Why the LSAT is Useful, and one Canadian Newspaper is not

BPPdave-lsat-blog-canadaI think we can all accept that the LSAT is a ridiculous test. The subject matter of individual questions in logical reasoning can range anywhere from tree-dwelling kangaroos to weird syllogisms about well organized people. The skills tested in logic games are skills that no one will ever use again unless they are trying to seat seven people into nine seats on a plane while keeping in mind the abject hatred of those seven people for each other. Reading comprehension is really boring.

This is all, as the pretentious would say, axiomatic.

But is the LSAT pointless? Recently, a Canadian online newspaper asked why the great land of Canadia, home to mounties and maple trees, would eliminate the MCAT from medical school consideration while maintaining the LSAT as one of the principle determining factors for law school admission. The writer, Laura Drake, then postulated that the LSAT actually doesn’t test anything needed for law school/legal work.

Of course, as an employee for a leading LSAT preparation company that you should really check out because it’s awesome, we’re great people, and some of our instructors even smell OK, this got my dander up.

The LSAT doesn’t always seem like it’s on point, I’ll grant you. It’s hard to determine what the hell the point of anything is, in a truly existential way, when you’re sweating beads of blood trying to figure out if the third dinosaur can be mauve (mostly because we all know dinosaurs didn’t exist). But there is a method to all of it.

Logical reasoning, even when it is teaching you odd things about monkeys and the speed limit change in the 1970′s, is testing your ability to make logical connections and identify fallacious reasoning quickly and accurately. It’s not so much that you’ll be doing a lot of that in law school (in fact, the first time you bring up a contrapositive, you will be summarily executed), it’s just that logic is one of the many pillars (along with graft and random nonsense) upon which the law is based. So studying for logical reasoning is basically taking the place of a rudimentary logic class, because the test makers know that you took neither Logic nor Latin in college.

After careful consideration, I’m going to differ from most LSAT proponents and say that logic games test absolutely nothing you will need for law school. You could make a crap argument about logic games testing organized thinking, just like you’ll need in law school, but I’m not you, and I won’t do it. However, I will make an even more specious argument: logic games test your ability to learn new things. Look, by the time you’re a senior in college, napping your way to a liberal arts degree, you haven’t learned anything new since Pre-Calculus. The LSAT is just trying to make sure your brain hasn’t totally atrophied.

I’d love to explain why reading comprehension is directly applicable to law school because it involves reading long, dense, boring passages just as the law is nothing but long, dense, and boring pieces of writing, but I feel that if I try to, it’ll be like sucking down three Ambien and two shots of Jack.

As a larger whole, the LSAT tests your fortitude. Doing well on the thing, unless you are just a test-taking GOD (like me), requires an actually unhealthy amount of studying. You know what else requires an unhealthy amount of studying? Law school. The LSAT is the greatest predictor for law school success because it tests your ability to drive yourself insane studying. If you can do it for the LSAT, odds are you’ll be able to do it in law school.

You’ve got me as far as the writing sample goes, though. Still don’t know why the hell that’s on there.

Aug 4, 2010 - 11:33 am - By Contributing Writer
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7 Responses to Why the LSAT is Useful, and one Canadian Newspaper is not

  1. Laura Drake says:

    Thanks for the notice!
    To be clear, I didn’t say the LSAT has nothing to do with the practise of the law, I said it has nothing to do with the law itself. I do see how the things tested on the LSAT are relevant to many things lawyers are asked to do in a day.
    The point of my post, as well, wasn’t to advocate for the elimination of the LSAT, but more to try to solicit strong arguments for the exam, and in particular, the weight its awarded by the vast, vast majority of admissions committees, both here and in the United States.
    Of course, if I wasn’t clear in my points, then the bad falls entirely upon me.
    One niggling point: Macleans is a magazine, not a newspaper :)

  2. Dave says:

    Hi Laura,

    Maybe a misread on my part. Well, at least this is an argument for why it should be weighted so heavily. Anyway, I appreciate the comment.

    -Dave

  3. Misha says:

    Nice post Dave.

    Laura – not sure if that was a call to action but regardless I would like to point out why the LSAT is weighed so heavily.

    The first point is all the things Dave said above – it tests a LOT of important skills that are used in law school and in the legal profession. If you can’t read a piece of writing and spot a horrible argument, you are going to have problems when it comes to writing opinions or analyzing legal cases. If you can’t get through a reading comp without throwing up and turning on Jersey Shore 3 times to take a break, you won’t be able to sift through the reading required for a typical legal class.

    Lastly, breaking down arguments is vital for anyone who has hopes for the legal profession.

    And yeah, games don’t seem to matter as much but the ability to get a bunch of new rules and see what they mean does, in fact, test mental quickness.

    The other reason the LSAT is weighed heavily is because it’s a standardized test. Who knows how one should rank a 3.2 GPA from an engineer at UCLA vs. a 2.7 from a history major at NYU. There’s simply no easy way given the different “rankings” or academic levels of those schools and the difficulties of each major.

    Because people from any major and any background can apply to law school (unlike med school where you need a certain number of pre-req courses), it seems to make sense that the LSAT is weighed heavily by the law schools.

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  7. Mat says:

    I am British and am in the 3rd year of a UK LLB law degree in London. Thus far I have achieved grades that average out at the equivalent of an A in Canada. For personal reasons I had originally applied to law schools in Ontario, Canada but was not offered a place due to a low LSAT score. I believe the LSAT is fundamentally flawed as it does not achieve its objective of weeding out the people who are unsuitable to study law.

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