Changes to LSAT exam aim to enhance accessibility

The LSAT, a critical gateway for aspiring law students, is set to undergo substantial changes in August 2024 with a serious focus on improving accessibility.

The LSAT, a pivotal hurdle for law school hopefuls, undergoes significant reforms in August 2024 with the aim of leveling the playing field for applicants from diverse backgrounds. | WILL KIRKPATRICK / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Significant reforms are on the way for the LSAT exam in August 2024. As one of the main barriers for entry to law school, the LSAT’s new format will focus on improving test accessibility for aspiring law students.

“This is a big deal, this is a very important test, the most important single feature of your law school application is your LSAT score,” said Glen Stohr, lead instructional designer for Kaplan, an education service company, Kaplan’s pre-law programs and a Kaplan LSAT instructor for nearly 30 years. “So you’ve got literally many 10s of 1000s of students every year who are getting ready to apply to law school and this test is really crucial to that application.”

The three-hour exam will soon replace the analytical reasoning, or “logic games,” section with a new logical reasoning section, which will require analyzing arguments and making inferences based on a series of statements. 

The test will now include two scored logical reasoning sections, one scored reading comprehension section and one experimental, randomly-selected unscored section: either logical reasoning or reading comprehension. 

Aside from removing an older logical reasoning section from the test in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to accommodate online testing, the recent modifications are the largest changes to the LSAT in 30 years, Stohr said.

Kaplan typically conducts research and polling to gather data on how LSAT test takers prepare and think about the exam. Leading up to the overhaul of the “logic games” section, it was ranked as the most intimidating section and students reported it was the hardest, consisting of puzzles  unique to  the LSAT.

The “logic games” section has a controversial history. The Law School Admission Council entered a lawsuit settlement with two blind students in 2019, successfully arguing that the section violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, as they couldn’t draw diagrams test takers utilize to complete that portion of the test, Reuters reported

The new version of the exam aims to allow test-takers to demonstrate their skills with fewer accessibility barriers, allowing people to rely on their ability to examine and critically analyze arguments instead of the logic game section’s puzzles.

Beasley School of Law anticipates little to no change in how it will evaluate candidates applying to the law school, wrote Maddie Distasio, Beasley’s associate director of admissions, in an email to The Temple News. The school believes if anything, removing logic games will improve overall LSAT scores.

“The LSAC ran a comprehensive study of over 200,000 exam sessions, this research found no significant difference between overall score outcomes in the two different formats,” Distasio wrote. “As such, we plan to evaluate scores from August 2024 and beyond in the same way we do now.”

The law school application process is rigorous; of the 427,000 applications to Juris Doctor programs for 2022, only about 30 percent were given offers, according to Best Colleges, a college resource and ranking website. 

The LSAT has been particularly difficult for test takers from disenfranchised backgrounds who self-teach in preparation rather than using tutoring services or LSAT preparation classes, said Landon Farnsworth, a third-year Beasley law student. 

The logic games section was the most teachable section of the LSAT for tutors, Farnsworth said. It’s also the section where students are able to enhance their score the most, especially if they had tutors helping them prepare for the exam. 

“There is kind of a way to buy your way into law school and that’s through private tutoring intensive care,” Farnsworth said. “It’s really a test that you can learn.” 

In Philadelphia, the average cost of an LSAT tutor ranges from $40 to $80 per hour, according to Wyzant, an LSAT tutoring service. Temple offers a non-credit LSAT prep course including 30 hours of classroom instruction for nearly $1,000, which isn’t an attainable cost for many students.

American Bar Association-approved law school applicants are statistically not diverse, with Black applicants making up roughly 9 percent of all applicants, Asian applicants 12 percent and Puerto Rican andLatino applicants comprising 14 percent in 2023, according to LSAC.

The Law School Admissions Council will post practice exams for the new format in February 2024, and June 8, 2024, will mark the final LSAT administered prior to the changes. 

“Take the LSAT seriously, take it early, take it a few times, give yourself more time to prepare than you think is necessary,” Farnsworth said. “It’s going to be a really, really difficult time in your life, it is one of the least fun exams you’ll ever take – until the BAR down the road.”

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