Last night marked the beginning of the 2018-19 LSAT year. The Law School Admission Council, which writes and administers this exam, decided long ago in its infinite wisdom that it would use a June-to-May calendar year instead of the classic Gregorian calendar we use for pretty much everything else. Apparently, the knowledge that many law school candidates plan several months of their years around the test wasn’t enough for LSAC — it wanted the gravitational pull of the LSAT to be great enough to completely rearrange how we all understand linear time.
So it’s a new year, law school hopefuls. And it’s going to be different — LSAC also spent the last year telling us that this 2018-19 Year of Our Lord Kellye Testy would be unlike any year before. The test would be become friendlier to test takers. They announced that for this year and all future years, test takers could take the test as many times as they’d like. There would be a new schedule of six exams this year. Or actually, screw it, seven exams. There were other changes announced too, both minor, logistical changes and slightly less minor changes that could have a big impact on the amount of stress test takers experience.
Look, I know this is a lot of preamble to a post about last nights’ test, but there was a lot of news last year, particularly for a test that hasn’t changed all that much since its 1991 inception. It’s been exciting times for us assigned to cover the LSAT beat, and it had us wondering: would there be changes to the actual LSAT, too? Maybe some minor changes to the exam that would make the test itself slightly more test taker-friendly? Like the return of using two prompts for some Logical Reasoning questions, which would reduce the overall amount of reading in that section? Or maybe some small-but-in-retrospect-head-smackingly-obvious-formatting change, like when they spread each logic game over two pages in 2012?
But, from all reports we’ve heard, there were no such changes to the June 2018 exam. What test takers far and wide were given was a normal, maybe slightly-more-difficult-than-usual exam. Which, in the end, might be the most test taker-friendly move LSAC could make. Just give everyone an exam that’s similar to the last few exam, and there will be, in the parlance of Thom Yorke, no alarms and no surprises.
With all that said, let’s dive in to some of the details about each section of the June 2018 LSAT, to see what test takers were given on this exam.
It’s never easy to get a clear picture of what happened on a Logical Reasoning section. Test takers will get about 51 LR questions, about all kinds of topics that they did not care about before the exam and certainly do not care about after the exam. On a given exam, there are about 18 or 19 different types of questions that they have to juggle throughout the section. Even the most plugged-in Millennial test taker — who has spent a lifetime absorbing an unceasingly onslaught of information online — will have trouble remembering much from these LR sections. Anything we hear about LR beyond “it was kind of a blur” is sort of surprising.
With that caveat out of the way, what did we hear about Logical Reasoning? Apparently, continuing with a trend that began in 2017, there were quite a few Disagree questions. But we live in an age of division and argumentation — and our adversarial legal system involves two parties disagreeing over stuff –so maybe it makes sense that the LSAC wants future lawyers to accurately characterize a point at issue between two speakers.
Other than that, there were a lot of questions on some of the LSAT’s favorite topics: birds, dinosaurs, and washing machines. There was a questions about loons competing over mating spots in ponds, about aggressive song birds, about dinosaurs that glided from tree to tree, about T. Rexes who scavenged for food, and about the elimination of in-house washing machines in hospitals. Scintillating stuff.
From what we’re hearing about the experimental LR section, it seems it ended on a question about Balinese death metal — which, like, I didn’t know I wanted to read an LSAT question about Balinese death metal until today, but now I absolutely need to read an LSAT question about Balinese death metal, except it was in the experimental section, so now I may never get to read a question about Balinese death metal. So thank you as usual, LSAT.
The general consensus, as was the case in both July and September of 2017, was that Reading Comp was the hardest section. But that shouldn’t be surprising. RC has consistently been the most difficult section on the LSAT for years now. If there was anything surprising about this particular exam’s RC section, it was that the comparative passage wasn’t about the law, as has been the case for the last several sections. Instead it was about an Argentine writer with a knack for genre fiction.
