The Lowdown on Accommodated Testing on the LSAT

Accommodated Testing on the LSAT

Hello out there to all of you in LSAT Land. It’s early March, which is a strange, awkward time for the pre-law community (think: your middle-school years). We’re caught between two application cycles: one which culminated a few weeks ago with the February 1st deadline, and one that won’t officially start until a fresh batch of hopefuls take on the June 6th LSAT. Students are caught in pre-law purgatory, either waiting on law school decisions, or waiting for their LSAT class to start. The good news is that this gives us some extra time to make sure that we have every last nook and cranny of the LSAT covered, which we then so charitably pass on to you.

Today’s MSS article is about how the LSAC handles student requests for accommodated testing. A lot of students assume that accommodated testing simply means “extra time”, but there are actually numerous other functions, such as providing an LSAT in braille for the visually-impaired or making sure that students with certain disabilities are in a test center that is wheelchair accessible. These types of requests are straightforward, and are usually processed immediately once the LSAC receives the appropriate medical documentation.

The most commonly requested accommodation is from students with learning disabilities who want extra time to take the exam, usually because they have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD at some point in their lives.

The LSAC realizes that there is a lot of subjectivity and ambiguity in the diagnosis of learning disabilities, and on their web site, they make it perfectly clear that not every kid who has trouble concentrating is going to be granted extra time: diagnosis alone does not qualify you for accommodations. You must document the current functional impact of an impairment that limits a major life activity and provide both a rationale and an objective basis for the requested accommodations.”

With a high-stakes exam like the LSAT, the folks at the Law School Admissions Council correctly realize that there must be extremely high standards if a student is going to receive special accomodations. (It would have been nice to have some extra time on the logic games section of my LSAT, but that wouldn’t exactly have been fair). The LSAC takes into account the entire history of a student’s learning disability, as well as whether or not that student has been granted extra time on previous exams, like the SAT or AP tests. (Remember those AP tests?)

So, what should you do if you are a student with a legitimate request for special testing accomodations? The LSAC asks that these students first register for the LSAT and then submit the required paperwork as soon as possible. There are also specific forms that need to be submitted by your doctor, and there are different documents depending on whether the impairment is cognitive, visual, or physical. (Click here for more information).

For those who are going to be seeking some form of accommodation on the upcoming June LSAT, you should make sure that you register for the exam now, and then get all of the appropriate paperwork in order shortly thereafter.

For those concerned about fairness, it appears that the LSAC has some of the strictest standards possible to separate the legitimate and illigitimate requests, so sleep tight.

13 Responses

  1. prelawftw says:

    Hi!

    As a LD/ADD pre-law student, I’m a little frustrated by the tone of your article. No matter how legitimate your ADD diagnosis, the chances of getting accommodations from the LSAC are like 1 in 1000 at best, and after scouring the internet I’ve only read about two such cases. It isn’t a matter of “legitimate and illigitimate requests” as you put it, but rather the LSAC is completely categorically opposed to accepting an ADD diagnosis no matter how much documentation someone has. I find this extremely unfair, and I had to take the February LSAT with NO accommodations despite having the most “legitimate” paperwork and diagnosis one can possibly have, for ADD among other things.

    This isn’t an issue of fairness for test takers. If anything, it is unfair for the LSAC to disregard the testing and differential diagnoses done by licensed psychologists under ADA guidelines using the DSM. This is something that I hope to address when I’m a lawyer because it baffles me that a random corporation can just deny someone accommodations for no discernible reason. They shouldn’t be allowed to have their own definition of “disabled” that is more strict then the actual authorities on these issues.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know that ADD is over diagnosed. However, it is definitely possible to discern between someone who got an Adderall prescription from their family doctor and someone who has been dealing with a documented disability throughout their entire academic career, yet the LSAC treats these individuals as one and the same and denies them both.

    • Tony says:

      I have ADHD and I’m also blind in my right eye. I’m a slow reader and my eye doctor submitted the paper work and a nice little letter and I was denied. That was 2 years ago. Now I took a psychoeducational evaluation and the doctor who administered the test sent LSAC a 37 page report where he concludes I need 30 extra minutes on each section and 15 minutes breaks and they dennied that too. I took the test 2 years ago and only got to 52 question and onyl scored a 133. I just took it again yesterday. This tiime only got to 40 questions so I can’t wait to see what I got.

    • ProspectiveLawStudentwithLD says:

      I read somewhere that LSAC’s position is that individuals who take medication for a LD–especially those who don’t have a history of test accommodations–are not eligible for accommodations since the medication ostensibly compensates for the LD. The same source said that a letter from a psychiatrist, indicating that prospective test-taker does not take medications for their LD but that medications were tried, could help someone with an ADD diagnosis get accommodations.

