The LSAT is the dinosaur of graduate school admission exams: it’s still exclusively a paper-and-pencil test, while the GMAT, GRE, and MCAT exams have all been administered digitally for at least a decade. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) is trying to evolve its exam with a digital LSAT pilot this spring—but as we all learned back in AP Biology, evolution is a slow process.

LSAT digital pilot

According to Law.com, the first prototype LSAT-by-tablet was developed in 2013; though LSAC has tested the model on a small scale, this May’s pilot is the first test with participation from the public. The exam will consist of five, 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions administered via tablet, at about 20 testing sites across the United States. Participants will not receive official LSAT scores for law school applications, but they will each receive a $100 gift card and a detailed performance report to guide their LSAT test prep. The pilot will use real LSAT questions, so participants will be getting in extra practice, too.

While the timing of this pilot might suggest that LSAC anticipates a competitive testing market due to some law schools’ recent interest in accepting GRE scores instead of LSAT scores, the LSAC has been exploring a computer-based LSAT for over 20 years. No dates for larger pilots, or computer-based LSATs with real test scores, have been announced. 

Fortunately, The Princeton Review’s vast experience with changes to other test types helps us foresee possible pros and cons of a digital LSAT:

PRO: Increased accessibility

Computer-based tests are typically offered on more dates in more locations than paper-based tests. The GRE and GMAT are offered year-round in testing sites all over the world. The MCAT is offered more than 20 times per year. By contrast, the ACT and SAT, which are still paper-based, are currently offered 6-7 times per year. The paper LSAT is  offered only four times a year, and LSAC recommends registering as early as possible to ensure a seat at the testing center of your choice. Computer-based tests give students many more options for when and where they take the exam, which allows greater flexibility in planning and prep.

CON: Switching between screen and scratch paper

Anyone who has cracked an LSAT prep book knows that diagramming is key to Analytical Reasoning questions, aka Logic Games. These questions test how well you organize information, understand spatial relationships, and make deductions from those relationships when presented with limitations. The first step in tackling these questions is drawing an efficient and appropriate diagram of the problem, which test takers do directly in the test booklet below the question. Moving between the question text on-screen and your diagram on paper to find the answer could take valuable test time and increase your chances of making a mistake.

PRO: Speedy score delivery

Computer-based exams can relieve a lot of anxiety around score delivery. LSAT scores are delivered to test takers electronically about three weeks after the exam… but not exactly… and often shortly before the date LSAC predicted scores would be available for your test sitting. It’s an inexact delivery process that can result in a lot of refreshing of your LSAC account and anticipatory angst on social media. GRE and GMAT test takers can see their scores as soon as they complete the exam. Imagine how much less stressful it would be to know how you scored on the LSAT immediately!

CON: Unknown user interface

Hopefully, if the LSAT does go digital, the LSAC will make the test interface available to those studying for the test well in advance. Pacing and speed are absolutely crucial to getting your best score on the LSAT, so you’ll need to know the functionality of the tablet and testing program as well as you know how to hold a pencil. Learning a new test-specific interface could end up dramatically increasing time needed to prep for the LSAT—not to mention test-taker anxiety.

It's not clear when, or even if, the LSAC will lumber into the modern age with a fully computerized exam, but we'll be ready and waiting to mimic the new test experience and continue helping future law students unlock their best possible scores.

 


Practice for the LSAT

Take a LSAT practice test with us under the same conditions as the real thing. You'll get a personalized score report highlighting your strengths and areas of improvement.

START A FREE PRACTICE TEST