If you’re approaching graduation and considering law school, you don’t have much leeway over a lot of factors: your GPA, the amount of money in your bank account, or your work experience. However, the one area that you do have control over is your LSAT score. With a few months of study preparation, you can directly impact this integral part of your law school application.
Here is everything you need to know about the LSAT structure:
How Many LSAT Sections Are There?
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized test approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and required for admission to most law schools.
Many students first question is “how many sections are on the LSAT?” Essentially, it’s comprised of five sections of multiple-choice questions and one optional writing section. Each section takes 35 minutes; however, only four out of five of these sections contribute to your score. Ultimately, the four sections test your critical reading, analytical thinking and verbal reasoning.
The sections of the LSAT are:
1. Reading Comprehension
On the reading comprehension section, you are presented with scholarly passages. This section consists of four passages: three with one author and one with two authors who discuss the same topic. Each section is followed by 5 to 8 questions, containing about 27 questions in total. The majority of people feel relatively comfortable with this section of the test because it’s most similar to standardized test sections from other major tests like the SAT and ACT.
On this LSAT section, you will be given a series of long, complex passages drawn from various subjects. These subjects include the social sciences, biology, physical science, and areas related to law. Additionally, these passages typically use higher-level vocabulary, multiple points of view, and sophisticated language structure.
Ultimately, this section tests your ability to:
- Identify main ideas and details
- Read carefully and accurately
- Determine relationships among various components of the passage
- Understand dense, scholarly text
- Identify relevant information within a text
- Draw reasonable inferences
Essentially, reading comprehension is a section of the LSAT because you will have to read a lot in law school and in the practice of law.
Furthermore, you will need to be able to differentiate concepts based on precise language. For example, writing briefs and making legal arguments largely depends on your ability to compare, analyze, synthesize and apply principles and rules. In law school, you’ll also be required to understand difficult and challenging material. Hence, your reading comprehension is a core component to this objective.
On this section of the test, you can expect to be asked about the following characteristics of a passage:
- The main idea
- The purpose of the passage
- The organization or structure of the passage
- Information that is explicitly stated
- Information that you can infer from the passage
- The meaning of certain terms used in the passage, given the context
- How information would apply if used in another context
- Analogies to claims that are made in the passage
- An author’s attitude based on the tone and language selected
- How new information would affect the claims or arguments in the passage
Sample LSAT Reading Comprehension Question
In the last two decades, the Internet has been the source of many legal issues regarding the rights of owners of intellectual property, especially those who have published documents on web pages that are generally accessible to the public. Some of these intellectual property owners argue that stronger copyright laws are needed to protect against copyright infringement. In contrast, Internet users argue that if they cannot access information on websites, the Internet will become a censored framework that is diminished of its initial objective to provide an interactive exchange of information. At the center of this debate is the ability for website owners to link one site to another. Existing copyright laws allow an intellectual property owner to sue a distributor of unauthorized copies of their material even if the distributor was not personally responsible for making the copies. Therefore, if an author of a document uploads this document to the Internet and another person links to this document, the question arises whether the second person has infringed upon the owner’s copyright. Social media usage has further muddled this situation with people constantly reposting, retweeting and resending information from an original source to many others. In today’s social environment, many Internet users understand the importance of the free exchange of ideas and are not as concerned about taking someone else’s original idea and using it for their own purposes. Furthermore, there are other options available to the intellectual property owner to avoid unwanted distribution and to restrict access to it. For example, the owner may require a password before allowing a website user to access the webpage. This solution would help keep the web open without the threat of copyright infringement.
Which one of the following most accurately expresses the main point of the passage?
- There are better ways to restrict access to copyright-protected information than strengthening copyright law.
- Copyright laws need to be strengthened to protect the rights of intellectual property owners.
- People are not concerned with copyright laws since there is so much sharing through social media.
- Changes in copyright law in response to links to webpages and social media are ill-advised unless these changes widen rather than restrict the free exchange of ideas.
- Maintaining a free exchange of ideas on the Internet offers substantial benefits that outweigh the concern of intellectual property infringement.
2. Analytical Reasoning
The analytical reasoning or “logic games” section consists of four logic games with four to seven multiple-choice questions. This section tests your ability to consider a group of facts and rules and determine outcomes based on this information. On this section, you will be presented with a single passage and then be asked a series of questions based on the passage. Basically, you must be able to order or group relationships in order to correctly answer them. For example, you might have to assign different people to a schedule, assign teachers to classes, or prioritize tasks.
The analytical reasoning questions test your ability to:
- Understand the basic structure of a set of relationships
- Understand the effects of rules on a given fact pattern
- Use reasoning based on if-then logic
- Determine relationships between concepts
- Analyze a set of information
- Apply deductive reasoning
- Find structure within organized data
- Make inferences based on the data presented
- Draw conclusions based on relationships and rules
- Apply logic to complex situations
There are different types of logic games. Some will require matching, others require sequencing, and some require both. Essentially, this portion of the test is included on the LSAT because it assesses a test taker’s ability to problem solve: an essential skill for all lawyers.