  2. Todd says:

    prelawftw,

    First of all, thank you for reading MSS and for your comment. I think the disconnect here stems partially from incomplete information on my part. I called and e-mailed the LSAC to find out what percentage of requests for extra time are actually granted, and predictably they could not provide a concrete number, instead reiterating their high standards and their case-by-case review process.

    Admittedly, I did make the assumption that students such as yourself, who have been diagnosed with more than one learning disability (presumably at a younger age and with comprehensive testing) would have a pretty decent chance of being granted extra time. If your 1 in 1000 estimate is accurate, and if it is nearly impossible to receive these accommodations then I think you have a legitimate grievance.

    I went to an undergraduate University where there were an amazing amount of students who suddenly found themselves with an ADD diagnosis and an Adderall prescription the second they went off to college (oftentimes prescribed by their own mother/father). If it were that easy to receive additional time on the LSAT, it would defeat the entire purpose of the exam. It doesn’t sound like you fall into this category at all, and I wish you the best of luck when the law school admissions cycle starts up in the fall.

  3. JT says:

    From anecdotal evidence only, in my experience as an admissions consultant, those students with a long history of documentation (from grade school through college) who consistently utilized accommodated testing stand a better chance of getting more time on the LSAT. But it’s certainly true that LSAC appears to be quite leery of giving more time, which makes sense as it’s quite a prize indeed.

  4. […] unknown posted about this interesting story. Here is a small section of the postStudents are caught in pre-law purgatory, either waiting on law school decisions, or waiting for their LSAT class to start. The good news is that this gives us some extra time to make sure that we have every last nook and cranny of the … […]

  5. Licenciado says:

    I am not only an individual, who has a life long history of a learning disability since preschool, and was denied accommodations on the LSAT exam, but also was a Special Education Teacher in an Elementary and a High School. I can tell you Todd from experience that a Learning Disability or ADD can be just as frustrating as many physical impairments. This is something you obviously do not understand.
    Furthermore, no one else I have dealt with has put up such a fight. I have taken the SAT, ACT, GRE, civil service exams and Professional Teacher Certification Tests without any problems. I have received my accommodations in elementary school, middle school, college, teacher preparation academies and even in foreign countries by simply submitting an up to date Neuropsychological Report. This article is clearly bias, and written by an individual, who has NO IDEA WHAT IT IS LIKE TO FACE THE DAILY CHALLENGES OF HAVING A COGNITIVE DISABILITY.

  6. V says:

    Attached is a petition to urge the Presdient to demand LSAT provide reasonable accomodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act at wethepeople.com. It makes me sad how many people are turned down with legitamate conditons.

  7. Kacie says:

    I was just granted accomidations for the lsat. It took over 300 pages of documentation. Every iep from 1st grade though present, every neuropsychological evaluation from age 4 through present. Proof that I had accomidations on the sat and act. A letter from my college. A new battery of neuropsychological tests. Plus more. Everytime I submitted something they asked for something else I started the process jan 1 and just finished (apr 1). If you don’t have extensive documentation I don’t recomend even trying. I know they are being sued in Cali about this issue but we will see what happens. Good luck!

  8. Bruce says:

    “…because it is a prize in deed”? Perhaps for a non-disabled person, it would merely be a prize. But for a disabled person who has struggled with school, fought for every ounce of learning and who has spent hundreds of hours requesting and justifying accommodation needs, it is not a prize, it is another torture to gain access to the right to live in the world.

  9. Zee S says:

    Ok so you have a learning disability, will your learning disability apply when you are defending your client?? It won’t !?! That is the point. The test is built to evaluate how you will do as a litigator in the real world. If they open up lax considerations because a learning disability makes it unfair for you, then let’s open it up for other issues that make it unfair for people. Let’s get minorities more time, life situations/experiences can give them a disadvantage on the test. Let’s open it up for people that have lost a loved one recently. The test is built to reward those that find a way with what they have on hand, even the actual test is structured in this way. Please try to think of it as, no one will try harder than me. I will overcome this despite my weakness. It will not beat me. This test will stand as a testament to what I can do. Take months and months to study,at least 4-6. Obsess yourself with it, you are not studying hard enough until you are solving actual logic games with correct answers in your dreams.

    • Greg Nix says:

      While you’re right that viewing the test as something that you need to put maximum effort into, there’s a lot that you’re way off base on.

      The LSAT actually not “built to evaluate how you will do as a litigator in the real world.” It’s built as a standardized tool for law schools to use to predict how well students will do in law school — though how well it actually does that is arguable. Either way, it most certainly does not have much to do with the day-to-day of being a lawyer.

      For example, David Boies is one of the most successful and high-profile trial attornies in history, but he also has severe dyslexia and scored very poorly on standardized tests throughout his education.

      It’s extremely ignorant to equate a real learning disability with lack of effort.

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