Facts About the LSAT

Frank X.J. Homer, Professor and Pre-Law Advisor

University of Scranton

Scranton, PA

The LSAT is a five-section, multiple-choice, standard-scored "aptitude" test, followed by a 30-minute writing sample. Taking the test requires 3 hours and 25 minutes, not including rest breaks and the time needed for the distribution and collection of test materials, as well as other test center procedures.

The five multiple-choice sections, containing a total of about 120-130 questions, are separately timed at 35 minutes a piece, with a brief (usually 10-15 minutes) break in between the third and fourth sections.

There are three different question-types:

  1. Reading Comprehension - Typically, a section of this type will include about 26-28 questions, arranged into four sets, each containing a passage followed by 6-8 questions.
  2. Analytical Reasoning - Also called Logic Games or the "matrix" type, these typically come in sections containing approximately 24 questions, arranged in four sets of analytical problems or "set ups" with 5-7 questions a piece.
  3. Logical Thinking - Typically, a section of this type will include around 24-26 questions that are not for the most part grouped into sets.

One section of both Reading Comprehension and Analytical Reasoning and two sections of Logical Reasoning questions are used to produce your LSAT score; a non-scored section, that can be any type, is included in each test but cannot be identified as such while you are taking the test.

The LSAT score is a three-digit number ranging from 120-180, determined by the number of correct answers on the four scored sections, generally covering a total of about 96-104 questions.

LSAT scores are not absolutes: a 180 does not necessarily mean that every question is answered correctly (you could have as many as 2-3 incorrect answers on the four scored sections and still have a score of 180), nor does a 120 necessarily mean you answered every question incorrectly. Generally, you will need approximately 15-17 correct answers before your score moves above a 120. Once you reach that "threshold," each additional correct answer will help raise your score with, roughly speaking, about two point gained for every three additional correct answers.

While the four scored sections used for each administration of the LSAT are most likely to be the same for each test at every test center, there are different editions in which the non-scored section is not the same and in which the order in which the scored sections appear will vary.

After the five-section, multiple-choice test has been administered, and after a second short (5 minutes) break, the writing sample will be administered. The writing sample is unscored; however, copies of your sample will be sent to each law school to which you apply.

Four Important Points to Remember


Prepared by Southern Methodist University PreLaw Office

Released copies of previously administered LSATs. By far, the most important preparation is practice. Take REAL LSATs under timed conditions again and again and again. LSAC sells them separately as Official LSAT Prep Tests (XI through XVIII) for $7 each and also in groups of three as LSAT: the Official Triple Prep, Volumes l,2, and 3, each for $l4. Their newest publication, TRIPLE PREP PLUS ($16) includes explanations with answers.


The granddaddy of all review courses, Stanley Kaplan has been around for years and has been the most popular choice among SMU students. There are 12 class sessions, each running three hours with additional workshops, plus unlimited use of their resource room to take practice exams and do workbook exercises. This course now costs $845. Discounts and scholarships may be available to qualified students. For more information, call 1-800-KAP-TEST.


This course has been around nationally since1988.They are also a bit less expensive than Kaplan ($795 compared to $845.) The program is 7 weeks leading up to the test date with class meetings between 2-3 times a week. Class size is limited to 15 and tutoring is offered as much as needed. Four released actual LSATs are given under test conditions throughout the course. In addition to these four exams given there are 7 practice exams available. For more information, call 890-0099.


This prep course is a self-study preparation. Cassette Tuition is $295 and a $75 refundable audio cassette fee Course highlights include diagnostic pre-testing in which 3 exams are sent to the student, plus their book contains a diagnostic and practice exam. Materials may be reviewed in an extensive tape library. Instructors answer questions 5 days a week at no extra charge to callers on their 800 number. For more information, call 1-800-777-3926. 4. Within each section, questions are not arranged in order of difficulty. You should not assume that the next question or set of questions will necessarily be either more or less difficult for you to answer than earlier ones.

Some Hints from Test Takers

The LSAT seeks to measure not what you already know but, rather, how well you might respond to training in law so it goes after your basic skills and abilities along certain lines, testing all of the following:

First of all, I can assure you there is not that much actual wisdom necessary for the LSAT. You can study for this test that requires no wisdom, however. Learn how to take the test. Buy a book or take a course for the games section especially. There are different charts and graphs that make solving the games much easier. Learn to recognize the game type and immediately realize what type of chart or graph to draw--no wisdom required! Then PRACTICE. PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Practice the games until you can do them in your sleep. Time yourself. Learn which games are your strong points and which you want to avoid until all the others are done. Don't let those games intimidate you.

