What is the LSAT?

For 75 years, the Law School Admission Test has been an almost universal requirement to enter law school. If you’re wondering “What is the LSAT,” it’s a standardized test designed to assess student aptitude.

About 169,000 students took the LSAT from July 2020 through June 2021. The non-profit Pennsylvania-based Law School Admission Council (LSAC) administers the test. In recent years, some law schools have moved away from requiring students to take this exam.

Keep reading to learn why, and if you should invest the time, money, and effort for the LSAT.

Key highlights about the LSAT

Used for

Law school admissions

Cost

$200, but additional fees may apply for test-related services

Duration

Three hours

Skills tested

Reading comprehension, analytical and logical reasoning

Computer-adaptive?

No

Scores

120 to 180

Average score

152

Available online?

Online only through June 2023

When to take it

1 year before you intend to apply

Can you retake it?

Yes

Are there subject-specific tests?

No

What is the LSAT’s focus?

At the time of this guide’s publication, the LSAT had three scored sections and an unscored, variable section. The variable section includes questions LSAC is considering including in future versions of the exam.

People who take the LSAT must also write an essay. Here’s a closer look at what skills the LSAT assesses.

Reading comprehension

This section measures your ability to read and understand lengthy and complex texts. The reading passages on the exam are similar to what you might encounter in law school.

Analytical reasoning

Using provided facts and rules, you’ll determine a conclusion about a scenario. These questions reflect the detailed analyses of information that a law student must perform in legal problem-solving.

Logical reasoning

In this section, you’ll demonstrate your ability to recognize similarities and differences between patterns of reasoning, identify points of disagreement, and use available information to draw conclusions.

LSAT writing

You’ll have 35 minutes to write an essay in response to a writing prompt. LSAC says the prompts are intended to allow people to demonstrate their ability to create an argumentative or persuasive writing piece, similar to what might be expected of a law school student or legal professional.

You may take this portion of the LSAT up to eight days before your scheduled test date. It’s proctored and available online and on-demand.

How do I take the LSAT?

Advance registration is required for the LSAT. It’s a computer-based, remotely proctored exam. Registration closes two days before all scheduled testing dates.

Can I take the LSAT online?

The LSAT is currently offered online only. LSAC plans to continue this format through June 2023. Before the pandemic, you took the exam at a testing center.

The current, online-only version of the test is available to anyone with a laptop or desktop computer. Your device must have the Windows or Mac operating system. The LSAT is live-proctored. That means a person monitors you via audio and video while you take the test.

Can I take the LSAT more than once?

Yes, but conditions apply. You can take the LSAT three times in a testing year, five times within the current and past testing years, or up to seven times in a lifetime.

However, LSAC decided in August 2020 that LSAT-Flex tests offered during the height of the pandemic do not count toward the test limits.

When should I take the LSAT?

If you want to start law school in the fall after finishing your bachelor’s degree, take the LSAT in the fall of your fourth year of college. You may also take it the summer between your third and fourth year of college, as Pennsylvania State University suggests.

Otherwise, plan to take the exam one year before your intended start date.

This schedule allows you extra time to focus on test preparation. You’ll also have time to retake the test before law school application deadlines close. According to LSAC, the exam will be offered on around 15 dates in 2022.

Also, be aware that the LSAT is usually offered just nine months a year. It’s offered twice in some months, only once in others, and not at all in certain months — usually May, August, and December.

How is the LSAT scored?

Scores on the LSAT range from 120 to 180 in 1-point increments. According to LSAC, the average score is about 152. For consideration at top-ranked law schools, you’ll need to score in the 160s or higher.

Unlike other computer-based tests, such as the GMAT, the LSAT is not computer-adaptive. That means the difficulty of the questions doesn’t change in real-time based on your previous answers.

All exam questions are weighted the same. Your score is based on the total number of questions answered correctly. You don’t get points deducted for wrong answers. Allow up to a month to receive your LSAT scores online.

The first time you take the LSAT, you can opt in (for an additional cost on top of your test registration) to have six calendar days to preview and decide whether to keep your score. If you take no action, your score is permanently recorded. Each LSAT score report has four elements:

  • Your current score from your most recent LSAT
  • Results of previous reportable LSAT exams
  • Your percentile rank
  • Your LSAT score band

How much does the LSAT cost?

The LSAT costs $200 through June 2022. In addition to the test fee, LSAC charges additional fees for test-related services. If cost is a concern, LSAC offers fee waivers.

Some candidates may qualify for a Tier 1 waiver — the more generous of the two waivers. If you’re eligible, LSAC may waive more than $1,000 in fees. The waiver includes two LSAT exams, credential assembly service (described below), and a one-year subscription to LSAT’s Test Prep Plus, which provides practice tests.

Here’s a brief look at some of these additional services and costs:

Credential assembly service: $145

If you choose this service, you only need to send your transcripts, letters of recommendation, and other law school application documents once, to LSAC. LSAC will package your documents with your LSAT score and forward a full report to the schools of your choice.

Law school report: $45

A law school report includes your LSAT score, letters of recommendation, and an academic summary report, which serves as a cover sheet for your law school application information and credentials.

Score audit: $125

LSAC allows you to request an exam score audit. If the audit results in a different score than the original, you’ll be notified by email. The updated results will also be reflected in the reports sent to law schools you’ve applied to.

Requests to audit your exam responses and score must be received within 10 days after your score release date.

Do I need to take the LSAT?

If you plan to go to law school, the short answer is: Yes, you probably do. Here’s why.

Some top law schools have moved away from requiring the LSAT. This mirrors a trend in other areas of higher education: To stop requiring or even considering standardized test scores.

People who support reducing or eliminating the use of standardized tests say that they aren’t a reliable or accurate measure of a person’s abilities. They also argue that costs can discourage people from higher education.

In November 2021, the American Bar Association’s council voted to allow law schools to accept GRE test scores in lieu of LSAT scores as part of their admissions process.

According to legal news website Above the Law, although one-third of law schools accredited by the association accept the GRE, the change “could open the flood gates — both in terms of law schools changing their admissions criteria and for prospective law school students willing to take a test besides the LSAT.”

But change often comes slowly. Many law schools still require the LSAT. So unless you have your eye on a program that specifically accepts the GRE, taking the LSAT exam will vastly expand your options when applying for law school.

This article was reviewed by Sarah Holliday, MS

Sarah Holliday has years of experience working with nontraditional and traditional-aged students in various areas related to career coaching and training and development. Holliday holds a BA in English from The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and an MS in instructional design and technology (training and performance improvement) from Walden University. Holliday is currently working on her doctorate and looks forward to dissertating in the near future.

Sarah Holliday is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

Last reviewed March 16, 2022.

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