lsat-photoillustration
Credit: Sam Holland

The Law School Admission Test, commonly known as the LSAT, will undergo the largest change in recent history, ditching its traditional pen-and-paper format for a digital interface.

The transition to digital testing will begin in July 2019, and the LSAT will be fully digitized by September 2019, the Law School Admission Council – the organization that develops and administers the LSAT – announced in a press release on Oct. 3. 

The exam content, length, and scoring scale will all remain the same. The only change is that students will now be using a Samsung tablet and stylus, rather than traditional pen and paper, to take the exam.

In July 2019, half of the exams will be administered on tablets before the LSAT makes the complete switch to digital testing in September. However, students taking the July exam will not be able to choose whether they take the exam digitally or with a paper and pencil.

Regardless of the format, all test takers of the July exam will be able to see their scores before deciding whether or not to cancel them, in order "to ease the transition." Test takers who choose to cancel their scores can take the test again free of charge before April 2020, according to the press release.

The move comes at a time when the law school test is facing mounting competition from the Graduate Record Examinations, which is gaining acceptance among law schools – including Penn's – and is already administered on a computer.

The LSAT is the last major graduate school entry exam to turn digital. Others, such as the Medical College Admissions Test and GRE, have already made the transition. 

Kaplan Test Prep's Executive Director of pre-law programs, Jeff Thomas, spoke to The Daily Pennsylvanian about the impact of this change on Penn students looking to apply to law school. He said students will see more positive than negative consequences.

“It’s nothing that students should be super scared of quite frankly,” Thomas said. “It’s more of a lift than a shift.”

College senior Nicole Rubin has taken the LSAT twice. Rubin said she believes the conversion to a digital format is the right decision for the LSAT, acknowledging competition from the GRE and the advantage of receiving scores more quickly.

“I think it's good because that is what other tests are doing, so it helps to keep it up with modern technology,” Rubin said. “It also takes about three weeks to get your LSAT score, which is obviously an anxious time period as you wait for the score. The advantage of digital is that for the GRE it pops your score right back up when you submit it, so you don’t have to wait.“

On the other hand, College junior Josh Chazin, said he was hesitant about the switch, specifically because he said he will need to adapt the way he studies for the exam. 

“As a student who would try to go to law school straight out of college, the change in exam format definitely poses a challenge,” Chazin said. “I was planning on spending a significant portion of the summer studying for it should I choose to go to law school."

Now, Chazin said the change to digital administration is disrupting his plans.  

“Now I have to spend part of [the summer] using first-time resources for an exam format that’s basically experimental at this point,” he continued. "That would probably encourage me to front-load my studying for [the LSAT] to before the summer, which is obviously difficult with a full college semester’s workload.”

Rubin said she still thinks there will be a learning curve for students taking the exam on a computer.

“There is a completely different feel to taking it on paper and on the computer, so practicing on paper to take on the computer might throw people off,” Rubin said. “Hopefully, the test prep companies change their courses to computerized formats to better prepare people.”

Though he recognized that the change from paper to tablet can be anxiety inducing to many students, Thomas lauded the interface and design of the new LSAT.

“I have had my hands on an actual tablet, I’ve seen the interface,” he said. “The Law School Admissions Council [has] done a really thoughtful job in trying to figure the ways with which students would want to engage with a tablet in a test-taking environment.”

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