TABLE OF CONTENTS
Note: This is a modified version of Magoosh's LSAT Guide for its own teachers and tutors. We're making this publicly available, since the info in here is also very useful for Magoosh students.)
- Test Limits
- Registration Process
- Test dates and registration deadlines
- Registration Fees
- Points per question and section
- Raw score to scaled score conversion
- What is a good LSAT score?
- Handscoring: What it is, when students should request it?
- LSAT Score Release Dates and Notifications
- Sending LSAT Scores to Universities
- LSAT Score Cancellation
- Reading Comprehension
- Analytical Reasoning (aka Logic Games)
- Logical Reasoning
- The Writing Sample
What is the LSAT?
The LSAT is a paper-based standardized test created, sponsored, and administered by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC).
LSAT scores are required as part of the law school admissions process throughout Canada and the USA. The Melbourne Law School in Australia also requires the LSAT. In addition, an alternate version of the LSAT made specifically for the Indian higher education system is accepted by many law schools in India. The LSAT-India is jointly administered by PearsonVue and the LSAC and it is significantly different from the “main” version of the LSAT that Magoosh supports.
Although the main version of the LSAT is accepted in just three countries, the exam can be taken at test centers in more than 50 nations worldwide. The LSAC oversees an estimated 150,000 testing sessions around the world each year.
The LSAT is a measure of skills rather than specific content knowledge. The test is designed to assess academic proficiency in the kinds of tasks required for law school: advanced reading comprehension for complex, highly academic texts, and the ability to make sophisticated inferences and deep analyses when reading reports and arguments.
The history of the LSAT is interesting in and of itself. You (or students who ask you about the LSAT’s history) can read about the background of this exam in the opening paragraphs of Magoosh’s LSAT overview.
Recent and Upcoming Changes to the LSAT
The LSAT’s content and scoring systems haven’t changed, but rules for test administration are being reworked in the following ways:
- No more limits to how many times you can take the LSAT, as of September 2017
Previously, people were only allowed to take the LSAT three times in a two year period. Cancellations and no shows counted toward this limit. But the limit has now been lifted! Students do not need to worry about limits if they are considering their first, retake, second retake, or beyond.
- From 2018 onward, the LSAT will be administered 6 times a year
Previously, the LSAT only offered 4 testing days a year. There are now 6 testing days a year, effective in 2018.
The LSAT vs. the GRE
In recent years a number of law schools, including heavyweights like Harvard and Columbia, have started accepting the GRE as an LSAT substitute. This partial list of the law schools that accept the GRE can be found on the ETS website.
If students ask you about the GRE vs. the LSAT, first make sure they know for a fact that they are applying to a law school (or law schools) that accept the GRE. From there, you can discuss which test is right for your student. The comparative features of the LSAT and the GRE are discussed in detail in this Magoosh LSAT Blog post. I’ve also summarized some of the most important LSAT/GRE differences below:
- Paper-based vs. computer-based
The LSAT is a paper test, while the GRE is taken on a computer. For students who have a strong preference for one format or the other, this is an important distinction to consider.
- Static difficulty vs. adaptive difficulty
This difference stems directly from the paper vs. computer split. Since the LSAT is printed on paper, the exam obviously won’t adjust the difficulty of questions as the test taker progresses. On the other hand, the GRE can adjust the difficulty, and does. GRE tests are computer adaptive, meaning that if a test-taker does well in the first half of Quant or Verbal, the questions in the second half will become more difficult, and the final section score will be adjusted for difficulty.
This means that both question difficulty and scoring on the LSAT are more predictable. On the other hand, students who have a strong start in their exam will be rewarded in the GRE, but aren’t rewarded in the LSAT.
- Analytical Reasoning
The LSAT has an Analytical Reasoning section; the GRE does not. LSAT Analytical Reasoning is significantly different from anything found on the GRE, or found on any other major standardized test, for that matter. You can read more about LSAT Analytical Reasoning in the “Structure of the LSAT” section below, as well as the “LSAT Sections: In-Depth Look” portion of this guide near the end.
The GRE has a Quant section with a wide variety of university-level math problems. The LSAT has no math problems. This is a very significant difference, especially for students who face math challenges.
Structure of the LSAT
The LSAT has six sections: Reading Comprehension (1 section), Analytical Reasoning (2 sections), Logical Reasoning (1 section), one experimental section, and the Writing Sample. These sections are administered in random order on test day; students won’t know which section they take first, second, etc., until they’re in the test center.
