Similar to the evolution that has occurred with other standardized exams, the LSAT will be offered in a digital format this year. That is a change from the long-standing tradition of the LSAT being a paper-and-pencil test.
The transition will begin with the July 2019 LSAT. Approximately half of the students taking that exam will take the old paper-and-pencil test, and the other half will take the digital exam. Beginning in September 2019, the LSAT will be offered only in the digital format.
The Impact (Or Lack Thereof) Of The Digital LSAT
What effect, if any, should this format change have on the roughly 100,000 students each year who take the logic-based LSAT? To get a better sense of the impact of the change, I spoke to LSAT expert Mark Sacks.
Sacks is the owner of ScoreItUp LSAT Prep and personally teaches all of ScoreItUp’s courses. In addition to having taught LSAT Prep to thousands of pre-law students (since the time he attended Harvard Law School), Sacks set a world record by coaching multiple students to perfect “180” LSAT scores in one year.
His words should reassure students preparing for the LSAT. “The most significant thing about the upcoming digital LSAT, by far, is what is not changing: i.e., the substance and content of the exam,” Sacks adroitly notes.
Kellye Testy, President and CEO of the LSAC, concurs with Sacks: “The structure of the test sections and test questions will not be any different than the paper-and-pencil test.” That should come as a large wave of relief to students who feared they were in for something new and different.
Positive Changes Of The New Digital LSAT
There also are some positive aspects of the change. For example, students now will be given scratch paper on the Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games) section. As Sacks wryly states, “it never made any sense to me how preventing the use of scratch paper helped test the ability of a future law student or lawyer. I’m glad they are doing away with that restriction.”
The LSAC confirms Sacks’ comments: “The LSAC will provide scratch paper and a pen for test takers to use during the [digital] LSAT.”
The transition to a digital format is not expected to be a tumultuous one for test-
takers. As the LSAC’s Testy notes, “We don’t think test takers will have any trouble moving to the digital version. In our field tests, candidates found the digital LSAT easy to use.” Sacks agrees: “The best thing a student can do to put his or her mind at ease is go to the LSAC’s website and practice with the LSAC’s tutorial – it’s really not that bad at all.”
Nevertheless, students should be aware of the changes, and familiarize themselves with the digital format. Sacks provides detailed instruction and helps students practice with the new LSAT format in his LSAT Prep courses. In addition, free online resources allow students to practice taking the LSAT with the new digital format. A list of the changes can be found on the LSAC’s website at lsac.org and on ScoreItUp’s blog page at scoreitup.com.
Students Should Continue Focusing On the LSAT’s Legal Reasoning Skills
One thing that comes across clearly from speaking to the experts is that students should not lose sight of the forest from the trees. The most challenging and important part of preparing for the LSAT, by far, continues to be developing the legal-reasoning and logic skills tested on the exam. Or, as Sacks describes it, “students should do what they always have done: focus their time and attention on learning the substantive topics tested on the LSAT, and not fear the change in the exam’s format.”
Life changes. Technology has revolutionized our world in many ways. But it’s also nice to know that some things don’t change. Deductions, inferences, analogies and the other logic principles that underlie the LSAT have been around for centuries – millenniums actually. They are the argument tools that practicing attorneys routinely use in the courtroom and have been in existence since the days of Aristotle. As the LSAT transitions into the digital age, the exam will continue testing those exact same legal-reasoning skills in the same way, unabated and unchanged.
About Mark Sacks and ScoreItUp LSAT Prep
Mark Sacks is the founder and lead instructor of ScoreItUp LSAT Prep. He is a Harvard Law School graduate who has taught LSAT Prep to thousands of pre-law students and worked with the legal reasoning skills tested on the LSAT his entire career. Sacks teaches LSAT Prep courses live in Orange County, California and on video worldwide. For more information on ScoreItUp and Mark Sacks, visit ScoreItUp’s website at scoreitup.com.