Law School Admissions: Your Questions Answered
The LSAT is given four times annually: June/July, late September/early October, December and February. The earliest you should take the LSAT is the summer before your senior year of College. Of the four test dates for any given admissions year, take the LSAT on the earliest date that you can be completely prepared. That way, if you need to cancel your score, change the test date or retake the test, you have given yourself the leeway to do so. If you are presently a junior in college, be thinking ahead and plan your schedule so that you will have time to prepare either in the spring for the summer LSAT, in the summer for the fall LSAT or in the fall for the December LSAT. Because February scores are received when most schools have already made the bulk of their admissions decisions, you should not wait until February to take the LSAT for fall admission unless that is the only date for which you can be fully prepared.
Prepare for the LSAT by taking practice questions over and over again until you are familiar with the types of questions asked in each LSAT section. Start by reading the sample questions in the LSAT booklet for the three LSAT question types (logical reasoning, analytical reasoning and reading comprehension) and the explanations for the correct answers. Then take the complete sample LSAT in the booklet without timing yourself. Grading the sample test will give you an idea of which sections will give you the most difficulty on the actual test. Then take sample questions over and over again, comparing your answers with the correct ones until you have a sense of the logic behind the test and how to approach each question type. Follow that up by taking individual test sections under timed conditions. We recommend that you get to a point where you can complete a section, in the comfort of your own home, in 30 minutes or less (you will have 35 minutes per section on the test). This will give you some additional time to use when taking the LSAT to get over your nerves, to work on a question that really throws you, etc. In the weeks right before the test, take complete LSATs under timed conditions to build endurance. The LSAT is like an Olympics for your brain - only careful, strenuous preparation over a long period of time will train your brain for the rigors of the LSAT.
There are a lot of LSAT preparation materials available. The LSAT will not be offered in computer format for at least the next few years, so you do not need to buy preparation in a CD-ROM format unless you prefer that. If you do use computerized prep materials, be sure to do some practice tests on paper to adjust to having only small margins for notes, diagrams for the analytical reasoning section, etc. A prep course can be helpful for someone who historically has not done well on standardized tests, who gets very nervous about taking such tests, or who knows they will not take the time to study without paying for a prep course. However, if you do not have the funds to pay for a prep course you can use old test questions and written materials to prepare on your own - simply mark aside a few hours each week for test preparation until the month before the test, when you should increase your preparation time to 1-2 hours each day (more in the week or two before the test). Whatever outside preparation materials you use, be sure to order some of the actual old LSATs, which are only available from Law Services. The Triple Prep Plus (3 old tests, with answers and explanations from the people who write the test) is particularly helpful. You can also purchase many individual tests, or a ten-pack of old tests for around $30 with shipping. Order information is included in the LSAT/LSDAS registration & information booklet or at the Law Services website, www.lsac.org.
If you walk out of the LSAT and know that you did not do well, think very seriously about canceling your score, which you can do at the test center, or for up to 5 working days after you take the test. Law schools will only see the date you sat for the test and a line where your score would have been, and will not hold this against you. This way you avoid having a low score that must be averaged with your other LSAT score(s). Remember, the ABA requires the law schools that are ABA-accredited to use an average LSAT score in all but a small number of situations.
If you keep your score and it is lower than expected, evaluate whether you have time to retake the LSAT and what you can do to improve your preparation. If you did not finish a section, or did particularly poorly in one area, then refining your study techniques could result in enough of an improvement to make it worthwhile to retake the LSAT. If you used only commercial test materials and did not use any actual old LSATs, then you may want to purchase those from Law Services and prepare again - many students who use other prep materials do better on those sample tests than on actual LSAT questions. While many candidates who retake do not improve their LSAT score significantly, some candidates improve by ten points or better.
Finally, check out the admissions grid for the school or schools in which you are most interested, that indicates possibility of admission using LSATs and GPAs. To check out UK Law's grid, click here. You may find that you are still in the range of candidates your preferred schools typically admit, even with a lower score than expected. If you are not, then you may need to retake the LSAT to be competitive for those schools, or rethink the schools to which you plan to apply. The LSACD has a function that will list for you the law schools for which your academic credentials make you a competitive candidate.
The LSAT is the only standardized measure that law schools have to predict law school performance. Every student's undergraduate record is different, even when students have the same major and attend the same undergraduate school. In fact, studies have shown that the LSAT is the best single predictor of first-year law school performance, while the best overall predictor of law school performance is a combination of the LSAT and undergraduate GPA. This is why so many schools use an index combining these two factors in the admissions process. While the LSAT is an important part of the admissions process for every law school, schools use the LSAT as only one factor to consider, along with undergraduate performance, writing skills, community involvement, leadership skills, obstacles overcome prior to law school, career achievements prior to law school, etc. When students have taken the LSAT more than once, law schools will use the average score, but will see all scores and note when there has been particular improvement from one test administration to the next.
Law schools vary in how carefully they review the LSAT writing sample, depending on their admissions process and the number of applications received. Some schools will compare the writing style in the sample to the personal statement to ensure that the same person wrote both. Many schools review the statement for an idea of how well you writes under pressure - the same conditions under which you will be writing law school exams. To do well, think before you write (perhaps do a quick outline), use your clearest print (so that faculty reading your writing sample won't worry that you'll write messy exam answers), use short, declarative sentences to describe your reasons for picking one option over the other (it really doesn't matter which) and make your answer two-sided by addressing not only why you picked one option but why you did not pick the other. Your LSAT writing sample will be reviewed most carefully by those law schools where your academic credentials place you in the possible, but not certain, admit category.
The LSAT median for the entering class at UK Law over the past several years has been 158. The LSAT at the 25th percentile has ranged from 154-156 and the LSAT at the 75th percentile has been 160-161. Candidates with an LSAT of at least 158 have the best chance of admission to UK Law, if everything else in their file is good, but many candidates are accepted with LSATs from 154 - 157 and some candidates are accepted each year with LSAT's in the mid to high 140's and lower 150's. Candidates with LSAT scores below that range typically do not have a strong chance of admission to UK Law. For more information, click on the UK Law admissions grid here.