In the second half of this article, I’ll show you each section in great detail. For now, here’s a brief snapshot of each section, and of the test as a whole:
The Test Sections
- Reading Comprehension
- 3 individual reading passages, each with its own set of questions
- 1 paired passage consisting of two related shorter passages followed by one set of questions
- Similar in some ways to GMAT RC, or the medium-to-long passage tasks in GRE RC
- 27 questions, 35 minutes
- Approximately 27% of final score
- Logical Reasoning
- Two sections: each contains 25 questions, for a total of 50 questions
- Each question features a short paragraph, followed by a single question about the paragraph
- Comparable in some ways to GRE RC Paragraph Arguments and GMAT CR
- Each of the 2 sections is 35 minutes long, for a total of 70 minutes for LR
- Approximately 50% of final score
- Analytical Reasoning
- Often referred to as the “Logic Games” question
- 4 separate “games” are described, each with its own set of rules
- Students answer questions about possible outcomes of the game, based on the rules
- 23 questions total, 35 minutes
- 23% of final score
- Experimental Section (unscored, does NOT contribute to final score)
- One extra section will be experimental and unscored, used to help the LSAC try out new questions and experiment with new test material
- Will be either an extra regularly-formatted section in Reading Comprehension, Logical Reasoning, or Analytical Reasoning
- The final score report will reveal which section was experimental
- IMPORTANT NOTE:
On the test, there’s no way to tell which extra section is experimental, no matter what rumors students have heard. Encourage students to go through every section as if it will be part of the final score.
- The Writing Sample (unscored, but important)
- This section comes last (It’s the one section whose order is not random)
- Unscored, but important: law schools receive a copy of the test-taker’s writing sample and it will be a factor in their admissions decisions
- 1 question, involving a scenario where a person or organization must choose one of two courses of action
- This section is not supported in the Magoosh LSAT Premium videos, but we do offer extensive tutorials and advice on the Magoosh LSAT Blog (links can be found in the in-depth look at the LSAT Writing Sample found in the second half of this article)
- 35 minutes
Whole Test Structure, Duration, and Timing
As I mentioned above, the main sections of the test are administered in random order, and the writing sample is administered at the very end The total amount of actual testing time is 3.5 hours (35 minutes times 6). However, the LSAT also has breaks.There’s a 15 minute break between the third and fourth sections. This break is mentioned on the official LSAT website. Several major unofficial LSAT prep sites say that there are two 10 minute breaks, one after the third section and one after the fourth, so some students may be confused about this.
There are technically no eligibility requirements for the LSAT. Anyone of any age and of any educational background can register for the LSAT and take it. Obviously, though, the LSAT is designed for individuals who are headed for law school and have their bachelor’s degree in progress or completed. It’s also inadvisable to take the LSAT 5 years or more before you might start law school, as most law schools treat LSAT scores that are 5 years old or older as expired.
As mentioned in the “changes” section earlier in this article, there are no longer any limits to how many times a student can register for and take the LSAT.
Types of registration
Published registration is usually referred to as just “registration.” This is registration for an established, official test center with a location that’s published in the online LSAC directory of test locations.
If a student is located more than 100 miles or more than 160 kilometers from a published test center, they can request to take the LSAT at a location closer to their home, and LSAC will arrange an alternate testing site if possible. The LSAT doesn’t set up nonpublished alternate test locations in China, and may choose not to set up a nonpublished test site in an area where there are security concerns. Details on requesting a nonpublished LSAT can be found here on the LSAC website.
There is a Spanish-language version of the LSAT. It’s administered only in Puerto Rico, and is used exclusively by Puerto Rican law schools.
The steps of registration
- Step 1: Log in to your LSAC account. Register for an account if you don’t already have one. (LSAC page for account login and registry.)
- Step 2: In your account, register and pay for your exam.
- ADDITIONAL NOTE:
Students with basic LSAT registry questions can also be referred to the blog post “Everything You Need to Know About LSAT Registration.
Test dates and registration deadlines
Magoosh gives a good overview of the test dates, times, and deadlines through 2019 in this blog post; this post also lists known upcoming LSAT test dates.Here are the basic details:
US Test Dates
American LSAT test dates generally take place on a Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday. Whenever a month has a Saturday test date, there will be an alternate weekday test date for students who can’t test on Saturday for religious reasons. U.S. test sessions will always begin either at 8:30am or 12:30pm in a given test center’s local time zone.. Each test date has just one test session.
International Test Dates
International test dates usually occur either on a Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday. Again, when the test falls on a weekend, there will be a weekday alternative for religious reasons. International testing sessions always begin at 8:30am.
- Published registration (regular): Approximately 6-7 weeks before the test date
- Published registration (late): Approximately 5-6 weeks before the test date (one extra week given, extra charges apply as seen in the fee table below)
- Nonpublished registration: Approximately 8 weeks before the test date (extra charges apply as seen in the fee table below)
- Spanish registration: The published (regular), published (late), and nonpublished rules above apply.
