How the LSAT Works

By: Bambi Turner

What's on the LSAT?

While it's impossible to predict the exact questions you'll face on the LSAT, the LSAC makes no secret of the test's format. The test consists of five multiple choice sections followed by a single essay section. Test-takers are given 35 minutes for each section, bringing the total testing time to three hours and 30 minutes.

Two of the five multiple-choice sections are aimed at testing logical reasoning skills. There's a single section of reading comprehension, which also includes questions on comparative reading. While reading comprehension tests your ability to understand a single selection, comparative reading requires the test-taker to compare two sets of information and understand distinctions between the two. The fourth section tests analytical reasoning and is sometimes referred to as the logic games section. Here, you'll find questions along the lines of the classic logic puzzles where you use the information given to deduce the answer to a question.


Every LSAT contains a fifth multiple-choice section of miscellaneous questions that test reasoning, logic, analytical skills and reading comprehension. This section is unscored, and is used to help the LSAC test new questions for future exams. Most LSAT prep books suggest that the unscored section is always among the first three sections on the exam, but there's no documented proof of this assertion [source: LSAC].

The order of each section is constantly changing, and the LSAT given in January will likely be completely different from the one given in June. This means that if you happen to get an especially challenging combination of questions the first time you take the test, you may have much better luck during a subsequent testing session.

After the first five sections are complete, applicants are given 35 minutes to complete an essay question aimed at testing reasoning skills. This essay isn't graded by LSAC but is sent to law schools along with LSAT scores. Law school admissions boards may review this essay to see how you think under pressure, but most understand that the essay doesn't represent the candidate's best writing ability.

While the LSAT can seem like a vastly different experience for test-takers, there are some universal testing tips that apply to all applicants. Because so much of the test is based on logic and reasoning abilities, it's almost always helpful to brush up on your puzzle-solving skills as you prepare to take the LSAT. This can be as simple as working on some logic problems in a puzzle magazine or as complex as delving into theories and principles of logic study.

Another great LSAT tip is to answer each question based only on the information given in the test. Never let your own personal knowledge on the subject influence your answer. The LSAT is designed to test logic, reasoning and reading comprehension. Some questions may be designed to trip you up by presenting information that contradicts well-known facts about a topic. Don't be fooled by this kind of trick, and stick to the information given in the test to help answer the question [source: LSAT Exam Practice Tests].

Finally, don't forget that there's no penalty for wrong answers. If you have no idea how to answer a question, take a guess. Your guess may be correct, but a skipped question will always be wrong.