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Taking the LSAT
In brief . . .
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized test designed to evaluate your potential for success in law school. Focused and concentrated preparation for the exam will make a difference in how well you perform. The test is offered four times each year: in June, October, December, and February. It consists of four scored, 35-minute sections, involving three question types: logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, and reading comprehension. There also is a 35-minute unscored section that consists of experimental questions as well as a 35-minute writing section that ends the test. The writing sample is not scored, but is sent to each law school to which you apply. The scores for the LSAT range from 120 to 180 points. The average is 151, but most selective law schools require a higher score than that.
For those students wishing to pursue law school immediately upon completion of college, they need to begin thinking seriously about preparing for the LSAT no later than the second semester of their junior year. (Many college graduates choose not to go directly to law school, but instead defer legal education until after they have acquired some real life work experience. This is a largely personal decision, and one you should discuss with the pre-law advisors on your campus.) The June and October test dates are preferable for those who are intending to apply to law school during the fall semester of their senior year in college. June is ideal for many, since school is finished and there is more time to prepare without the distractions of coursework. The June test scores are usually back by the end of July, allowing students to begin the application process. Others may prefer for personal reasons to take the exam during the school year. This is largely a matter of personal choice and when one feels most comfortable and best able to perform up to their abilities.
If you take the LSAT in October, it is advisable to already have begun the application process. This should allow sufficient time to submit applications in the fall upon receipt of your LSAT scores. The December test administration is the final date that will be accepted by most law schools for students who intend to apply for the following academic year. The February test is primarily taken by juniors attempting to get a head start on the process or by those who are planning on a year off upon graduation.
Registration for the LSAT is due approximately one month before the test date. In order to be certain that your desired test site is honored, be sure to send in your application well in advance of the deadline, since space is limited and is determined on a first come first serve basis. Late registration is only accepted if there is space available. Complete information on registration dates, fees, and need-based fee waivers can be found on the Law School Admission Council's web site (www.lsac.org). Note: when you register, please be sure to have your score reported to Hope College. This will enable the pre-law advisors to offer you personalized and more helpful advice regarding selecting and applying to law schools. Any information we receive is held in the strictest of confidence.
The LSAT is a test for which you should be well prepared, although different individuals will prepare in different ways and to different degrees. Preparation should begin no later than when you register for the test, and probably well before. Be sure to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the types of questions that will be on the test.
There are several ways to prepare for the LSAT. The most common method involves the use of self-study materials. There are numerous prep books that you can purchase that do a good job of explaining the types of exam questions, give pointers on how to approach answering them, and contain practice tests. Law Services publishes various preparation materials, as do private for-profit companies such as Barron's, Kaplan, and Princeton Review. The Hope College Political Science Department maintains a file of self-study resources that can be checked out. As the test date draws closer, it is recommended that you take one or more practice tests in a timed setting so as to simulate actual test conditions.
There also are commercial LSAT preparation courses you can take. These are offered at various locales and differ in cost and time commitment. These courses generally teach test-taking strategies to help with the test structure and question types. Opinions are varied as to the value of these paid prep courses. Be sure to discuss the considerations thoroughly with your pre-law advisors.
Mentally plan on taking the LSAT only once, and prepare sufficiently to give it your best shot. One can take the exam more than once; typically law schools will average the scores, though some will discount the second score. On average, test takers improve a few points the second time, though there is always the chance of doing worse. It is typically not recommended to take the LSAT multiple times, absent some compelling set of circumstances. The decision to re-take the test is a question that you ought to discuss thoroughly with your pre-law advisors.
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