- Photo upload: 4-5 weeks before the test date (not registration itself, but uploading a photo to LSAC for identification purposes is a required part of registering for the exam)
Exact dates and deadlines
For exact dates and deadlines for all upcoming tests (as well as possible announcements of additional dates), see the official LSAT dates and deadlines page.
When to register for and take the test
While the deadlines listed above are one consideration as a student registers for an exam and picks a date, there are other factors to consider. If students ask about when they should take the test, be sure to discuss school application deadlines, optimal LSAT study schedules, and any other relevant considerations. For undergrads who are planning for the LSAT, this Magoosh LSAT blog post on the law school application timeline can be helpful.
A table of all registration, cancellation and rescheduling fees, taken from the Magoosh LSAT Blog post “How Much Does the LSAT Cost,” appears below:
All of the fees above, should be self-explanatory, with the exception of the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) fee and the handscoring fee.
The CAS fee, explained
The Credential Assembly Service is a company that partners with LSAC to gather and verify students’ academic information, including LSAT scores. A CAS report contains not only an LSAC score report, but also transcripts from any universities the student previously attended, and letters of recommendation for submission to any law schools the student is attending.
A CAS verified report is required by any law school approved by the American Bar Association, and is also required by almost all other schools that accept the LSAT. So students should consider this fee to be mandatory, unless their target school tells them otherwise. The CAS fee is a one-time fee. Once a student has paid the fee, no additional CAS fees apply for sending score reports to schools. The $35-per-report LSAC fee still does apply, however. For more information on CAS, see the LSAC’s CAS overview and CAS FAQ.
The handscoring fee, explained
The handscoring fee is paid when a student wants their exam rescored. (More on handscoring in the “How is the LSAT Scored” section later in this article.)
Students in extreme poverty or financial distress may get their LSAT fees waived, provided they meet certain citizenship or residency requirements in either the United States, Canada, or Australia. Students can apply for a fee waiver through their online LSAC account. Details on fee waiver eligibility and how to make a fee waiver request are found on the official LSAT fee waiver page.
Test Day Details
The LSAT’s ID and allowed/prohibited items rules are very detailed. For a full description of the rules, go to the official “LSAT Day of the Test” web page.
Test Center Rules
Items needed to enter the test center and take the test
- Admission ticket
- Valid government photo ID
- Three wooden number 2 or HB lead pencils. (Pencils and pencil sharpeners are not provided by the test center.)
Items students are able to use at their desks, while they answer questions
- Pencil sharpeners
- Analog (nondigital) wristwatches
Items that can be stored at the test center and accessed on breaks, but can’t be used during the test:
- Medical products (including diabetic testing supplies)
- Feminine hygiene products
- Beverage in plastic container or juice box (maximum size: 20 oz/591 ml)—no aluminum cans or glass containers permitted
Items that are fully prohibited in the test center
- Electronic timers of any kind
- Electronic cigarettes
- Fitness tracking devices
- Digital watches, alarm watches, beeping watches, calculator watches, chronograph watches (digital or nondigital)
- Cell phones, beepers, pagers, personal digital assistants (PDAs)
- Personal calculators
- Other personal computing devices (laptops, handheld or portable game systems, etc…)
- Photographic or recording devices
- Listening devices
- Headsets, iPods, or other media players
- Books, dictionaries, papers of any kind
- Mechanical pencils
- Mechanical erasers or erasers with sleeves
- Ink pens or felt-tip markers
- Briefcases, handbags, backpacks of any kind
- Hats/hoods (except religious apparel) may not be worn on the head
- Sunglasses may not be worn
- Weapons or firearms
Scratch paper policy
Although students can’t bring in their own scratch paper and scratch paper isn’t permitted in most test sections, students are allowed to use scratch paper, provided by the test center, for the Writing Sample section of the test. However, it is possible for students to write in the test book itself if they need to. For more details, read the Magoosh LSAT Blog post “Do I Get Scratch Paper on the LSAT?”
How is the LSAT Scored?
Points per question and section
The LSAT has 100 questions, and each question is worth an equal percentage point of the final score; in other words, 1 question equals roughly 1% of the score. As a result, the number of questions in a section approximates the percentage of the score each section is worth: Reading comprehension has 27 questions and is worth about 27% of the score, Logical Reasoning has two sections of 25 questions each, for a total of 50% of the score, and Analytical Reasoning has 23 questions, for a total of 23% of the overall score.
Raw score to scaled score conversion
Official scaled LSAT scores range from 120-180. Within this 60-point range, the conversion from raw scores/percentages to scaled score is not perfectly correlated. For example, if a student got 50% of the questions right, they wouldn’t have a score at exactly 150, even though 150 is the midpoint of the scaled score range.
