Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is unlike any other standardized test, and should be approached very differently from any other test you have ever taken or read about. It is NOT a test of any of your previous knowlege or intelligence, so it really does not matter what you majored in or how well you've performed on tests in the past. It is given on paper, and it's recommended that you prepare using the same format.
Here is some basic information for those considering taking the LSAT:
When to take the LSAT: Plan ahead! The LSAT is only offered four times a year. UNH Prelaw Advising recommends that you take the exam the fall (Sept or Oct) one year prior to when you wish to begin law school, OR Before. December or February LSATs are not recommended for admission the following academic year. PowerScore provides a good explanation of this timeline.
Before diving in: Many students make the mistake of diving into LSAT prep, without taking the time to understand the LSAT first. Understand what the three sections are, how the test is scored, and what your score means. Up until a few years ago, LSAC required that law schools averages all of your scores. Now, schools have the ability to accept only your higher score, and are not forced to accept the average of all scores. Law Schools will still see a report of each score. FIND OUT what the policy is at each school to which you wish to apply. UNH Prelaw Advising still recommends that you take the LSAT once and only once. Retakes are only advisable if you realistically believe that you can increase your score by at least ten points, AND you plan to do something dramatically different in your test preparation before the second attempt.
- Your study plan: Develop a plan or schedule that works for you and stick to it, being honest with yourself about your ability to structure and follow through. Do not rely on your past success with standarized test to pull you through. Treat the LSAT like an athletic event to be trained for, not an exam to be studied for. You need to improve your speed, timing, pacing, and build up stamina. After learning the skills necessary to perform well, plan to take as many full, timed tests, mimicking test taking conditions, as possible. Including a "test" section, like the real LSAT does, can help you with your endurance and ability to focus. Practice in noisy places, to increase your ability to block out distraction. Be sure to take the most recently retired OFFICIAL tests, as the LSAT has evolved over time. How many should you take? At the very minimum two or three practice tests per week for the six weeks leading up to the test.
- Register for the LSAT early: Durham NH is a popular test site in the fall LSAT administration and in the past has filled up, causing UNH students to have to travel to Maine and Massachusetts to take the exam. If you don't get your first choice location, put yourself on the waitlist for the one you want. Seats or rooms may be added to meet the demand. The cost is $160.
- Should you take a test prep course? This is a very personal decision. It is very possible to do well on the LSAT without one if you are good at creating and following your own structure. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Classes can be expensive, but you can easily make that investment back in merit-based aid, application fee waivers, and improved employment options that come with a very strong score. Be sure to inquire about a prep company's cancellation policy, especially if you are planning to take the class in Durham, NH. Lastly, if you think you will walk into the room on test day and wonder, "Did everyone else here take a class?" then take one! UNH Prelaw Advising recommends PowerScore for test prep materials and affordable classes, but there are lots of other options available.
- Prior to the Test: Stress levels can be high. This is a test to see how you perform under stress, so manage your stress in a healthy and productive way. Read the LSAC's guidelines well before you take the exam. Make sure you've checked out parking, the exam room location, and all the restrictions on what you are allowed to bring. Allow extra time for traffic, weather, construction, and the inevitable unexpected delays.
- After the test: The days after an LSAT are full of second-guessing, with many testers wondering if they should cancel their score. You have six calendar days to cancel your score. This is a very individual decision, and it is recommended that you discuss your options with an advisor before acting.
Other LSAT resources:
- Law School Podcaster
- Boston College's Prelaw LSAT Advice
- University of Massachusetts' Prelaw Advising page
- University of Vermont's Prelaw Advising
- One successful UNH student's LSAT Prep Recommendation (shared with permission)
- UNH Professor Nick Smith's “Candid Advice for Undergraduates Considering Law School”