The end of 2019 fast approaching. If 2019 were an LSAT, we’d have just finished making our frantic, final answer selections in the fifth section, and would now be listening to the proctor drone on about some final instructions before being dismissed. Which is to say that our minds would be drifting away from the LSAT and towards how much we’re going to celebrate finishing the test. But before we let our minds drift away from 2019 and towards our New Year’s Eve celebrations, we thought it’d be appropriate to reflect on all the changes to the LSAT this year brought.
In fact, there were so many changes this year. You could argue that the LSAT changed more this year than it had in its entire twenty-eight-year run since taking its modern form in 1991. The number of LSATs administered in 2019 increased dramatically. The test went digital in July. There was a major change to one of the sections of the test — OK, it was just the Writing section, but still. With so many changes to the LSAT in 2019, let’s take a trip through the year to review just how much this exam changed.
Even back in January we knew 2019 would bring a ton of changes to the LSAT, but LSAC threw a curveball at us by announcing that they’d be changing the way the LSAT Writing section was administered. LSAC said it would remove the Writing section from test day in June, allowing test takers to take the section at home, on their own computer.
Later that month, the January LSAT was administered. Although it was one of the “nondisclosed” tests that don’t get released — so we never got an in-depth look at it — we learned a few things about the exam. Most agreed that the Logic Games section was the most difficult, made difficult by some hard-to-parse rules. As it turned out, that would be a recurring theme this year — the games given in 2019 would be a little trickier than usual. Read more about the January 2019 LSAT and test takers’ reactions here:
This was an unusually quiet February, LSAT-wise, since the typical February exam was pushed to March in 2019. Scores for the January LSAT were released on Valentine’s Day, of all days … and that was about it. Without much LSAT content to feast on, we honored Valentine’s Day by making some LSAT-themed cards and Valentine’s Day logic games, and honored Presidents’ Day by doing a deep dive our favorite facts about presidents who were lawyers.
A lot of LSAT- and law school-related news came out in March. We learned that the students of Southern California law school Western State would not be getting their student loan disbursements, which augured the potential closing of that school (it, in a surprise twist, would get sold to Westcliff University and started classes for enrolled students in August). The 2019-2020 U.S. News & World Report law school rankings dropped. And then the March 2019 LSAT was administered. Like January, it was also the first of its kind. Also like January, it was a nondisclosed test, so we never got an extensive look at it. Based on student murmurs, it seemed like the game about the improbably named towns of Quandaryville and Pleasantville was the most difficult part of the test. Read more here:
April didn’t exactly shower us with LSAT or law school news. Scores were released for the March exam … and that was about it. We were all excited for the Game of Thrones premiere, so we wrote about LSAT lessons learned from that series. Say what you will about that series’s wet fart of a final season, but at least we got some pearls of wisdom and LSAT content out of it.
With switch to the digital LSAT looming, LSAC put some free practice exams in the digital format on its website. We weren’t terribly impressed with the initial interface, though LSAC did eventually make some changes to make it more user friendly. We also did our part to prepare students for the digital LSAT by distinguishing the facts from the fictions about the format change and giving some advice on how to do the online version of the LSAT Writing section.
June — which marks the technical beginning of the non-Gregorian LSAT “year” (running from June 1 to May 31, according to LSAC) — saw the first major changes to the LSAT in 2019. For the June test, LSAC officially removed the LSAT Writing section from test day, allowing June test takers to do the section at the time of their choice from the comfort of their homes. When that change came, we tried out the new version of the Writing section, and gave it a very positive review.
If you still have to complete the Writing section, one tip: follow the directions of the security portion of the exam very carefully. After speaking with many test takers, the biggest issue they had with the new version of the exam is getting their LSAT Writing response rejected because there was some “testing irregularity” — read: they didn’t follow the directions entirely. Now, we really doubt that anyone is trying to cheat on the unscored Writing section. Still, for whatever reason, there are a ton of hoops and ladders you’ll have to jump through to do the at-home-version of the section. It’s not a big deal if you get your response is rejected — you’ll just have to do the Writing section again. But to avoid that hassle, make sure to follow all the directions as closely as you can.
The June LSAT was also the last paper-and-pencil version of the test, so technophobic pre-law students signed up in droves to take it. The June exam was administered on the third of the month and, despite having one more question than most LSATs, was generally considered to be a “fair” test, although many complained that the Reading Comprehension section was quite difficult. Fortunately for us, June exams are “disclosed,” so a copy of the test was made public once the scores were released. After we took a look at the June exam, we agreed that the Reading Comp was quite frustrating. Read more about that exam here:
With the unveiling of the digital LSAT in July, we also spent some time preparing our readers for that format switch. We discussed how to get prepared for the digital test, and how to do Reading Comp on the digital test, since marking up the passage with a pencil was no longer possible.