Fortunately, you can show your students a conversion table for raw-to-scaled LSAT scores. It’s in the Magoosh LSAT Blog post “How Does LSAT Scoring Work?” I’ve also reproduced the table below:
Students should be encouraged to read the full LSAT scoring post the graphic above comes from, as it includes a few additional valuable insights and suggestions for score estimation.
Recall also that the Writing Sample isn’t graded, and that there will be an additional experimental section that also isn’t graded. (Once more, there’s no way to know for certain that a section is experimental!)
What is a good LSAT score?
Students often ask what a good LSAT score is. This is a deceptively simple question with no easy answers. After all, every school has different requirements, and the LSAT scores of applicants may be more competitive one semester and less competitive the next. However, the Magoosh LSAT Blog does have a number of good resources to answer these kinds of student questions. Here are a few highlights from the blog:
- Our article on LSAT percentiles and our post on average LSAT scores show how good a student’s LSAT score may be, relative to that of other test-takers.
- Magoosh’s list of the LSAT scores for the top 100 law schools.
- A post on how many questions a student can miss and still get a perfect (or near-perfect) LSAT score.
Handscoring: What it is, when students should request it?
Most standardized tests allow students to appeal their scores and ask for a rescore. The LSAT is no exception. The LSAC website refers to this kind of rescore as handscoring on their official page for handscore requests. Since the LSAT is a paper-based test, handscoring involves having LSAT staff carefully re-examine a student’s LSAT test to make sure all marks for all questions were properly recorded and scored.
Handscoring is not guaranteed to raise an unsatisfactory score; LSAT scores may go up, go down, or stay the same after a handscoring. The fee is $100 USD, and all requests must be made within 60 days of taking the LSATz. Turnaround times for handscoring are relatively fast; students who request a handscore can expect the results in 5-7 business days after LSAC receives the request. If the score changes, the new score will automatically be sent to the schools that received the original score. The sending of new scores comes at no extra charge for the student (beyond the initial handscoring fee, of course).
The following LSAT blog posts offer even more details on handscoring, as well as some advice on whether or not to request this kind of rescore:
- LSAT Handscoring: The Basics
- Should I Have my LSAT Handscored?
- When Should I Not Request Handscoring on the LSAT?
Receiving, Sending, or Cancelling LSAT Scores
LSAT Score Releases Dates and Notifications
The LSAC publishes score release dates online. To view official LSAT score release dates, go to this page and click the date for a given test. Once you get to the timeline page for the test date you’ve selected, scroll all the way down to the bottom, and you’ll see the date LSAC says the scores for that test date will be available.
You’ll notice that I’ve qualified my statements above, talking about the official LSAT dates, the days that LSAC says they’ll be available. In reality, score release almost never happens on the exact day that LSAT says it will. Instead, scores are usually released early, anywhere from a day early to nearly two weeks early. Students should treat the official LSAT score release dates as the very latest day they might get their score report.
Another important thing to understand here is that not all test takers get their scores at the same time. In a cohort of students who took the test on the same day, some students will get their score results earlier than others. Ultimately, every student should expect to wait roughly 2-4 weeks for their exam results. Within that general range, getting scores in less than 17 days is rare, and getting scores in more than 30 days is also rare.
This somewhat unpredictable release schedule can cause students a lot of anxiety. Fortunately, there is a way for students to know when their scores are available. Students will receive email notification once their scores are available, and the “Status” icon on their online LSAT account will change from green to grey. (In the unlikely event that a student doesn’t have an online LSAT account, they’ll receive their scores by post.)
Students can find a few additional details on score release in the Magoosh LSAT Blog post “How Can I Check my LSAT Scores?”
Sending LSAT Scores to Universities
To send LSAT scores to schools of their choice, students can log into their LSAT account, navigate to the page for sending scores, and select their school from the LSAC’s list of schools that accept LSAT score reports. As you saw in the fee table earlier in this article, score reporting costs $35 per university.
LSAT Score Cancellation
Before we talk about cancelling scores, let’s first talk about why a student might want to do this. If someone has taken the LSAT more than once, their score report will include any past LSAT scores as well as the most recent score. (The only exception is LSAT exams taken before June 2012.) So if a student thinks they might have gotten a bad score on the LSAT, they may want to cancel that score. Score cancellation is the only way to prevent a potentially bad score from appearing on an LSAT score report.
The tricky part here is that the score cancellation can only help students deal with potentially bad scores, not scores that are confirmed to be bad. Unfortunately, scores must be cancelled within 6 calendar days of the test date, well before score reports are available. Students can cancel their scores right in the test center, or they can do so in their LSAT account in the week after their test.
