The LSAT will join the other major graduate school entry exams — such as the GRE and the MCAT — and move to a digital, tablet-based format in July.
The Law School Admission Council, which is responsible for creating and administering the LSAT each year, announced the move on Oct. 3 along with the announcement that the test will now be administered nine times per year instead of six.
The test in July will randomly assign the test to half of the takers digitally, while the other half will be required to take the test on paper. This trial will ensure that the test is properly administered the same way in both formats. The test will become fully digital in September.
“We’ve planned this transition carefully to ensure candidates have all the information they need to decide their preferred testing schedule,” said Kellye Testy, president and CEO of LSAC, in a press release.
Regardless of the format they are assigned, test takers will have the unique opportunity after taking July’s test to see their score before deciding whether to cancel it. This opportunity has never been offered before and will not be offered again moving forward. Test takers normally had to indicate within a week of taking their test if they wish to cancel the score without knowing the actual score.
“The structure of the test sections and test questions will not be any different than the paper-and-pencil LSAT, and we’ll be providing free online tutorials, so we don’t think test takers will have any problems moving to the digital version,” Testy said. “In our field tests, candidates found the digital LSAT easy to use. That said, we wanted to provide additional options for those who register for our July transitional test.”
Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs at Kaplan Test Prep — a company that specializes in preparing students for exams such as the LSAT, SAT and GRE — said the move has been in the works for a few years.
“It is not something that came up overnight for sure and we’ve been very aware that this change was going to be happening eventually,” Thomas said. “We’ve been preparing for it for several years.”
Thomas, who has had hands-on experience with the digital platform that will be rolled out in July, said he sees the move to digital as beneficial for students.
“It really allows for two things: One, it allows for much more consistent test-taking experience,” Thomas said. “Secondly, the digital exam will allow LSAC to score the tests quicker.”
The new format, Thomas said, will not change the underlying format of the test but will provide students with helpful tools. Although scrap paper will still be provided for students to work out the LSAT’s infamous logic games, there will now be a stylus provided that doubles as a pen. This will provide test takers with the ability to highlight and annotate using the stylus during the reading comprehension sections.
“Definitely going to be some tactical enhancements that will modernize the testing experience for students,” Thomas said. “I think over time, students will become accustomed to it and enjoy it.”
Thomas said he sees the July test date as a great opportunity for students, but believes it is not the ideal time to take the test for the first time. Instead, he encourages students who are preparing now to take the test before July when a format they are familiar with is guaranteed and use the unique score-canceling opportunity in July as a chance to take a no-risk, second test if the first score is not satisfactory.
“Despite the fact that we are going to do all that we can to ease the transition for students and have digital practice tools at the ready for them, the paper-and-pencil exam is still the tried-and-true format that most folks are familiar with,” Thomas said. “We are strongly recommending for students that are preparing to take the LSAT sometime the next year, looking to apply to school next year, that they should do everything in their power to prepare to take the test in June or earlier.”