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Credit: Sharon Lee

Thinking of taking the Law School Admission Test to apply to law school? Forget your No. 2 pencil — as of late September, the LSAT is now only administered digitally on a tablet and with a stylus.

While the move was greeted by admissions experts, Penn students interested in going to law school said they favored the familiar, old-fashioned paper and pencil format.

The LSAT was administered digitally for the first time on Sept. 21 to all students taking the test. This new change to the LSAT was first announced by the Law School Admission Council in October 2018. The digital format was experimented with during the June LSAT exam, where half of the students taking the test were given the exam digitally through a tablet.

In a survey administered by Kaplan, nearly 80% of the J.D. programs' admission officers said they thought the change was a good idea.

Jeff Thomas, Kaplan Test Prep's executive director of Admissions Programs, said the digital shift is the biggest change to the LSAT in over 25 years.

“The Law School Admission Council had been researching ways to improve the test-taking experience for several years,” Thomas said in an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian. “This particular [change] had been in the planning for at least five years.“

Penn Career Services Associate Director Mia Carpiniello said the impact of the change would vary depending on the individual students.

“Because the contents of the test are the same, I don't think it is going to have a big impact,” Carpiniello added. “In this day and age, the students that I work with at Penn and the alumni who are preparing for the LSAT are ‘tech-savvy’ so they don’t seem to be too concerned about taking the test on a tablet.”

Every student taking the LSAT after September will be given a tablet and a stylus instead of a test booklet.

Credit: Sharon Lee

With this new change, timing will be done digitally and students can be assured that every test-taker will be given the exact same amount of time.

Thomas said this is largely a format change, as the test contents remain unchanged.

“The type of questions that students will see will be the same. The length and the scoring will also be the same,” Thomas added.

The change will lead to a more consistent testing experience and a more flexible testing schedule, experts said, as the number of LSATs offered in 2019 will increase.

Thomas said one of the biggest challenges to the administration of the LSAT is the timing, which was traditionally monitored by the proctor in front of the room.

“The difference between receiving 34 minutes and 30 seconds and 35 minutes can be another point or two on the exam,” Thomas added. “And every point on the exam puts students ahead of thousands of other applicants to law school.”

With this new change, timing will be done digitally and students can be assured that every test-taker will be given the exact same amount of time.

Now, test-takers have the ability to highlight text in multiple colors and underline text using the stylus.

“These are things that students can’t do in the pen-and-pencil format,” Thomas said.

College junior Amanpreet Singh said the new digital format can be “tricky” for some students.

“While you can highlight and underline on the tablet, you can’t write on the margin, so a lot of your notes will be disassociated from the actual information,” said Singh, a 34th Street staffer. 

Singh also said the impact of the new test format remains unclear, as September of this year is the first time that all students are required to take the test digitally.

“I think that everyone will have different opinions on [the new testing format],” Singh added.

College junior Minna Zheng said she would prefer to take the LSAT with paper and pencils.

“It would be best if they [could] give an option, especially for students that are more comfortable taking a paper test,” Zheng said. “It's just uncomfortable for me to look into a screen for three hours straight.” 

Thomas said students should spend time learning the new format with the new digital familiarization tool developed by the Law School Admission Council and plan ahead for taking the LSAT.

“It's like learning how to play a sport or an instrument. You can’t cram for it,” Thomas added.

Zheng said most of the tests that she has taken so far were with paper and pencils, so the digital format would take some time to get used to.

“With any test there are new challenges, and this is one of those that you have to get used to,” Singh said.

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