Making LSAT Prep Affordable & Finding Schools with No LSAT Requirement
The LSAT, long seen as the white whale of the law school admissions process, is a necessary hurdle to leap for many students who envision themselves working as lawyers one day. According to the Law School Admissions Council, 105,883 people took the exam during the 2015-2016 academic year, and that number is expected to grow. Aside from stress related to the exam itself, many students may feel overwhelmed about paying for test prep materials, tutors and the actual test. We’re here to calm your nerves, provide lots of resources dedicated to free/affordable test prep materials and perhaps even help you get into a top law school without taking the LSAT.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized exam used by every law school approved by the American Bar Association. The exam is widely known for being challenging, and prospective law students frequently spend months studying for this tough test.
The exam is made up of five sections, each of which has multiple choice questions and takes 35 minutes.
The final section is unscored and is usually used by the creators of the exam to test out new questions.
The maximum score is 180 while the average is 150. Scores typically arrive three to four weeks after the exam date and can be found on the LSAC website.
Sections within the test include reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, two sections of logical reasoning and variables.
Although these sections may not sound all that tough, the content of the LSAT can be confusing and overwhelming for those who haven’t studied properly and don’t understand the methodology and framework behind how the questions are asked.
The majority of schools require scores to be submitted by the January preceding admissions, so most learners try to take the text in June, September, and/or October to have ample time to get scores back, see how they did and assess whether they need to take it again.
Administered by the Law School Admission Council, learners can often find a testing center near them.
Steps for the LSAT
Though many students pay thousands of dollars to study and prepare for the LSAT, those who do their homework know that taking the exam doesn’t have to break the bank. In addition to a range of free sample tests and a list of strategies available via LSAC, countless resources are available online and in local communities to make taking the LSAT affordable.
The Cost of the LSAT
Taking the LSAT can quickly add up to a lot of money if students don’t have a solid game plan (and a budget in place) going in and an idea of where they can cut costs. While some learners prefer to have the more expensive one-to-one tutoring, plenty of less expensive options exist. There are a few costs that no one can get around, including:
Exam + one free score report
Credential Assembly Service
Late registration fee
Subscription to the Law School Data Assembly Service
Additional score reports
Testing Center/Date Change
Handscoring, if requested
Law School Reports
$35 per school
Over and above the required costs, there are many other ancillary fees that students who need help studying should consider. A few to keep in mind include:
Private Tutoring: Private tutoring is a great option for learners who feel they need focused support to excel. Private tutors charge between $100 and $350 an hour and are available in-person, online, or via the telephone.
Online Prep Course: Students who need a bit more interaction than a book can offer are often drawn to prep classes, which offer live classes, prerecorded classes, and a range of practice tests. Online courses range from approximately $600 to $1,300.
Group Tutoring: A step up from online prep courses but not as intense as one-to-one tutoring, this option usually includes 15-25 sessions taught in a classroom with other students, thereby allowing learners to get real-time help if they don’t understand something. These sessions usually cost $800 to $1,500 for a bundle.
LSAT Review Books: These can range in price greatly but are usually between $20 and $200 each. Depending on the contents of the book, you may need a couple to ensure all bases are covered.
While all these charges may seem like they add up quickly, there are multiple ways to cut costs and save along the way – provided you know where to look.
Insight offers a free, eight-part YouTube series taught by a former LSAT examinee who scored a 179. In addition to reviewing each section of the test, students can find strategies, tips, and expert advice.
This website allows users to look for study buddies in their city and meet to compare notes, challenge each other, and work through material together.
LSAT Fee Waiver
It’s no secret that taking the LSAT can be an expensive process. Even if students use lots of free resources rather than shelling out thousands of dollars on tutors and prep services, they still encounter all the costs associated with the exam itself. Realizing this limitation, LSAC began providing fee waivers in 1968 and continues to do so today. The waivers cover both the cost of the exam and the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) fee.
