LSAT test takers come in two basic models: natural test takers who are happy to give a few hours to showing their stuff and are confident that their high scores are a reflection of their natural ability and those who see it as a pointless hoop, an obstacle that must be overcome in order to get on to the business of applying to and attending law school.
Many people–a lot of them prospective students, but some of them educational experts–have questioned the weight law schools give to LSAT scores in the admissions process. The basic reasons for that weight are pretty straightforward. First and probably foremost, the LSAT is standardized. Every other factor that goes into the admissions process is to some degree subjective. Grades are subjective, class rank is dependent on the program and the competition, resumes can be padded and essays are often polished by outsiders. The LSAT has one standard; everyone is measured on the same scale. It’s the one piece of the application that’s an apples-to-apples comparison across every single applicant.
More important for prospective law students, though, is the fact that the LSAT tests skills you’ll use in law school and in the practice of law. In my opinion, it’s the most directly relevant standardized test out there (and I have a fairly intimate knowledge of the ACT, SAT, PSAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT and DAT). Does that mean you can’t do well in law school if you aren’t a strong natural test taker and don’t do well on the LSAT? Absolutely not. But chances are that you’ll have to work a lot harder to do well, because the LSAT specifically tests three skills that are critical for law school success:
- the ability to make logical deductions and spot the holes in arguments;
- the ability to move quickly through dense text and toss out the “chaff”, focusing in on what’s relevant to the question at hand; and
- the ability to keep track of multiple moving parts and keep your eye on how seemingly unrelated pieces of information and deductions impact one another.
Here’s why I’m telling you all this: you can still gain that advantage. Unlike preparation for any other standardized test I can think of, LSAT test prep (when approached with the right outlook) actually helps prepare you not just for the test, but for law school. The LSAT test taker who approaches test prep with a jaded sigh and a counting-the-days-until-this-is-over outlook is not only wasting a lot of angst…he’s wasting an excellent opportunity to get a leg up on the competition in that all-important first year of law school.
Image Courtesy Ryan McGilchrist