Officials work to transition law school students to online LSAT

Media Credit: Alexander Welling | Assistant Photo Editor

Junior Gaurav Gawankar, the president of the Pre-Law Student Association, said an online test allows students to set their own schedules.

Officials and student leaders are working to help pre-law students adjust to taking the law school entrance exam online.

The Law School Admission Council, a nonprofit organization that administers the Law School Admission Test, transitioned the exam Saturday to a fully digital format. Officials said they are working with LSAC to ensure a smooth transition for students so their test scores and law school admissions chances are not harmed by the change.

Deborah Baker, a senior academic adviser in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences who handles pre-law matters, said LSAC officials have taken “tremendous” steps to prepare law schools, undergraduate pre-law advisers and test preparation companies by posting a “comprehensive” list of frequently asked questions and access to free practice tests on the LSAC website. She said recently administered exams and instructional videos have also been posted online.

“The most important assistance has been the digital familiarization tools and free practice tests provided on LSAC’s website, which allow students to get acquainted with the features of the digital exam,” she said in an email.

Baker said the change will have the greatest effect on students taking the exam throughout this academic year who have taken practice tests on paper. But she said new features on the online version of the test, like a tool that allows students to “flag and easily return” to skipped questions, have received positive feedback from students who took the digital exam in July.

Baker added that some students expressed concerns about technical issues that occurred while taking the test and about the difficulty of completing the digital LSAT’s writing sample but said the issues will decrease as more students and administrators adjust to the change.

“As test preparation companies adjust their instruction to account for this change, as students become more accustomed to the format and as LSAC administration of the test becomes more automated and less susceptible to error, the benefits will likely outweigh the cons for the majority of students,” Baker said.

Junior Gaurav Gawankar, the president of the Pre-Law Student Association, said the shift will make the exam more accessible for students and allow students to receive their test results faster.

He said the migration of the test online allows LSAC officials to offer the LSAT more often throughout the year, giving students more chances to take the exam before law school applications open. The test will be offered nine times throughout this testing year, three times more than it was offered last year.

“The general schedule that people have right now is they study junior year and take it the summer after,” Gawankar said. “There’s no reason why that should be what everybody follows.”

He said the Pre-Law Student Association is working with LSAT Max, a company that offers digital LSAT preparation and a full-length digital practice test, to let students take a free full-length digital practice test. He said a link to the company’s app will be sent out in the student group’s next newsletter to encourage members to take advantage of the resources the app can offer, like feedback on strengths and weaknesses broken down by category.

“It’s a good way for people to practice taking it digitally if they decide to do that,” he said.

He added that he wants the association to hold at least one discussion session to review the change in the exam to allow students to voice any anxieties they have about the new system.

Experts said the change should not impact students taking the exam intensely as long as they can practice taking the test online in advance.

Glen Stohr, the senior manager for instructional design at Kaplan Test Prep, said the switch puts the LSAT in line with other graduate admissions exams, like the Graduate Records Examination, that have also transitioned to an online format.

Stohr said students should practice reading questions from a tablet instead of a sheet of paper to get them accustomed to the new format, which will allow students to concentrate on finding the correct answers – rather than get distracted by the technology – when they take the real exam.

“That’s a little thing, but it’s a very tangible way to get yourself ready for that digital administration so that there’s nothing about it that feels confusing,” he said.

Jeffrey Glazer, the co-owner and an instructor at Griffon Preparation Services, a D.C.-based organization that helps students with exams like the LSAT and GRE, said an “overwhelming majority” of students preparing for the LSAT that he has worked with said they prefer the online system to a paper one because they do not need to wait as long to take the test again.

He said academic advisers for pre-law students should work with students to take a practice test online before testing day so students are familiar with how to navigate through the test portal.

“As nice as the new interface is, if you haven’t at least tried it out or done it in advance, you’re going to lose some time during the actual test,” Glazer said.

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