To be considered, applicants must either be a legal resident or have applied for DACA protections. They must also be able to demonstrate “extreme need” and be using the fee waiver as a last resort. LSAC notes that the requirements for qualifying are far more stringent than most financial aid processes, so learners should consider if they are truly in need before applying.
LSAT Prep Timeline
The majority of LSAT test prep services last between 12 and 16 weeks and offer a range of studying styles and levels of intensity based on if students are starting from scratch or have already been prepping for the exam. The timelines given below breaks studying into four, four-week sessions to give examinees a sense of how they can use their time wisely.
After taking a practice test to get a set a baseline, divide coursework from your test prep book into manageable weekly segments that touch on all three portions of the exam. Review your practice test and figure out which areas need the most work; once this is established, watch one video per day addressing those topics on top of workbook assignments.
Find a weekly study group in your area of look for a virtual study pal that you can meet with once or twice a week. Continue working through your prep book and completing practice questions each day. Take weekly practice exams to see how your scores have improved and update your study plan accordingly.
In addition to ongoing work with your test prep book and study group, begin using apps that can test your knowledge while on-the-go and add a bit of fun to the learning process to mitigate burnout. When completing practice questions, begin timing yourself to mimic actual exam circumstances. In addition to your weekly practice exams, take a practice test in a public place like a library to simulate distractions; make sure you time yourself and stick to the allotted amount for each section.
Keep doing everything you’ve been doing, but also make time to review strategies that help you not only use your knowledge, but also get into the mindset of those who wrote the exam. Complete timed practice tests during weeks 13 to 15 before using the final few days of your last week to take a break, clear your head, breathe deeply, and get in a healthy mindset.
Law Schools that Don’t Require LSAT for Some or All Students
For many years, taking the LSAT was the only way students who hoped to attend an American Bar Association-accredited law school could even hope to get in. Unaccredited institutions sometime don’t require the LSAT, but those aren’t the types of institutions that someone looking to attend Harvard, Georgetown or Columbia would consider. The LSAT was the gateway to law school for decades but, as of fall 2018, all that is set to change. In consultation with the ABA, approximately 14 top-tier law schools plan to allow the GRE to be used as an admissions exam – with possibly more joining them in the years that follow. The reasoning for this decision is twofold.
Law schools are looking to bring in a more diverse cohort that better represents the academic interests of all students – particularly those with undergraduate degrees in STEM subjects, which tend to be underrepresented in law.
The ABA and many law schools recognize that the high costs associated with prepping for the LSAT were enough to dissuade some students from pursuing law school at all.
Want to know more about some of the law schools following this trend? Check out three below.
Columbia Law School Beginning in fall 2018, Columbia Law school tested a pilot program to allow individuals who have taken the GRE rather than the LSAT to be admitted. This decision came after the school undertook a research study of current and former Columbia law students who took both exams. Data showed that the GRE is comparable in terms of predicting preparedness for the first year of law school.
Texas A&M University As the first law school in Texas to accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT, TAMU is leading the way in making law school more accessible to learners. To be considered, students still need to pay the LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS) fee as well as submit two letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a descriptive resume, personal statement, and a character and fitness addendum. As part of the fall 2018 pilot program, the nonrefundable application fee of $55 is being waived.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas – William S. Boyd School of Law Under ABA provisions, UNLV’s incoming law school class can consist of up to 10 percent of students who did not take the LSAT. Two paths to qualifying exist: Direct Admission or Dual Degree Admission. Under direct admission, learners must have scored in the top 15 percent on the ACT/SAT, either have ranked in the top 10 percent of their undergraduate class or held a cumulative GPA of at least 3.7 for at least six semesters, and have graduated no sooner than 12 months before starting the law degree. Under dual degree admission, students must have scored in the top 15% on the GRE/GMAT and either have ranked in the top 10 percent of their undergraduate class or held a cumulative GPA of at least 3.7 for at least six semesters.
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