The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is the standardized exam that every accredited U.S. law school accepts for admissions. First administered in 1948, the LSAT is now an essential challenge and monolithic hurdle that every law school hopeful needs to overcome.
Given that, it’s all the more vital that pre-law students are informed about changes to the test.
The Law School Admissions Council, the test’s distributor, announced in October 2019 that they will remove the test’s “logic games” section over the next four years.
Jeff Elliot, UT’s resident pre-law advisor, commented on the changes. Given the recent nature of the announcement, it is uncertain whether the change will drastically alter the way the Admissions Council (LSAC) administers the test.
“On a fundamental level, there’s your GPA and LSAT score. Those are the things that determine whether or not you’re going to go to a school you want,” Elliot said. “It remains to be seen if anything significant will change. It’s a very recent development, so we may need a few years of beta before we see anything that happens.”
The decision came after a legal settlement between the LSAC and Angelo Binno, a legally blind pre-law student. Binno argued that his disability prevented him from drawing the diagrams necessary to complete the questions. After Binno filed a lawsuit against the LSAC, they agreed to gradually remove the logic games section.
Logic games is one of the test’s five sections—the other four being a reading comprehension section, two “arguments” sections and a writing sample. The soon-to-be defunct section presented scenarios, established rules that applied to those scenarios and asked applicants to solve problems based on those rules.
In short, the section tested the logical and analytical reasoning skills necessary for legal study.
Lucy Jewel, UT Law School’s Director of Legal Writing, commented on the importance of testing logical reasoning.
“Logical reasoning is vital for studying and practicing law,” Jewel said. “Lawyers need to understand how language creates different logical structures and connections. For instance, the difference between the words ‘and’ and ‘or’ can completely change the meaning of a law. Logic is also important for understanding what is included in a legal rule and what is excluded.”
Jeff Elliot also spoke on the importance of legal analysis, especially in terms of law school admission. According to Elliot, law schools need to test logical and analytical reasoning skills to find strong admission candidates.
“The practice of law is one that requires interpretation, argument, critical thinking and an accomplished ability to write. All of those are dependent on strong logical reasoning skills,” Elliot said. “I would be very surprised if they’re not trying to find more effective ways to evaluate a student’s logical reasoning. Law schools are dependent on that score to evaluate students.”
With the importance of logic within legal fields, the LSAC needs to create a new way to test logical and analytical reasoning. The LSAC’s legal settlement affords them four years to find a solution.
According to Elliot, the solution is not as simple as reframing questions.
“It’s a very unusual thing to try to test. It’s not like math where you have a correct answer,” Elliot said. “You’re measuring somebody’s ability in a skill that has a much greater range than ‘they’re either adept or they’re not.’”
No matter how the LSAC decides to change the test, how will that change affect pre-law students?
Despite changes in the test’s presentation, pre-law students need not change the way they study for the LSAT.
As UT Law’s Director of Admissions Sarah Busse points out, there’s not much certainty about the way the test will change. Furthermore, there’s plenty of time for the LSAC to create a new testing method.
“I am not sure that it will change how we view the LSAT,” Busse said. “I think at this point, there isn’t really much to think about. We just don’t know anything yet, and as far as I can tell, LSAC will have four years to change the way they test analytical reasoning.”
The logic games section won’t go anywhere until new testing methods are implemented, which could be as long as four years. Until then, the games will remain as they are, and LSAT study habits needn’t change
There is also more than one way to practice analytical reasoning, so one can study the tested skills despite not knowing the final format of said testing.
Elliott explained that there are many ways that students can hone their reasoning skills.
“I would prefer that students know that the LSAT is very important, but you won’t be taking those kinds of tests in law school. You’ll be exercising logical reasoning,” Elliot said. “What I’d recommend you’d do is to look at your major’s curriculum and find ways to work on your writing, to find ways to be a sounder arguer and a better analyzer.”
The LSAC gives the LSAT eight times each year. The next test will occur on Nov. 25, with subsequent tests in January, February, March, April, July, September and October 2020.