Additional details on the score cancellation process can be found in Randall’s Magoosh LSAT Blog post, “How to Cancel your LSAT Scores.”
Retaking the LSAT
To retake or not to retake? This decision depends on several factors. As mentioned on the Magoosh LSAT Blog, an LSAT retake can impact a student’s application timeline in a variety of ways.
Since all LSAT scores appear on each individual LSAT score report, there can be some risk if a student’s retake score is lower than their previous score. Mid-tier schools tend not to hold this against students, and are usually willing to consider only the highest score on an LSAT report, even if a more recent retake score is lower. However, the top law schools are more likely to frown upon a lower retake score. Many of these top schools even go so far as to discourage applicants from taking the LSAT more than once. For more information on how a retake might impact chances of acceptance, read Catherine’s post on the Magoosh LSAT Blog, “LSAT Retake: What do Law Schools Think?”
Students should also consider whether their LSAT score was significantly lower than their LSAT practice test scores. If that’s the case, or if a student feels their score otherwise does not reflect their true ability, a retake might be a good idea.
All in all, this can be a tough decision. Here are a few additional Magoosh LSAT Blog articles that students may find helpful as they consider a retake:
- Taking the LSAT Twice: Pros and Cons
- What Makes Retaking the LSAT Worthwhile?
- Should I Retake the LSAT?
- LSAT Score in the Low 150s: Should I Retake?
The LSAT Sections: An in-depth look
The LSAT has three scored components: Reading Comprehension, Analytical Reasoning, and Logical Reasoning (more commonly known as Logic Games). There is also an unscored component, the Writing Sample. Basic stats on each of these components can be found in the LSAT Structure part of this article; that would be the second section of this article, right after LSAT Basics.
As I mentioned before, LSAT Reading Comprehension is similar to RC on the GRE and GMAT in many respects. In fact, there are enough similarities that certain LSAT RC materials are recommended as GRE or GMAT practice in Magoosh’s GRE/GMAT study schedules.
With that said, it would be a mistake to see LSAT RC as interchangeable with RC on other exams. The LSAT Reading Comprehension has a unique blend of passage and question types, and requires a unique set of strategies.
- 400-500 words in length
- Followed by 5-8 questions
- Passage length is not strongly correlated to the number of questions. For instance, you could have a 471 word passage followed by 6 questions and a 445 word passage followed by 8 questions.
- 2 passage types
- Full-length passages
- Dual passages (two shorter passages covering the same topic, with a combined word count in the same range as one full-length passage)
- Central idea/primary purpose
- identify the main theme or idea of the whole passage
- Method and structure
- Identifying the author’s reasons for structuring the passage in a certain way
- Specific recall
- Correctly identifying specific details from the passage
- Specific function
- Identifying the author’s reason for mentioning specific pieces of information, using specific words and phrases
- Making correct inferences and identifying correct implications based on the passage
- Author agreement (Identifying ideas/opinions the author of the passage would likely agree/disagree with, based on the passage itself)
- Decide which questions you’re willing to guess on
The pace of LSAT RC can be pretty intense. At the same time, most schools’ LSAT score requirements are such that you can afford to miss a number of questions. It makes sense to skip the hardest passage and save it for possible guessing at the end; students shouldn’t guess on any passage/question sets that would be very easy to solve with just a little extra time.
Skipping some individual hard questions within a passage can be beneficial too. But students should be careful when they skip individual questions. Going back to a single hard question can sometimes require extensive re-reading of the passage in order to make an educated guess. When possible, students should complete every question associated with a particular passage. When an individual question is skipped, students should understand that when they go back to it, they may only have time for a blind guess.
- Focus on broader structure and bigger ideas in passage
“The devil’s in the details,” as the saying goes. Smaller details can be a student’s worst enemy on their initial reading of the passage. The main ideas and general structure are the most important in the majority of RC questions. If a student needs to recall a smaller detail later, he or she can then go back to the passage; smaller details should not be scrutinized on a first reading, however.
- Take care to understand the questions
The wording in LSAT questions is very particular, tricky, and distinctive. Students should make an effort to understand exactly what’s being asked, and they should reach a point where they’re able to paraphrase each RC question in their own words.
- Practice finding the relevant part(s) of the passage
The answer to every question can be found in a part (or sometimes more than one part) of the passage. Students should practice finding the relevant spots. If they fail to find those spots, they should analyze what went wrong, perhaps using an error log. (See Magoosh’s Zendesk Error Log Guide, Part 1 and Part 2.)
