will be assigned a percentile
ranking, which gives the percentage of students with scores below
yours. For instance, if you correctly answer 77 of 100 questions,
then you will score better than 90% of the other test takers. In
other words, you can miss nearly one-quarter of the questions and
still be in the 90th percentile. This further substantiates the
claim that you need not complete the entire test to get a top score.
Since 151 is the average scaled score, it marks the 50th percentile.
SKIPPING AND GUESSING
Some questions on the LSAT are very hard. Most test takers should
skip these questions. Often students become obsessed with a particular
problem and waste valuable time trying to solve it. To get a top
score, learn to cut your losses and move on because all questions
are worth the same number of points, regardless of difficulty level.
So skip the nearly impossible questions and concentrate on the easy
and possible ones.
Which problems to skip varies from person to person, so experiment
to find what works best for you. There is no guessing penalty on
the LSAT. So make sure you mark any questions that you skip! By
the laws of probability, you should answer one question correctly
for every five guesses.
ORDER OF DIFFICULTY
Most standardized tests list problems in ascending order of difficulty.
On these tests, deciding which questions to skip is easy--skip the
last ones. Unfortunately, the LSAT does not conform to this rule.
The level of difficulty varies throughout the LSAT. However, the
first question will not be the hardest and the last will not be
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When is the LSAT given?
The LSAT is administered four
times a year--usually in October, December, February,
and June--on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Special arrangements
for schedule changes are available.
How important is the LSAT and how is it used?
It is crucial! Although law schools may consider other factors,
the vast majority of admission decisions are based on only two criteria:
your LSAT score and your GPA.
How many times should I take the LSAT?
Most people are better off preparing thoroughly for the LSAT, taking
it one time and getting their top score. You can take the test as
often as you like, but many law schools will average your scores.
You should call the schools to which you are applying to find out
their policy. Then plan your strategy accordingly. A copy of your
LSAT and Grade Point Average will automatically be sent to every
school to which you apply.
Can I cancel my score?
Yes. To do so, you must notify the Law School Admission Services
within 5 days after taking the LSAT.
Where can I get the registration forms?
Most law schools have the forms. You can also get them directly
from Law School Admission Services by writing to:
661 Penn Street
Newtown, PA 18940
Or calling 215-968-1001