Imagine this: You, a proud Idahoan, have spent months preparing for the LSAT, which the Law School Admission Council said would be held on Saturday, September 16, the year of our Lord Kellye Testy two thousand and seventeen, and would begin promptly at 8:30 am, Mountain Daylight Time. You purchased a not-inexpensive admission ticket, which again repeated the precise time at which you would report to your testing center at Boise State University. You studied vigorously to prepare for the test.
The process of studying was a good deal more challenging than you anticipated. However, a lifetime spent amongst the orthogonal lines of the Boise crop fields and in the flat topology of the Midwest instilled in you a hardened pragmatism that helped you engage in the sober logical thinking required for the exam. In the end, you felt prepared.
You woke up on September 16, ate a breakfast of boiled potatoes, and drove to the testing center, passing the famous cobalt blue football field at Bronco Stadium. You wondered why coastal elites continued to demean Idahoans by insisting birds constantly dive bomb into the turf, mistakenly believing it is a body of water. This thought is an omen.
You reach the check-in location LSAC told you to find by 8:30 am. However, once you reach the location, you realize that you, and hundreds of similarly prepared law school hopefuls just like you, will not be let into the building. The doors to the building, the gates that would open for you a legal career, are locked. No one gives explanation. After several hours, you drive home, defeated, pondering why the Lord Kellye Testy has smote you. Days pass, and eventually you receive an email from LSAC. “Sorry ’bout that, fam,” it reads. “I guess you can take a make-up test on October 14.”
Or, worse still: Imagine you, a resolute and determined denizen of Savannah, Georgia, have planned your entire summer around studying for the September LSAT. You put aside the frivolities of your peers during the months of July, August, and September. The summer will not be a time for strolls through the gothic drapes of Spanish moss, enveloping branches of live oak, or blooming white flowers of magnolia in Savannah’s historic district. It will be a time for study.
Studying is a difficult process. But you look to the rivers and tributaries that wrap around Savannah like tentacles of the Atlantic and give the Savannah wetlands their rich biodiversity. You imagine them as founts of knowledge, logical acumen being pumped into you from these riparian sources. You look eastward to the Isle of Hope and it gives you the resolve to learn how to diagram a syllogism, how to strengthen arguments, and how to approach a Reading Comprehension passage.
You wake-up on September 16 feeling as prepared as you will ever be. You opt out of enjoying a breakfast of your mother’s famous but insalubrious biscuits and gravy, instead washing down a peach and a handful of boiled peanuts with a Coca-Cola. You drive to Savannah State University. Unlike your spiritual foil in Boise, you are permitted to enter your testing center. You take your exam. Yes, Reading Comprehension was more difficult than expected, but you know you that you vanquished the Logic Games section. You hand your test packet to the exam proctor, who has sworn a sacred oath to guard and protect your test packet through its transit to LSAC headquarters.
But most importantly, you are finished with the LSAT. The night becomes alive with possibility. You are invigorated. You spend your evenings with your friends, imbibing sweet elixirs with reckless abandon. Ailing mornings are spent with Netflix, allowing the “Next episode starts in” timer trickle down from 14 to 1, time and time again. Your mind, previously sharpened to fine point through your studies, begins to dull from disuse.
Eventually you check your email. You find a harried message from LSAC. “Yo, don’t hate us, it’s actually kinda funny and maybe one day you’ll laugh about this lol,” it begins, inauspiciously. “So that test booklet with all your answers and work that you gave to your proctor? Uhhh we kinda lost it. Yeah, for you and everyone at Savannah State. So we can’t score your LSAT. Yeah dude we don’t know what happened either smdh. But we got u! We’ll let you take the exam again in a couple weeks on October 14, or you can take it again in December. And no worries, you don’t have to pay again. Cool, our bad!”
These things actually happened to students who took (or attempted to take) the September LSAT at Boise State University and Savannah State University. And they weren’t alone. Hurricane Irma closed many testing centers in Florida, and although some of the testing centers were opened in time for students to take a make-up exam the following week on September 23, many students had to wait until October 14 to retake. Oh, and in what is yet another sign that the end is nigh for this little American experiment of ours, test takers in Richmond, Virginia couldn’t take the LSAT because a bunch of white supremacists decided they had to protest the removal of confederate statues, weeks after Charlottesville.
So there are a lot of — one thousand, according to LSAC’s estimates — students who couldn’t take the test as planned, through no fault of their own. This, as you imagine, has left a lot of students quite angry. Just take a look at this Reddit thread about the Savannah State snafu to get a glimpse of student response. And lest you believe this is an isolated incident, there have been many past horror stories as well. For the December 2015 test, they lost a bunch of exams from the UC Santa Barbara testing location. In 2012, the same thing happened in Tampa (apparently LSAC has trouble collecting tests from coastal inlets). And this is to say nothing of the typical issues test takers face, from clueless proctors to bad testing centers.
And this really isn’t a good look for LSAC right now. They’re already losing ground to the GRE, with the count of law schools accepting the GRE now up to six, and many more promising they’ll do the same. Can you blame these schools at this point? These poor test takers in Savannah had to dedicate their summer to studying in what I can only assume were rooms made swampy and dank by Southern humidity, only to find out it was all for naught. They then got the choice to try to cram for the LSAT over the next couple weeks or undergo the same study process all over again for the December exam. Of course they’re going to be pissed. Their blood would boil faster than a Georgia peanut. And I don’t think they were consoled by a free admission-ticket to take the exam again on October 14 or in December. So of course they’re going to look to the GRE, which you can take whenever you feel like it, as a more alluring test.
So what should LSAC do? Well, it is in the opinion of this humble blogger that LSAC should accelerate ever-faster towards doing the LSAT digitally and year round. These Luddites can’t seem to handle paper test booklets anymore, so maybe it’s time to enter the digital age. Plus, administering the LSAT just four times a year (and, eventually, six times a year) forces students to plan large chunks of their year around the test. Which puts way more pressure on LSAC to make every testing location flawless, which, well, is demonstrably impractical.
If the LSAT goes digital, LSAC can fix a ton of these problems. The test can be administered like the GRE, allowing students flexibility with their schedule. If something goes wrong with a testing center, that would still suck, but at least the student would be able to take the test again within the next few days when she still felt practiced, prepared, and ready to go. Instead of relying on proctors to transport the scores to LSAC, the score could be given instantaneously. Students wouldn’t have to spend the several weeks between test day and the infamous “grey day” (wherein the boxes on their LSAC account go grey, signaling that the score is about to be released) stressing out and wondering if they’ll have to take the exam again in several months.
So let’s get to it, LSAC. Reports from digital test pilot centers have mostly been positive, with most claiming there are only a few kinks that need to be ironed out. So, let’s remember those Boiseans, Savannahians, Richmonders, and Floridians, and give them a test they can actually take.