- Take a critic’s approach to the passage
LSAT RC questions concern what the passage says, how the passage is saying it, and the job the author has done. Test takers should scrutinize each passage as a critic, as someone who is trying to both get into the author’s mind and trying to determine what the author’s goals were, what the author did to meet those goals, and how well the goals were met.
- Use strategies specific to the multiple choice format
Students should practice identifying answers by process of elimination. They should also look at the specific ways in which the “distractors”-- the incorrect answer choices -- misdirect and lure test-takers.
- Focus on pacing
The LSAT RC section is very fast-paced, with a tight ratio of minutes to questions. Students should spend no more than 3 minutes on their initial read of each passage, and should spend an average of 40-60 seconds answering each question. For more information on how to meet LSAT pacing demands, see Travis Coleman’s guide to reading LSAT passages faster (via the Magoosh LSAT Blog).
- A real, full LSAT RC passage from LSAC
At this link, the answer key can be found in the link menu to the left
- LSAT Reading Comprehension: The Basics
A primer on LSAT RC, via the Magoosh LSAT Blog
- Magoosh’s LSAT Reading Comprehension Library
An index of our top blog posts in this area
Analytical Reasoning (aka Logic Games)
In LSAT Analytical Reasoning, test-takers are presented with logic based games, and then asked scenario-based questions. The questions ask about the outcome of a specific game scenario, based on game rules. Each game will have the following components:
- a central setup describing some task that must be completed
- a set of rules to follow when completing that task
- 5-7 accompanying questions.
Common game types
There are a few different types of LSAT games. The types listed below are the most common although other game types or variations on the common types could appear on the exam.
- Sequencing games
In these games, there is one set of variables, and only one order these variables should be arranged in. Here, the questions will revolve around identifying, setting, and following the proper order. This is the most common game type.
- Grouping games
One set of variables, placed in different categories rather than placed in a single order. Here, the questions revolve around how to categorize the variables.
- Matching games
Variables don’t have order or categories. Instead, each variable should be paired with another one, and questions revolve around identifying and manipulating the correct pairs. Of the most common game types, these are relatively uncommon, less common than Sequencing or Grouping games.
Not-so-common game types
- Hybrid games
Combining elements of two common game types
Variables need to be paired in a specific order
Variables need to be grouped, but should also be sequenced within their groups.
- Mapping games
Here, test-takers receive information about a transit system or train schedule and are asked to make a map.
Examples of each game type (and additional information)
See the Game Type section of “LSAT Logic Games: Complete Guide”, from the Magoosh LSAT Blog. This resource provides additional descriptions, tips, and instructions for the different game types, as well as examples of how to diagram each of the major game types listed above.
Diagramming the games
To understand a game and correctly identify variable placement and answers to questions, it helps to make a diagram indicating how variables should be categorized, sequenced, or otherwise organized. The Logic Games unit of video lessons in Magoosh LSAT premium has examples of how you can make these diagrams. Diagrams can be done in the margins of the test booklet, since no additional scrap paper is provided for the Analytical Reasoning section.
In the link I provided above, you see some specific examples on game diagramming. Students can also get additional diagramming results, with examples, in the diagramming tutorial section of Allyson Evans’ “LSAT Logic Games: A Complete Guide,” via the Magoosh LSAT Blog.
Logic Games strategy
- Prioritize the easiest games
Sequencing games tend to be the easiest, and should generally be done first. Also, look for other games that seem relatively straightforward and easy. As with RC, it’s best to get the “low hanging fruit” at the very beginning. If a student winds up pressed for time later, it’s best to deal with harder games last, since these are the kinds of games they may need to guess on anyway.
- Read all text very carefully
In other Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning, students can get away with skimming or missing a word or phrase here and there. In the Logic Games found in AR, every single word counts. The game descriptions and wording of the questions are very “bare bones,” covering only essential information.
- No leaps in logic, please
There are no possible scenarios in Logic Games, only definite scenarios. Students should never assume variables will be ordered, grouped, paired, or mapped in a certain way, unless their assumption is directly supported by the game rules or the prompt. When determining a rule or answer, there should never be an “if.” In other words, students should never say “This answer would be true if.” Instead, all answers “are true because (of something directly found in the game/prompt text).”
- Mentally aggregate the rules
No rule operates in isolation. The rules interact to create certain outcomes, and many outcomes examined in the questions are dependent on multiple rules. Students should be very conscious that the rules constitute a system, and that outputs are based on said system.
- Play around with the games/rules/systems
Logic Games are very strategy intensive, and strategy is something that can be learned and improved upon quickly with practice. So practice for this section is very “high yield,” in terms of how much score improvement a student can gain.
