The Law School Admission Council announced that the Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT, will now be administered in a digital format nine times a year beginning in September 2019.
Since 1991, the test had been administered only four times a year on paper. This will be the largest change to the LSAT in the last 30 years, according to Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs for Kaplan Test Prep.
Nicole Lagemann, an instructor for BYU’s LSAT test preperation, said the structure and content will remain the same with only the format being different.
“The main challenge is simply becoming familiar with how to quickly navigate in the digital setting,” Lagemann said. “Considering that the test will be given on tablets with touchscreens, I would anticipate that both this learning curve and potential time lag will be relatively modest.”
Many pre-law advisers view the change in a positive light, according to BYU pre-law advisor Kris Tina Carlston. She said the lack of test dates was a major complaint in the past.
“I am happy they are better serving the students who are paying for their services,” said Stacie Stewart, BYU Law’s dean of admissions.
Stewart said the bump up to nine major test dates during the year will relieve the problems that arose from only having four test dates previously.
Last year there were only February and June test dates, and Stewart said there were students who decided to go to law school after it was too late to sign up for the February test window. They ended up having to wait until the end of June — the end of the application cycle when fewer spots are open — to get test scores and apply.
“I can’t see anything but an upside for the students,” Stewart said. “They can decide at various times within the cycle to apply and be able to put together a competitive application.”
Carlston said other pre-law advisers have expressed concern about the challenge of reading on an electronic screen for such a reading-intensive test.
“More and more students are getting used to e-readers for their textbooks, so I don’t see this as being a huge dilemma,” Carlston said.
In addition, an official press release said the Admission Council will be producing free tutorials and materials in collaboration with Khan Academy to help students get accustomed to the new format.
According to the press release, the first test implementing the technology will consist of half paper and half electronic tests, and students can cancel their scores after seeing them. They can then retake the test again for free until April 2020.
This is unprecedented, according to Carlston. Previously, students needed to choose to cancel their scores long before seeing them. With a free retake as well, this test will be the first of its kind and shows how serious the transition to an electronic test is being taken.
The impact of this change to LSAT preperation courses will most likely be minimal, according to Lagemann. The content will stay the same, but it will be more challenging to simulate the testing experience.
“It’s pretty easy to simulate a test right now just using the retired prior LSATs,” Lagermann said. “Now, however, even if courses decide to provide a digital test in a computer lab, would that really be similar enough to the experience of taking the test on a tablet?”
There will also be less preperation material available, according to Thomas. There are currently over a hundred previously released tests currently available to students in the written format, but nothing digital yet.
Carlston and Lagermann both said students should not wait to start studying until all the tutorials and information about the new test format are readily available.
“It is totally valuable to start studying now, even with the paper materials,” Carlston said. “It takes a large amount of time for students to master the test matter.”