An unusual event occurred for some LSAT takers during the June LSAT. Specifically, many test takers received a different type of “experimental” section during the fourth section of their exam. To understand what happened, one needs to be aware of two LSAT-related facts:
Two Historical LSAT Facts
1. The LSAT currently consists of four sections: (1) three graded sections, consisting of one section each of Logical Reasoning, Analytical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and (2) an ungraded “experimental” section, which is a second section of one of those three sections. (The ungraded LSAT Writing section is administered separately, and must be completed at least once prior to receiving your LSAT score.) Test takers don’t know which section is the “experimental” section while taking the exam.
2. Several years ago, LSAC was sued by two legally blind test takers. The claim alleged that the LSAT’s Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games) section unfairly discriminated against blind people in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The plaintiffs’ claim was based on the notion that one needed to visually see one’s work (e.g., by preparing a diagram) in order to complete the Analytical Reasoning section effectively. Since blind people were incapable of doing that due to their disability, the LSAT unfairly discriminated against them.
As part of a settlement decree, LSAC agreed to reevaluate the Analytical Reasoning section within four years. Notably, and contrary to the inaccurate statements posted by many on social media, the LSAC did NOT agree to eliminate (or even change) the Analytical Reasoning section. The LSAC simply agreed to reevaluate it.
The Unusual June 2022 “Experimental” Section
That brings us back to the June 2022 LSAT. Some test takers did not get a “normal” experimental section that day. Instead, the fourth section of their exam gave them a handful of Analytical Reasoning questions, and then asked them a series of questions pertaining to how they approach the Analytical Reasoning section. The questions focused on things like whether or not they use a diagram when solving Analytical Reasoning problems.
While the LSAC hasn’t publicly stated the reason for these survey questions, it seems pretty obvious what is going on. It looks like the LSAC is trying to gather data to evaluate how students go about solving Analytical Reasoning problems. By doing so, the LSAC can further evaluate what changes/adjustments should be made to that section, if any, in light of the challenges that blind people face while taking the exam.
My Recommended and Suggested Solution
This whole lawsuit and its aftermath seem curious to me. First, I don’t think there is any question that the blind plaintiffs’ lawsuit has merit. Since the time I began teaching LSAT Prep over 20 years ago I have emphasized the importance of “making the process visual” when solving Analytical Reasoning problems. In particular, preparing diagrams are essential for most game sets. I don’t know of any serious LSAT Prep company that suggests otherwise. Without question, a blind person’s inability to see is likely to create an extreme challenge to solving Analytical Reasoning problems.
Second, it is important to note that the lawsuit by the blind plaintiffs against the LSAC did not claim that the whole LSAT was unfair to them – only that the Analytical Reasoning section was. Also, legally blind test takers make up a tremendously small percentage of all LSAT takers. Finally, the ADA encourages (and expressly requires, in appropriate cases) employers and businesses to “reasonably accommodate” people with a known disability.
In light of the above, there is a straightforward and effective solution. A “reasonable accommodation” would be to give legally blind test takers a second Logical Reasoning section instead of the current Analytical Reasoning section. By doing so, the blind LSAT takers would take the same number of sections as other test takers, and the exam would remain just as useful in assessing their performance as it is for anyone else. In fact, up until a couple of years ago, the LSAT included two graded Logical Reasoning sections for all test takers.
The LSAT would be slightly different, but not necessarily any easier or more difficult, for legally blind people with this minor adjustment. The LSAC would be fully capable of calculating the LSAT scores of blind people (on the LSAC’s 120-180 scale) through their “equating” process (a complex variation of a “curve”).
My proposed solution does require the LSAC to prepare an additional Logical Reasoning section of the exam for blind people. However, by making this relatively simple adjustment, all problems are solved. The Analytical Reasoning section, which has been a time-tested staple of the LSAT, would not need to be altered and the concerns of legally blind people would be fully addressed. Furthermore, the exam would not be easier or more difficult for them in any meaningful way.
An even simpler solution would be to prorate legally blind people’s LSAT score on the other two graded sections (Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension), and eliminate the Analytical Reasoning section for them. Although that makes the exam a little easier for blind people than others (they only have to take two sections plus the “experimental” section), it would not require the LSAC to create an additional Logical Reasoning section for each LSAT. Once again, the LSAC’s “equating” system would allow their LSAT score (on the 120-180 scale) to be calculated relatively easily.
Either one of these proposed solutions would be fully consistent with the “reasonable accommodation” standard that the ADA encourages and requires. I’ve been preaching that the LSAC adopt one of these two solutions for years. It will be interesting to see if anyone listens!