…and they’re mostly good news for the anxiety-stricken pre-law students.
For years, I’ve had two primary complaints about the LSAT: (1) the writing sample is a sadistic, useless waste of time and (2) the test administration method is woefully outdated. Turns out, LSAC is finally attempting to remedy the second problem by transitioning to digital testing (but, alas, the writing sample doesn’t appear to be going anywhere).
If you’re planning on taking the July 2019 LSAT or any later exam, you should head on over to LSAC’s recently updated FAQ page, where LSAC divulged a few new details on how the transition to a digital LSAT will work. This post is going to cover a few salient elements of the recent update.
1. The digital LSAT will be administered on Microsoft Surface Go Tablets
In a statement made this morning, LSAC announced:
“a broad technology collaboration with Microsoft Corp. that will include the use of thousands of Microsoft Surface Go tablets….loaded with custom software and locked down to ensure the integrity of the exam process and security of the test results. The Surface Go includes Windows 10 capabilities such as a built-in screen reader, text and icon magnifier, and many other accessibility features.”
We finally have confirmation of which tablet the digital LSAT will be taken on beginning in July 2019. This is critical news for all test takers who want to prepare for the digital LSAT by replicating the exam conditions as much as possible.
2.Test takers will have time to familiarize themselves with the digital format
According to the page:
“Our free Digital LSAT familiarization tutorial will be available in the test prep section of LSAC.org starting in December 2018 when registration opens for the July 2019 test. Using any internet-connected device, you will be able to see all the details on how the tablet test works so that you can feel confident on test day.”
“We are developing digital test-preparation materials that will be available early in 2019 for use on your own device.”
If you’re as anxious of a person as I am, this is great news — you have months to get comfortable using the digital format (and LSAC has months to ensure that it isn’t buggy).
3. LSAC clarified how the July 2019 LSAT (in which half of the test takers will take the digital LSAT, and half will take the traditional LSAT) will work
“For the July 15, 2019 test administration, some test centers will be administering the pencil-and-paper test, and some will be administering the digital test. The test content will be the same regardless of which method a test taker receives. Test takers will not know in advance which test their center will be using. This is a recognized best practice under educational testing standards for moving to a new testing method. We recommend that all July test registrants use the free online tutorial that will be available on LSAC.org in December 2018 to become familiar with the Digital LSAT.”
This is slightly less good news for the aforementioned anxious people out there. I, for one, would’ve hated any added uncertainty associated with my test conditions. It isn’t a big deal, and there’s plenty of time to learn the ropes, just make sure you’re mentally prepared for whichever test method you get. And, remember, those who take the July 2019 will be able to cancel their score after seeing it, a luxury not afforded to any other test administration. More on this below.
4. The digital format will have customizations for test takers who receive accommodations
As the page says:
“LSAC is committed to ensuring accessibility for test takers with disabilities. The Digital LSAT offers flexible type sizes, a built-in screen reader, and other enhancements that will assist test takers who need these options. LSAC will continue to provide appropriate accommodations for candidates according to the accommodation policies detailed on LSAC.org.”
5. LSAC provided a bit more details on cancellation and free retesting
The page indicates that:
“[T]o help ensure a smooth transition … all July 15, 2019 test takers will have the opportunity to see their score and will have five days to decide whether they wish to cancel it. Those who decide to cancel will have the option of retaking the test one time free of charge in the 2019-2020 testing cycle.”
As we noted before, it looks like LSAC realizes that this switch to the digital format might freak people out and that it might not necessarily go off without a hitch. Fortunately, they’re providing a safety net in the event either or both of those occurrences negatively impacts your score. Good news, again, for the anxiety-stricken!
6. The writing sample will now be take home
Earlier this summer we learned some test takers participated in a trial of a take-home writing sample, but it seemed too good to be true. Now, we have confirmation that not only is it good, but also true! Per LSAC:
“The writing section will be administered on a secure, proctored, online platform…making it possible for test takers to complete their essay at a time and place of their choosing.”
And even more good news:
“In addition, candidates who take the LSAT more than once will not have to complete an essay each time they take the test.”
Although the writing sample isn’t scored, law schools still read the essay. This will certaintly help ease nerves by shortening the test day and allowing students to write the essay in a place where they feel comfortable (as long as they don’t forget!). Plus, it’ll be a relief to not have to keep on writing an essay if you decide to retake the LSAT. However, there’s no word as of yet if students will be allowed to rewrite if they so desire.
In sum, LSAC is finally getting with the times. Other major standardized tests have been administered digitally for years. Hopefully, the transition will work seamlessly but, ultimately, the only thing you can control is your preparation. Make sure you’re comfortable with the digital format if you’re taking the LSAT in July 2019, or any exam thereafter.