Scores suggest longer LSAT was no problem for August test takers

Students at South Cobb High School in Atlanta register to vote in Austell
REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
  • The median LSAT score for August dipped only slightly after a fourth test section was added back
  • The number of people registered for the October exam suggests another competitive law school admissions cycle

(Reuters) - The Law School Admission Test just got longer, but aspiring attorneys still managed to do pretty well.

The average score earned by the 24,907 people who took the LSAT this August was 154.19, just 1.4 points lower than the 155.6 average score among August 2020 LSAT takers. Both exams used an at-home, online format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the most recent test was four sections long—one section longer than the August 2020 iteration.

Officials with the Law School Admission Council, which designs and administers the LSAT, say the score difference between the latest tests is negligible and the data throws cold water on the theory that LSAT scores have soared over the past year because a shorter exam is inherently easier. (The number of people who applied to law school with LSAT scores of 160 and above last admissions cycle was up 25% or more in each five-point score band, and the number of applicants with the highest scores of 175-180 more than doubled.)

“We are entirely confident that these tests are comparable and interchangeable,” said Council executive president for operations Susan Krinsky in an interview Friday. “The four-section test is basically equivalent to the [three-section] LSAT Flex.”

The LSAT has been upended by the pandemic. It’s traditionally a five-section test given in person at testing centers, with four scored sections and a fifth experimental section that doesn’t count toward the test taker’s final score. The Council stopped giving in-person LSAT exams at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and instead developed the LSAT Flex, which was a remotely proctored, three-section online exam with no experimental section.

The Council administered the LSAT Flex 10 times before retiring it in June. August marked the debut of the four-section online version of the LSAT, which reinstates the unscored experimental section, and scores from that exam were released Friday.

“One has to think that taking the test at home is having a positive effect on scores, and that the benefit there is strong enough to make the test length less important,” said Dave Killoran, chief executive officer of LSAT prep company PowerScore, on why scores on the Flex and now the online LSAT have trended higher.

Krinsky agreed that the shift to at-home testing has likely alleviated some of the anxiety that examinees feel on test day, but the Council has pushed back against the notion that the online exams themselves are easier than their in-person predecessors. Surveys of pandemic-era LSAT takers show that they on average spent 25% to 30% more time studying for the test than examinees in previous years, Krinsky said.

August marks the start of the new law school admissions season, and the volume of people who sat for last month’s exam bodes well for another robust cycle. The next exam in October is already on track to have about 2,000 more takers than in 2021 if current registration trends hold, Krinsky said. That may well translate into another competitive year for applicants, Killoran noted.

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at