- MORE INFO ON LOGIC GAMES STRATEGY
Additional descriptions of the above strategies can be found in the “Strategies” section of Allyson’s aforementioned Complete Guide to Logic Games from the Magoosh LSAT Blog. Some of the links in Magoosh LSAT’s Analytical Reasoning Library are also helpful for AR/LG strategy.
Resources for prep
- Magoosh’s Analytical Reasoning Library
- A full section of AR/Logic Games from LSAC (Answer key is found in the link menu on the left.)
As I mentioned earlier, LSAT Logical Reasoning (not to be mistaken for LSAT Logic Games!) has some striking similarities to GRE Paragraph Arguments and GMAT Critical Reasoning. But there also are quite a few features of LSAT LR that are distinctive from what you’d see on the GRE or GMAT. Read on to learn exactly what makes Logical Reasoning what it is, and how to successfully navigate this portion of the exam.
The LSAT Logical Reasoning prompts
Unlike similar tasks on other exams, the LSAT LR prompts do not always include whole paragraphs. Even when an LSAT LR prompt is a paragraph in length, the paragraphs are shorter than average compared to GRE Paragraph Arguments or GMAT CR.
In fact, sometimes an LSAT prompt can consist of just one sentence, and a short sentence at that. Or it can be a transcript of two lines from a debate, or a single sentence describing a situation followed by a single sentence analyzing the situation.
While the prompts can vary, it’s more useful to think of the LSAT in terms of question types rather than prompt types. So let’s look at question types next!
LSAT LR question types
Question type and format in LSAT Logical Reasoning are quite varied, with many, many possible formats. In his Magoosh LSAT blog post “Common Logical Reasoning Questions on the LSAT,” Travis Coleman identifies the 16 most common LR question types. Travis has created a table of these 16 question types, with tips on how to correctly spot each type and find the right answer choice. I’ve reproduced Travis’s table below, but I strongly encourage tutors and students to look at Travis’s original post as well.
It can help to narrow down these 16 most frequent question types to the very most common. By far, the most common question types in LSAT Logical Reasoning are Assumption, Flaw, Inference, and Weaken. However, Strengthen is a close runner-up question type, and should be considered an important counterpart to Weaken. So these five, Assumption, Flaw, Inference, Weaken, and Strengthen, should be seen as the most important question types.
The Paradox and Scenario>Principle question types are also fairly frequent, representing a second tier of importance on the exam. The remaining 9 common LSAT LR question types are each relatively infrequent on their own. But collectively, they still represent a good chunk of the questions a student might see on test day.
Again, Travis Coleman offers some additional insights on Magoosh’s blog for LSAT preppers. On the blog, Travis ranks the 16 question types by frequency, with some hard data and analysis on exactly how frequent each question type is. For an even deeper analysis, check out Travis’s look at how LR q-type frequency translates into importance, and how accuracy on each question type may affect your LSAT LR score.
Travis’s blogging here holds some really good resources, and so does the Magoosh LSAT Blog as a whole. Given the intricate maze of question types that students face in LR, the blog as a whole is very valuable to LSAT preppers, full of tutorials and examples for the most common question types. When prepping for LSAT Logical Reasoning, students should be encouraged to comb through the blog posts in the Magoosh LSAT Logical Reasoning Library.
LSAT Logical Reasoning Strategies
- Set a target score early on in studies
With its many question types and its larger span within the exam, LSAT LR success is very much a numbers game. Across two full sections and 50 questions, it can be hard for students to gauge exactly how they’re doing unless they make a conscious effort to track their numbers. Students should set a goal for percentage accuracy and score. Then they should regularly track how close they are to their goal, and whether or not they’re getting closer. Above all, students should remember that targets can change, and be open to adjusting their targets as their skills progress.
- Know the question types and prioritize the most important ones
While some question types are clearly more important than others, it’s good to have basic familiarity with all 16 common question types. And of course, students should be especially familiar with the most frequent/important kinds of LR questions. The best guides for doing this appear in the links found in the “LSAT LR question types” section immediately above.
- Recognize the “formal logic: language of the questions
In the table displayed in the previous section, Travis lists keywords that allow you to recognize different question types. Most of the important keywords on that front are “formal logic” words, words that are used to map formal logic constructs. Pay especially close attention to words like most, only, never, sometimes, always, if/then, only if, and so on. These words denote logical sets and possibilities, logical cause-effect relationships and chains of events, and so on. As you might expect from the name of the section, formal logic is key to accuracy Logical Reasoning.
- Question first, prompt second
Because there are so many different question types, it’s the question, not the prompt, that really points to what students need to do in LR. Students should always read the question first, identify the question type, and then scrutinize the prompt using the question as a lens.