When you take the test, have sugar readily available for an energy boost. I know they say no food allowed, but as long as you don't disturb others and aren't obvious about it, you should be okay. I wore a shirt with a front pocket and brought gum and M&M's. They were lifesavers.

There is something I should warn you about. You should check beforehand to make sure you know where the testing center is, and you should leave in plenty of time so as not to rush and get frazzled. However, do not do what I did--arrive at the testing center two hours early. Then you are surrounded by other people who are as stressed as you are and you only stress each other out more. I envied the mellow people walking in thirty minutes before test time. Most importantly, approach the entire test like a game. Do not let it intimidate or daunt you. You take the test, don't let it take you.

Testwiseness-- Thirteen Pointers

  1. Prepare to concentrate immediately, intensely, steadily, and to your utmost. The passive test-taker gets nowhere. There's no time to re-read. Attack the problem actively the first time around. And be in condition to keep this up for 3 1/2 hours.
  2. Take time to understand the directions. You're being tested on following difficult and unexpected directions. Pay particular attention to the exact working of definitions. Some of these are very strange, too.
  3. Don't misread, don't skim, don't "speed-read". The time pressure comes from the required speed of thinking, not of reading. Read carefully for exact wording, exact meaning. Underline key words.
  4. Never answer from your own knowledge or experience--that's not what's being tested. Never answer from your own opinions or prejudices, or because you think one answer is more socially acceptable than another. (You'll often be invited to do that.)
  5. Read nothing into any problems. Deal only with what has actually been said. Beware of thinking you recognize what's going to be said, ("Oh, I know that.") because chances are good that you'll miss the actual point. Don't get involved with what you think must also be true, or must also have happened, unless you've been asked to do that. If "ifs" and "but's" come into your mind, forget them.
  6. Omit nothing from any problem. Read all the options. Read every sentence in the stimulus material. It's true you're sometimes given irrelevant material, but don't dismiss it until you've actually assessed it in terms of what you've been asked.
  7. Work with the test, not against it. Use the Four Important Points to Remember listed above. Taken together, they tell you the following:
    a. work as fast as possible consistent with accuracy; don't allow yourself to get stuck on any question; don't rush to get the harder problems, thus possibly missing easy ones, since they all count the same; and leave no blanks!!!
    b. One, and only one, of these options is correct in terms of the questions. Accept this; don't fight it. All problems have been thoroughly tested. Every word is there on purpose.
    c. Avoid over subtlety--don't make the test harder than it is. (People who fight certain questions, as in point b above, tend to be oversubtle.)
  8. As you select answers, be aware that one of the benchmarks of the good, professionally written question is the frequent presence of an option that is almost, but not quite, right: the "attractive" distracter.
  9. Keep track of time but don't be possessed by it. Resist pressure by working at the faster pace than is productive for you. Many people don't finish. The score comes from getting questions right, not just from getting them answered, and a correct guess is as good as a right answer, whether you like it or not.
  10. Don't waver about guessing. Decide quickly, once you recognize the possibility, then do it and forget about it. There is no pattern of right answers, so it doesn't matter what option you pick. Don't sit there wondering if you could answer it if you took more time; you've already taken too much time if you've worked long enough to get stuck.
  11. In general, try to take the questions in order, but that's not a hard and fast rule. Your main concern is maximizing your score by getting questions right, so it often pays to skip around, locating the types of questions you personally favor. Just make sure you get back to the others.
  12. Manage the answer sheet. Avoid stupid, nerve-wracking mistakes such as getting answers in the wrong column (picking A but marking B) or reversing the wrong number (answering #22 in slot #23). This is more common than you might believe. Have a system. And to insure yourself against panic if you do catch yourself misplacing answers, always mark your answers in your test booklet before transferring them to the answer sheet.
  13. Finally, do try to keep a sense of proportion. This test is a difficult and important set of games. It's not a final judgment about your worth as a person or your potential as a law student. You're not the only one, by any means, who makes a lot of mistakes or who might not finish all sections. Don't waste time during the test worrying about things like that. Just do your job and take the test.