Last week, LSAC announced the LSAT is switching to a 6-test-a-year schedule. That means, in 2018, there will be an exam in June, September, and November and, in 2019, the exam will be administered in January, March, and early June. Now, my personal feelings aside, I’m going to talk about the potential benefits of this scheme.
First, as noted by LSAC, adding test dates will make the LSAT more accessible for a greater number of people. To some extent, this is the case, at least compared to the current schedule.
Right now, there are just four LSATs per year, and the dates LSAC chose aren’t ideal. The test In February was very late in the application cycle—too late, in fact, to be used for some schools. The test in June is usually held right before or immediately after most universities’ finals period, which could be very stressful for students. The test held in late September or early October allows students to study for the exam during their summer break. For that reason, testing centers are frequently impacted and fill up early. Plus, these exams are typically held once fall classes begin, so this is not even the most convenient “summer” date possible. And the December test is also around many students’ fall semester finals.
The new schedule alleviates these problems, to some extent. The November test moves the exam before finals week. Students can study for the January test over their winter breaks, and still apply within almost any school’s application window. The March test could be a good option for students who don’t want to wait until the summer, but who want to get the exam out of the way before second semester’s finals.
But stating that simply adding more tests makes the LSAT more accessibly is a self-fulfilling argument. If there are more options, it is of course reasonable to assume that more people, who might otherwise have had a conflict, will be able to take the test. Creating greater accessibility to the legal industry is a stated goal of LSAC, and adding more test options is only one way to try to accomplish that goal.
Hand-in-hand with the goal of access is the goal of increasing diversity in the legal industry. Assuming barriers of entry are lower, the hope is probably that otherwise under-represented groups will have more opportunities to enter the profession. If this is accomplished in any meaningful way by adding test dates, it is definite benefit to the new scheme.
LSAC also notes the new test schedule will benefit law schools, given the recent shifts in application cycles. Recently, the number of applicants has been down, and schools have been filling their classes later. Providing test dates in January and March potentially opens up the number of qualified applicants who will allow schools to fill their classes later in the cycle. On the other side of the coin, if schools want to try to fill their classes early—as was the case in the years before applicants dipped—then the administration dates in September and November will help facilitate that goal.
Honestly, those are the purported benefits and those are the only ones I can realistically make any case for. Tomorrow, you’re going to get a full rundown on why this change might not actually be a good thing. In order to not step on any toes there, I’m going to stop now.