July is when things got really crazy for the LSAT. The July LSAT, based on announcements made in 2018, was going to be a totally unique test administration. For one, it would be the test day that LSAC finally unveiled the digital test. However, LSAC would only be administering the digital test to about half of people taking the test. The other half would be given the traditional paper-and-pencil test. And test takers wouldn’t know which version of the test they were getting until test day. This was done so LSAC could conduct a comparative study on the two versions of the test, to make sure that test takers weren’t performing dramatically better on one version of the test. As a reward for being human guinea pigs in LSAC’s studies, July test takers got an unprecedented perk — they could elect to cancel their scores after seeing their score and retake the test for free. Perhaps unsurprisingly, about half of all July test takers took LSAC up on that offer.
The administration of the digital LSAT went, on balance, fairly smoothly. However, there were definitely a few reported hiccups. Many test takers noted that they found it difficult to see their screens clearly under the glare of overhead lights. Many also claimed that the provided stylus made it slightly cumbersome to highlight or underline text or select answer choices. Several test centers experienced significant delays as proctors worked to make the tablets functional. And there were a couple of test centers that had to cancel the test altogether. These issues would, unfortunately, be a recurring theme at test administrations for the rest of the year.
As for the July test itself, most agreed that it was a fairly difficult exam, with a few brutal passages and some very tough games. Read more about the July exam here:
With all the madness June and July wrought, August was a calmer month for LSAT and law school news. We finally got all the data about last year’s law school admissions cycle, which we summarized here (and will also summarize here: the number of applicants are up overall, but the number of applicants with good LSAT scores has remained steady or even decreased for certain score bands, so having a great LSAT score is still a huge competitive advantage). And in preparation for the first all-digital LSAT in September, we made a comprehensive guide on digital LSAT strategies and updated our test center review page.
And on August 28th, scores from the July exam were finally released. As we discussed above, almost half of all July test takers canceled their score.
The LSAT became fully digital in September. Unless you were taking the exam outside of the U.S. and Canada or had special testing accommodations, you were taking the September exam on a tablet. And that’s how the LSATs would work for all subsequent tests, including the October and November tests held later in 2019. People who took the September test had some thoughts on how the newly digital test went. As on the July exam, most reports on the digital test were positive. It seems like most test takers prefer the digital test to the paper-and-pencil version, unless there’s a significant delay in starting the exam or malfunctioning hardware. Unfortunately, there continued to be a number of test takers who reported significant delays or malfunctioning hardware.
As for the content of the September test … it was a hard one. After the exam, test takers expressed a lot of frustration about the difficulty of the games and passages, with the most ire reserved for the so-called “flower game.” Since the September test was disclosed, we got to take a look at the test. And we agreed. It was definitely a hard one (though the difficulty of the “flower game,” we felt, was maybe a bit overstated). Anyway, read more about the September exam and test taker reactions here:
In October, we got what was probably the most unexpected news about the LSAT of the year: the Logic Games section will maybe, one day, disappear. LSAC reached a settlement with a few blind test takers and, according to the statement released by those test takers’ attorney, the Logic Games section would be removed from the test within the next five years. However, according to LSAC’s statement on the matter, they promised only to research alternatives to the Logic Games section during the next five years. So who knows when or how that section is going to change. But this news was still shocking enough to make our resident LSAT nerd write an impassioned defense of logic games.
Outside of that news, the October LSAT came and went. The October test was another nondisclosed test, but according to test takers, it was another fairly difficult test. An unfortunate trend of 2019! Read more about the October exam here:
LSAC saw it fit to make one more change to the test in November. It made the surprise announcement that it would now release an applicant’s LSAT score to law schools before that applicant completed the at-home Writing section of that test. We noted how this shouldn’t change your approach to completing the Writing section or applying to law school, but this was still one last change to a test that got so thoroughly changed in 2019.
In addition to that announcement, there was the November LSAT, the last test of the calendar year 2019. Overall, the Logical Reasoning questions, Reading Comp passages, and logic games on the November test weren’t quite as difficult as those on the June or September tests. However, we felt the “curve” for November test was somewhat ungenerous. And, most concerningly, there were a lot of test center disasters for the November exam. Many test centers could not hold the LSAT as planned, so LSAT had to offer a make-up exam to affected test takers on December 8th. Read more about the November test here:
After so many changes, surprise announcements, and trends to monitor throughout 2019, December has been a relatively quiet month. Though I suppose I shouldn’t speak so hastily — there are still two days left for LSAC to announce that the LSAT is now going back to the paper-and-pencil version of the exam, or it’s now going to be a dance recital, or that it’s going to merge with the GRE to form a super test. But, even if those final changes do not come to pass, 2019 has been a wild ride for those of us who have to take or teach the LSAT. Nevertheless, it’s been a pleasure being on this ride with you. We wish you a safe and happy New Year.
All the LSAT News from 2018