During law school, you will use concepts tested on the analytical reasoning section, such as understanding how rules in constitutional amendments, statutes, or prior rulings do and don’t apply to a new case.
For many test takers, this is the hardest section of the test and where they spend the most time on their preparation. Thankfully, there are a variety of handy strategies that you can use to break them down.
Sample LSAT Analytical Reasoning Question
Alex, Betty, Chris, and Diana all buy flowers. There are five different types of flowers: germanium, hibiscus, ipomoea, jasmine, kolkwitzia, and lavender. Each person buys a different type of flower and only one flower.
The following conditions apply:
Chris buys hibiscus.
Diana is allergic to jasmine and hibiscus and does not buy either one.
Betty buys either lavender, ipomoea, or hibiscus.
Alex buys jasmine, kolkwitzia, or lavender.
If Betty buys lavender, Alex buys jasmine.
Question 1. Which of the following CANNOT be true?
- Diana buys lavender.
- Betty buys ipomoea.
- Alex buys lavender.
- Betty buys lavender and Alex buys kolkwitzia.
- Alex buys jasmine.
3. Logical Reasoning
There are two separate 35-minute logical reasoning sections on the LSAT. Hence, it’s an important section to study for since it has twice as many points as any other section. Each section consists of 24 to 26 questions.
This section is sometimes referred to as the “arguments” section. On these questions, you’ll have to identify whether the arguments are strong or weak, as well as the foundation for said strength or weakness.
Making, supporting, and defending arguments is a fundamental aspect of practicing law; therefore, you can count on having to rely on these skills once you’re enrolled in law school.
Hence, being able to analyze arguments is central to legal analysis. Law school will challenge you to analyze, evaluate, construct, and refute arguments. Thus, this section is included on the test and is represented by two sections.
In the logical reasoning sections, you’ll be presented with short arguments drawn from various sources, such as newspapers, magazines, scholarly publications, and advertisements. Then, you’ll be asked one or two questions after each passage.
Ultimately, this section tests your ability to:
- Determine main points of arguments
- Apply logic to complex questions
- Identify relevant information within text
- Analyze and evaluate arguments
- Recognize parts of an argument and their relationship
- Recognize similarities and differences between patterns of reasoning
- Use analogies to form reasoned arguments
- Reconcile opposing positions
- Recognize misunderstanding or flaws in logic
- Identify explanations
- Uncover assumptions made by particular arguments
- Draw conclusions supported by evidence
- Understand how to use arguments to persuade others
- Determine how additional information affects an argument
4. Sample LSAT Logical Reasoning Question
Many cable customers want access to more channels and are choosing to pay more money to have this privilege. However, streaming services are making it more affordable for many cable subscribers by offering almost as many channels as traditional cable companies. Most cable customers would be willing to sacrifice some cable channels for a more affordable option. Therefore, most of these cable customers will be cutting their cable contracts. Which one of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?
- Having too many channels is a common complaint among many cable subscribers
- Streaming services are not available to 70% of cable customers
- Streaming services will charge 10% more for their services in a year
- Many people don’t have cable
- Many people only watch cable at work or school
5. Variable Section
The variable section is the unscored portion of the test. However, you may not be able to immediately recognize it, so you need to take it seriously and do the best you can on it. It can be any of the sections discussed above. This section is used to test out new questions or evaluate test forms. Additionally, it’s not always included in the same sequence and you won’t officially know which section was unscored until you receive your score report.
6. LSAT Writing Sample
Likewise, the writing section isn’t scored. However, if you complete it, it will be sent to any law schools where you apply. The writing section is also 35 minutes long. On it, you’re presented with two sides of a problem and you must effectively argue your case for one side. Technically, there’s no right or wrong position; this section tests your ability to effectively argue your position and allows you to demonstrate your writing skills. Furthermore, the LSAT writing section is where you can hedge out other law school applicants with similar scores and/or credentials.
Basically, law schools evaluate the writing sample for your:
- Writing mechanics
- Language usage
- Ability to form an argument based on the facts presented
- Ability to support your argument
- Ability to use written language to support your position
How Test Prep Plays a Role
LSAT preparation can help you drastically improve your scores in all sections of the test. Additionally, the LSAT is one test that you can teach yourself. Solid LSAT prep will walk you through the various sections and give you strategies for tackling each one. By concentrating your time on enhancing your skills in critical reading, analytical thinking and verbal reasoning, you will be directly increasing your potential LSAT score. To get started on your preparation, check out our list of the Best Online LSAT Prep Courses and read Crush the LSAT’s blog on more test prep tips.
Valerie Keene is an experienced lawyer and legal writer. Valerie’s litigation successes have included wins for cases involving contract disputes, real property disputes, and consumer issues. She has also assisted countless families with estate planning, guardianship issues, divorce and other family law matters. She provides clients with solid legal advice and representation.