Taking a Closer Look at the October 2011 LSAT

We offered a brief recap of the facts Monday, so now it’s time for a little analysis.

Three things jump out at me from the comments around the web and from students:

1. The experimental was all over the place, including an unheard-of fourth section experimental
2. The curve was significantly more lenient than usual
3. The curve was significantly more lenient than expected

So let’s take a look at each one and see what it means for future test-takers:

1. The experimental was all over the place, including an unheard-of fourth section experimental

Before this administration of the LSAT, the experimental was standardized to the first three sections. While you could never be 100% sure, it was sometimes possible to narrow down which section was experimental. If you had two Logic Games section in the first three, you knew one was experimental. If you had one Reading Comp section third, and another fourth, you knew the third was experimental.

And therein lies my opinion on the reason for the change.

Before, if you had a breakdown of sections that allowed you to tell which was your experimental, you might have a mental advantage over someone else. If you bombed the experimental games third, but had another section fourth, you’d quickly figure out you were still on solid ground. By switching the “first three sections” rule up, LSAC now only allows you to narrow it down to which type of section was experimental. Expect this trend to continue.

Also, I’m glad none of my students ever took me up on the bet I always made about the experimental remaining in the first three sections…

2. The curve was significantly more lenient than usual.

As mentioned Monday, the -13 curve was very lenient. This curve suggests that the LSAT from October 2011 was more difficult than other recent LSATs.

While I have no solid information to back up this speculation, I believe people are now viewing the LSAT as more learn-able. The legal market is notoriously difficult to enter right now, and people are aware of the importance of the LSAT. As such, I believe that the LSAC has been slightly increasing the difficulty in a variety of ways to counteract the increased levels of preparation. They need to keep the scores standardized, and if people are more prepared, the difficulty has to ramp up to keep everything even. I would expect this trend to continue as well.

3. The curve was significantly more lenient than expected

The TLS prediction thread had the curve -11/-12. The students I spoke to felt it was a pretty straight-forward LSAT. Sure, there were some complaints about a game (bikes?), but that’s almost always the case. On top of that, I barely heard any chatter complaining about a Reading Comp passage, which is a rarity.

So, in short, this test ended up being a lot harder than people thought it was.

Which means that test-takers are over-estimating how many questions they answered correctly. To me, this plays into the second point — the LSAT is not only getting harder, but it’s putting forward more sucker choices. These sucker choices are the questions of which you’re 100% certain, until someone points out why it’s incorrect. They’re notoriously difficult to see in the middle of the test, and they give you a false sense of security.

I also think that they’re putting a lot of these in the Reading Comp passages. Most of the students with whom I talked had much lower-than-predicted RC scores.

In the future, I expect this trend to continue as well. While students should still use the Rules of Thumb we teach in class, they’ll have to apply them intelligently instead of in a brute-force manner. Use them to guide you to possible answers, and then consider them fully before selecting your final response. Which is what you should be doing anyway, but who here hasn’t picked B before reading the rest of the answers after the 5-minute call on LR?

13 Responses

  1. KC says:

    For those re-taking the LSAT this December: Should I focus on the LR where I scored 80%, or the Reading/Analytical where I scored 50%? I need to increase my score by just 3pts for a scholarship. Is the possibility of increasing where I am already strong greater than the possibility of increasing where I am weak? Thank you!

    • Matt Shinners says:

      I would concentrate on maintaining the LR, but work on getting the other sections up, especially the games. They’re easily the most learn-able, so I’d concentrate there if you’re only looking to pick up 3 points.

  2. John says:

    I am torn–after studying for a few months with blueprint I wound up with a 169–slightly below my target, and what I think is needed to get into Columbia/NYU.. Im confident I can beat that score, though nervous I might do worse. I also know there is an advantage to applying early. Any advice? Thank you!

    • Without a GPA (and some other factors), I can’t say for sure. However, a 169 is definitely on the lower end for those two schools. If you have your heart set on them, a retake can only help you.

      If you do better, your score will be within their 25-75th% band. If you do worse, they’ll most likely only look at the higher of the two scores, which puts you just at and just below the 25th % for NYU and CLS, respectively.

      If you can bump up your LSAT to a 172 or higher, I would retake the exam. That will counteract any early application advantage. Best case scenario, however, is you get some work experience for the next year while prepping for the June LSAT. Work experience is becoming a significantly bigger soft factor than it used to be, and the extra time will let you properly prep for a retake AND apply early.

    • Daniel says:

      Ha! You did great. I did BluePrint the Movie 2.0 all summer and got a 145! I do have a 4.0; so I am applying anyway! I did great on every section except for RC. Got killed!

  3. Christine says:

    totally agree on the lower than predicted RC scores…I’ve never scored that low on a RC section except maybe my diagnostic at the beginning of my BP course, so I was really shocked.

    Also, if we can expect harder future LSAT’s, what’s this mean for people retaking in December? Prepare more? I’ve heard that fewer people take December LSAT’s so will that impact anything?

  4. Oski says:

    So this means we can never really anticipate the experimental any more…

    • Well, you can narrow it down to section-type. I don’t expect the LSAC to break the 2-1-1 for LR-LG-RC anytime soon and, as I never say never, if they do, I’d expect them to announce it. So if you have 3 LR, 2 RC, or 2 LG, you can guess the type.

      But no more figuring it out in the middle of the test.

  5. Kobe says:

    I got a 159 on the october lsat and i got -11 on the games section when I usually get only -5 or -6. I expect to score higher in December, but given the fact that the lsat is changing, does it hurt my chances of getting into some schools if i score lower or very close to that? Also, is it advisable to send in applications to higher targeted schools before I even receive my new score, or should I have everything ready and send them right when I receive my score in late December?

    • Hank says:

      Kobe, you need to wait to send in everything if you are relying on your December score. If you send everything in now, schools won’t even know you’re taking the December LSAT because they’ll see you took it in October and sent your application in. They’ll assume you’re ready to go.

  6. JMisraje says:

    How do graduate level transcripts factor in?

    • Grad level transcripts are a solid soft factor (if they’re good); however, they won’t be factored into your LSAC GPA. As such, your undergrad grades are much more important that your grad school grades.

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