The first passage was about global warming and sulfates. It seems like this one was generally manageable, at least for the inevitable science passage. But according to reports it only had five questions, which could have led students investing way too much time into it, not leaving enough time to complete the later passages. Which would have been a total man-made disaster of epic proportions on your exam … that around half of the population would dismiss as not a big deal. The second passage was about police interviewing techniques, which seemed to advocate for the use of cognitive interviews, a technique also advocated for by the police procedurals like Criminal Minds. The third passage was the dreaded comparative passage about Jorge Luis Borges and genre fiction. Apparently, this on involved a lot of complicated, twisted, and knotty theorizing on literary genres … befitting a writer who elucidated on a labyrinth or two in his day. The final passage was about raw food and our biological evolution. Which was also tough for many test takers. But that just tells me they don’t have anyone in their lives who went Paleo, since this is a familiar argument among that sect of dieters.
On the experimental side, it sounds like topics ranged from Latin American jazz to more intellectual property (both the February 2018 and December 2017 exams had passages about IP) to tectonic plates to voice recognition in court cases.
Like most recent exams, this Logic Games section had three fairly straightforward games and one tough game. And, also like most recent exams, this section put that tough game last. And, as on all the exams in the last LSAT year, there weren’t any crazy curveballs, like the trade buildings game from December 2016 or the computer virus game from September 2016.
So the first game was a basic 1 to 1 ordering game about flower deliveries. The second involved four architects completing four projects, which by most accounts was a tiered ordering game. The third involved nominees for four office positions, which sounds like a stable grouping game with an out group, or just a normal in and out game.
The last game involved whether certain companies would receive five- or ten-year bonds. This sounds like a straightforward grouping game, but test takers described the deductions as challenging and the name of the players as being overly convoluted and distracting.
The hardest game, according to most reports, was a game in the experimental section about breweries. So hopefully, if you got the Logic Games section as your experimental, this didn’t ruin your preferred post-exam elixir.
So in all, the [extreme air quotes] “new year” didn’t bring any major changes to the LSAT. With the general feedback I’m hearing from this exam, I would expect the curve to be roughly similar to the December 2017 exam, which also had a ton of Disagree questions, a couple tricky passages, and one very difficult game. On that exam, you could miss 12 questions and still earn a 170, or you could miss 29 questions and earn a 160.
What to do now? If you’ve read all this and still feel like it went poorly, you may be considering whether to cancel your score. You have a few days before you have to make that decision. Before electing to cancel your score without seeing it, try watching this video.
The LSAC’s official cancelation policy can be read here. According to LSAC, you have until 11:59 pm EDT on the sixth day after the exam to cancel using your LSAC account. Translating that into intelligible English for your poor, fried brain, you have until Sunday at 11:59 pm Eastern to cancel. Take the next few days to think it through. Sleep on it. Consider whether a section that went poorly was an experimental section.
A couple things to consider about cancelation, though: First, nearly every law school will simply use your highest LSAT when constructing your academic index, or whatever calculation it uses to assess you as an applicant. Although schools will be able to see every score you register on the LSAT, the vast majority of schools won’t hold having multiple LSAT scores against you to any significant extent. For most test takers then, it makes the most sense to roll the dice, elect to receive their score, and see if they’re satisfied with it. Even if they aren’t happy with their scores, they’ll at least be able to see what went wrong on the test, and can use that to help guide their review for the next exam.
Second, LSAC announced last week a new policy that will apply to June test takers who sign up for the July LSAT. If you took the June test but also signed up for the July test, LSAC will give you a full refund of the July registration fee if you decide you don’t need to take July test after receiving your June score. You just need to email LSAC by July 6 to secure that full refund. Scores are due out on June 29, so you’ll have a week to make this decision. However, if you cancel your June score, you won’t be eligible for this refund. We’ll have more on this new policy later today.
So, if you’re happy with how it went, we hope you are basking in the post-LSAT glow of a rapidly approaching summer. If you weren’t happy with how it went, there’s always next time, starting with the July 23 exam. You have until this Wednesday, June 13 to sign up.