- It’s the best answer, not the perfect answer
Paradoxically, formal logic is both predictably patterned and subjective. The answer the test makers have designated as “correct” may not seem correct to a test-take. However, for questions made by LSAC, Magoosh, or any other reputable LSAT prep company, the designated answer will always be the closest to correct, even if a student still feels there are flaws in it. If no answer seems truly right, students should then look to the answer that is the least wrong.
- Students shouldn’t assume they need to finish the whole section (or will be able to)
Logical Reasoning questions are short-- deceptively short. The brevity of the questions doesn’t mean that a student should try to finish all of a section’s 25 questions in the 35 minute time limit. Instead, students should start with the questions they can do relatively quickly and easily, and then take their time on the remaining questions, guessing on the very hardest questions at the end if need be. In this approach, a few questions may even be left unanswered at the end of the section. As long as the student was able to snag all the chances for quick points and did their very best on the not-so-easy questions, failing to “properly” complete the whole section is perfectly acceptable.
- Errors should be logged
The LSAT Logical Reasoning questions and prompt formats are varied and nuanced, and so are the different kinds of mistakes that students make in LR. Students should error log their LR mistakes and study their logs to identify and target recurring LR weaknesses. Direct LSAT students to the following two error log tutorials in Zendesk:
For additional strategy tips, see the Magoosh LSAT blog post “LSAT Logical Reasoning: The Basics.”
LSAT LR Prep Resources
- Magoosh’s LSAT Logical Reasoning Library (contains all the blog links shown above, and more!)
The LSAT Writing Sample
As I mentioned earlier in the section on the structure of the LSAT, the Writing Sample is not scored, but is still important. Law schools receive a copy of the test-taker’s Writing Sample response.
Writing sample prompts present a scenario in which an individual, company or organization is faced with an important decision. The decision will usually have implications for business operations, long-term personal success, logistics, and other serious matters. In short, these prompts focus on decisions that are based on logic and strategy rather than mere personal preference.
Responses are fairly short, usually two paragraphs in length, with a typical word count between 150 and 225 words.
Writing Sample Strategies
- Take time to analyze the prompt
There are 35 minutes to complete this section, and test-takers only need to write two paragraphs. So it’s worth the time for a student to carefully look at the prompt and decide exactly what decision they favor, and how they’ll express that in their response.
Jot down ideas as you analyze the prompt, and make an outline of what you’re going to write. Having a pre-written plan for the final answer profoundly improves organization, focus, and writing quality once a student is writing the actual response.
- Be flexible while writing
Pre-writing should be helpful but flexible. Students should be prepared to reorganize or deviate from their outline here and there. If new good ideas occur to someone as they’re writing the actual response, they shouldn’t be afraid to add those into the mix, changing and building on their pre-writing as need be.
- Leave time to proof and revise
Ideally, there should be five minutes of time, maybe a little more, for students to go back over their finished essay, revising wording and checking for mistakes. Good writing requires proofreading and revision, and this end-of-essay quality check can greatly improve the finished product.
- Practice should be very time conscious
Wise time management is essential to making the most of the 35 minutes allotted for this essay. I recommend spending 5 minutes prewriting, 25 minutes writing the actual response, and 5 minutes going back to correct and revise the response. But LSAT test takers should also be encouraged to explore their personal best pattern of time management for the Writing Sample.
Resources for preparing for the writing sample
- Writing Sample prompt with example response from the LSAC’s official online practice test
- Two additional official Writing Sample prompts with example responses from the LSAC website
- One sample prompt with two sample responses (one in favor of each possible decision) from the Ohio Wesleyan University’s Online Writing Lab
- An overview of the LSAT Writing Sample from U.S. News and World Report
Studying for the LSAT with Magoosh and LSAC
There are a variety of good LSAT Prep resources that students can use. A complete list of Magoosh’s recommended LSAT Prep materials can be found in Magoosh’s list of the best LSAT Prep Books, and in Magoosh’s various LSAT study plans. Below are some highlights from Magoosh and LSAC.
LSAT Prep with Magoosh
Zendesk Guide for LSAT (this database is somewhat small, but will be expanding)
The Magoosh LSAT eBook (similar to this guide, but more student oriented, while this article is more of a teacher’s guide)
LSAT Prep With LSAC
Free official tests online
- Free official sample LSAT test (HTML version)
- Free official sample LSAT test (printable PDF version)
- Free official Spanish LSAT sample test (HTML)
- Free official Spanish LSAT sample test (printable PDF)
Free LSAT sample questions (this page contains extra example questions from Reading Comprehension, Analytical Reasoning, Logical Reasoning, and the Writing Sample)
Official LSAT prep books and practice tests (this paid prep can be found in the official LSAT online store, as well as the LSAC’s page for instantly downloadable LSAT ebooks).