A bit of controversy exists in the LSAT Prep world (what fun would life be without a bit of a controversy?!). The issue revolves around the best way to get a meaningful gauge of your LSAT score on practice exams. First, let me begin with a few basics:
The Non-Controversial Stuff
- The best way to gauge your practice LSAT scores is to take a full-length LSAT in a strictly timed setting (i.e., the way in which the “official” LSAT will be administered).
- The reason that is important is twofold. First, it is very challenging to complete each section of the LSAT within the 35-minute time limit given per section. It is perfectly fine to give yourself extra time when practicing, but to get a meaningful indication of your actual score on practice exams, you must do it in a timed format.
- There also is a natural fatigue factor that exists, and it is often the case that a student may do worse towards the end of the exam simply due to mental fatigue. To get the most meaningful indication of your “true” score on a practice exam, it therefore is necessary to take the practice exam in a full-length format comparable to those who you are comparing yourself to.
The (Slightly) Controversial Stuff
- To understand the controversy, one must first understand the changes that occurred in the format of the LSAT. Please see my recent blog for a detailed discussion/comparison of the LSAT format changes in (1) the prior LSAT (pre-May 2020), (2) the prior, temporary LSAT-Flex (May 2020-June 2021), and (3) the current and future LSAT (August 2021 onward).
- The main issue/controversy is that in almost all of the previously released (published) LSATs, the LSAT was administered in the prior LSAT format (four graded sections, including two Logical Reasoning (LR), one Analytical Reasoning (AR) and one Reading Comp (RC) section). The current version of the LSAT has only three graded sections (one LR, one AR and one RC section).
- In other words, we have almost no previously released LSATs using the 3-section format that can be used for practice (don’t worry, that is NOT a big deal…the substance/content of the current LSAT hasn’t changed at all!).
- The question then becomes…how do you use the previously released LSATs (four graded sections, including two LR sections) to get an accurate gauge of how you would perform on the current LSAT (three graded sections, including one LR section).
- As you can see from the information above, the prior LSAT had a stronger emphasis on LR than the current version of the LSAT and the former LSAT-Flex does (two LR sections vs. one LR section). Once again, none of this is that big a deal…your practice LSAT score (with four graded sections) will still be a very good approximation of how you likely would perform on the official LSAT in the current LSAT format (with three graded sections).
- There have been some attempts to “convert” four-section practice LSATs to three-section LSATs, but there isn’t anything that reliably does that.
- Accordingly, I would recommend the following, simple approach:
- Take all four sections of a previously released LSAT in a timed setting (35 minutes per section).
- Give yourself a 10-minute break between the second and third section, but otherwise do the sections back-to-back without a break. That will simulate the current format of the LSAT.*
- Calculate your “raw score” by adding up the total number of questions you got correct in all four sections of the practice/mock exam. There is no penalty for wrong answers.
- Using the “conversion chart” at the end of the LSAT, take your “raw score” and convert it into your “LSAT score” on the 120-180 scale.
- Note that the above method of scoring is likely to give you a very good estimate of what your actual score would be. However, you should be aware that this does over-emphasize the LR section somewhat. (This is where the controversy arises, but it is the simplest way to estimate your score.)
- You may want to make a note of how you did on your two LR sections compared to your AR and RC sections. If you did better in the LR sections than in the AR and RC sections, your practice LSAT score might be slightly inflated from what your “true” score would be. If you did worse in the two LR sections than in the AR and RC sections, your practice score might be slightly deflated from what your “true” score would be.
* OPTIONAL: If you want to be a TRUE purist, throw in one additional section from another LSAT somewhere in the middle of your practice exams (so you will be taking a total of FIVE 35-minute sections). Don’t count that extra section when you grade your score. Take three 35-minute sections back-to-back, a 15-minute break, and then two more 35-minute sections. Grade only the four sections from your primary LSAT when calculating your score. Why would any masochist do this? Well, by doing that you are truly simulating the testing experience of those who you are comparing yourself to (including the mental fatigue factor), since that is the way the prior LSATs were administered (i.e., there was one additional “experimental” section included along with the four graded sections).
Comments Regarding Your Practice LSAT Scores And The “True” Meaning of LSAT Scores
- Remember that students just starting out are likely to score well below students who took the “official” LSAT, since those students presumably took their “official” LSAT after completing their preparation. Don’t be alarmed if your score is low…remember that it is not where you start, it is where you finish that matters!
- The LSAT’s 120-180 scale is an arbitrary numbering system. It’s true significance is the corresponding “percentile” that each LSAT score represents (i.e., the percentage of students who you did better than on that particular LSAT). If you have questions about that, please let me know, but here are some benchmarks to keep in mind:
- Most students score in the 130s or 140s when just starting out, with some in the 120s and 150s.
- A score of 151 means about 50% did better than you, and about 50% did the same or worse.
- A score of 160 means about 20% did better than you, and about 80% did the same or worse.
- A score of 165 means about 10% did better than you, and about 90% did the same or worse.
- A score of 170 means about 2% did better than you, and about 98% did the same or worse.