Law School Admission Test
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) was first given in 1948 and started to gain prominence in the late 1960s. By the 1980s, when the number of applications to law schools began to rise, it became a standard part of the law school admission process. The test is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which is a nonprofit, nonstock corporation with 193 member law schools in the United States and Canada. All members require the LSAT as part of the admission process.
The LSAT is a half-day, six-part test that contains one thirty-minute writing sample and five thirty-five-minute multiple-choice sections. The writing sample is not scored, but is sent to each school to which the student applies. One of the multiple-choice sections (the taker does not know which one) is not scored, but is used to test possible future questions.
The multiple-choice sections are organized into different types of questions: reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and analysis of others' reasoning. These sections are designed to test skills that are important in law school, such as the ability to read complex text with accuracy and draw inferences.
Law schools use applicants' LSAT scores, along with other criteria, to decide who to admit. Some schools require a minimum LSAT score for acceptance. Others use a formula in which the LSAT score is multiplied and then added to the undergraduate grade point average for a total score that helps them decide which students to admit. Still others use the LSAT score to help them make their decision, but have no hard-and-fast rules regarding a minimum score.
Like all standardized tests, the LSAT is intended to be a fair, objective test of the abilities of prospective law students. Most data indicate that the score on the LSAT is a reliable predictor for success during the first year of law school, although it may not be in an individual case.
Since the 1970s the main criticism of the LSAT has come from those who think the test is biased against women and minorities. These critics assert that the information in the test questions, as well as the perspective of the test as a whole, caters to a white male background and viewpoint. A 1995 study by the LSAC showed that women tend to score lower than men on the LSAT and perform slightly below men in their first year of law school. Despite the criticism the LSAT continues to be a primary gatekeeper to law school and the legal profession.