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A brief introduction to the LSAT

Introduction to the LSAT

This article covers the basics of the LSAT. The better you know what to expect, the more comfortable you’ll feel in your studies—and the more mental bandwidth you’ll have to focus on building the skills you’ll need to get a great score!

What is the LSAT designed to evaluate?

To be successful in law school and in a legal career, you’ll have to demonstrate your ability to
  • Comprehend complex texts with accuracy and insight
  • Organize and manage information and draw reasonable inferences from it
  • Think critically
  • Analyze and evaluate the reasoning and arguments of others
The LSAT is designed to measure these skills.

What will I see on Test Day?

The LSAT consists of four 35-minute sections.
  • One scored Analytical Reasoning section | 4 scenarios with 5-7 questions each
  • One scored Reading Comprehension section | 26-28 questions
  • One scored Logical Reasoning sections | 24-26 questions each
  • One unscored section that could be Analytical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, or Logical Reasoning
Note: You will also need to complete an unscored writing sample as part of your LSAT. You'll be given the chance to schedule that at your convenience.

Analytical Reasoning

Sometimes known as “Logic Games,” Analytical Reasoning setups contain 5-7 questions per scenario. These questions are designed to assess your ability to consider a group of facts and rules and determine what could or must be true, given those facts and rules.
The skills tested are similar to those required in law school and a legal career; as a lawyer, you will need to determine what could or must be the case, given a set of regulations, the terms of a contract, or the facts of a case. That said, the scenarios on the LSAT’s analytical reasoning section are usually unrelated to the law.
Why? The idea is to make these thought processes more accessible to a wide range of test takers.
Here’s a sketch of what an Analytical Reasoning setup looks like:

What deductive reasoning skills does the Analytical Reasoning section test?

Analytical Reasoning questions reflect the kinds of detailed analyses of relationships and sets of constraints that law students must perform in legal problem solving. These questions assess your ability to
  • Comprehend the basic structure of a set of relationships by determining a complete solution to the problem posed (for example, an acceptable seating arrangement of all six diplomats around a table)
  • Reason with conditional (“if-then”) statements and recognize logically equivalent formulations of such statements
  • Infer what could be true/false or must be true/false from given facts and rules
  • Infer what could be true/false or must be true/false from given facts and rules together with new information in the form of an additional or substitute fact or rule
For a more detailed introduction to Analytical Reasoning, you can consult Getting started with Analytical Reasoning. From that article, we’ll provide you with additional articles and exercises to work through.

Logical Reasoning

The analysis of arguments is a critical element of legal education. Law students must analyze, evaluate, construct, and refute arguments. As a law student, you’ll need to be able to identify what information is relevant to an issue or argument and what impact further evidence might have. You’ll need to be able to reconcile opposing positions and use arguments to persuade others.
Each Logical Reasoning question requires you to read and comprehend a short passage, then answer a question about it. The questions are designed to assess a wide range of critical thinking skills.

What skills does the Logical Reasoning section test?

Logical Reasoning questions assess your ability to
  • Recognize the parts of an argument and their relationships
  • Recognize similarities and differences between patterns of reasoning
  • Draw well-supported conclusions
  • Reason by analogy
  • Recognize misunderstandings or points of disagreement
  • Determine how additional evidence affects an argument
  • Detect assumptions made by particular arguments
  • Identify and apply principles or rules
  • Identify flaws in arguments
We’ll support you throughout your studies with various articles as you work towards mastery.
A more detailed introduction to the Logical Reasoning section is found here.

Reading Comprehension

The study and the practice of law revolve around extensive reading of highly varied, dense, argumentative, and expository texts:
  • cases
  • codes
  • contracts
  • briefs
  • decisions
  • evidence
The LSAT Reading Comprehension section contains four sets of reading questions, each set consisting of a selection of reading material (which we’ll often refer to as the “passage”) followed by five to eight questions. Three of the sets consist of a single reading passage; the other set contains two related shorter passages (Comparative Reading).

What skills does the Reading Comprehension section test?

Reading critically in the legal profession means distinguishing precisely what is said from what is not said. Accordingly, LSAT Reading Comprehension questions assess your ability to:
  • Compare, analyze, synthesize, and apply claims, principles and rules.
  • Draw appropriate inferences
  • Apply ideas and arguments to new contexts
  • Grasp unfamiliar subject matter
  • Penetrate difficult and challenging material
Reading Comprehension questions may ask about the following characteristics of a passage or a pair of passages:
  • The main idea or primary purpose
  • Information that is explicitly stated
  • Information or ideas that can be inferred
  • The meaning or purpose of words or phrases as used in context
  • The organization or structure of an argument
  • The application of information in the selection to a new context
  • Analogies to claims or arguments in the passage
  • An author’s attitude as revealed through tone and word choice.
We’ll support you throughout your studies with various articles on improving your mastery of LSAT Reading Comprehension.
A more detailed introduction to Reading Comprehension is found here.

Writing Sample

As part of your official LSAT, you'll have to complete a mandatory writing assignment. You'll download secure proctoring software from LSAC and take the assessment on your own computer and schedule.
The writing sample isn’t scored, but copies are sent to all law schools to which you apply.
The writing prompt presents a decision problem. You’re asked to make a choice between two positions or courses of action. Both of the choices are defensible, and you’re given criteria and facts on which to base your decision. There is no right or wrong position to take on the topic, so the quality of your response is a function not of which choice is made, but of how well or poorly the choice is supported and how well or poorly the other choice is criticized.
You’ll have 35 minutes in which to plan and write your essay. Read the topic and the accompanying directions carefully. And relax! Many students report that 35 minutes is more than enough time for them to submit an excellent sample.
For help with the writing sample, visit our "About the Writing Sample" article.

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