LSAT Fails to Assess Students’ True Abilities: Emphasis on Unnecessary Skills Holds Students Back

by The Cowl Editor on September 20, 2018


A hand holding a gavel over a table.
The LSAT does not accurately test the necessary skills for law school and the professional field. Photo courtesy of Brianna Coletti ’21/The Cowl.

by Nicholas Moran ’19

Opinion Staff

All Tasmanian Wombats are endowed with an abnormally productive pituitary gland, reliant on a hyperactive mitochondrial orchestration involving myriad proteins… What is the “main idea” of this passage?

Sifting through such gibberish at one’s rickety library desk, the hour is far closer to sunrise than sunset. This is a typical night of Law School Admission Test (LSAT) studying, scrambling for those few, precious points that determine where I can attend law school.

Hours of arranging six stray cats into acceptable sequences, ensuring Daisy doesn’t have to suffer the indignity of sitting next to Sue! Evenings spent deciphering the “main idea” of a riveting account on nematodes’ central nervous systems, or what “necessary assumption” the author’s case depends on.

As Providence College’s seniors race to pad their law school applications, pouring time and money into the LSAT, it is important to consider the questions: is this time well spent? Are you reinforcing skills essential to success in law school, and is the test sorting you into a school that matches your ability?

“Of course,” claimed the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), administers of the test. Dividing a dozen daffodils into three pots is vital for one’s success as a lawyer, as these logic games demonstrate one’s “analytical reasoning.”

A gifted logic gamer both understands the nuances in complex rules and can make “deductions on this information,” just as lawyers do daily with byzantine legal codes.

Similarly, a candidate’s law school success depends on becoming masters of the test’s “Logical Reasoning” and “Reading Comprehension” sections.

Contrary to the LSAC’s grand assertions, their LSAT is not a useful determinant for success in law school. Rather, it is merely a bizarre, arbitrary hurdle for applicants to overcome, siphoning time away from activities that really do bolster legal skills.

According to research published in the Social Science Research Network, the LSAT is an “overvalued predictor” of success, urging that it “predicts more weakly” than one’s undergraduate GPA, “college quality,” “work experience,” and a candidate’s major.

Shockingly, four hours on a Saturday is not as predictive as the four years’ worth of hard work that goes into your college GPA. All of the nights spent cramming for exams, struggling to master elaborate texts, and constructing argumentative papers infuse students with critical reasoning skills.

In fact, a student with a high GPA and low LSAT score is more likely to succeed than one with outstanding LSAT scores and a miserable GPA.

Making matters worse, conquering this “overvalued predictor” is both time-consuming and expensive, according to secondary education expert Caroline Kitchener of the Atlantic.

Since the exam’s “Logic Games” section tests “a completely new set of skills” from undergraduate coursework, it is near impossible to learn skimming through a cheap prep-book.

Faced with a test that amounts to 50 percent of one’s application, aspiring lawyers spend an average of $950 to $1,600 on an 80 hour LSAT prep class, with some shelling out an additional $150 an hour for a tutor.

Moreover, many students confessed to Kitchener that the LSAT forced them to quit jobs, desperate for time to learn the exam’s Sodoku-esque puzzles.

For those struggling to make ends meet, this immense cost can be an insurmountable barrier, crippling their chances of attending law school. Why should bright, yet cash-strapped, applicants have to decide between sorting imaginary puppies and earning money for rent?

Aiming to fill their halls with capable law students, law schools should encourage students to focus on work that does improve skills.

Reward students for the hours spent in the library, grinding out papers, and prepping for exams. Prize the applicant who rose the ranks of student government, ran a club, or scored an internship downtown. Not the one who can quickly put seven puppies in order.