In the summer months, millions of people around the globe travel en mass to their local multiplexes to see the blockbusters that Hollywood has bestowed upon them. These films can feature superheroes, or they can be sequels to beloved dinosaur movies; they can feature superheroes, or they can be prequels to beloved space movies; they can feature superheroes, or they can be sequels to beloved spy movies; they can feature superheroes, or they can be sequels to beloved heist movies. In some rare cases, they can feature, well, The Rock, who is essentially a superhero anyway. The point is, when Hollywood knows it has to release a movie that will attract as many eyeballs as possible — movies that will be comprehensible to people not only in the Americas, but to those in Europe and Asia as well — it plays it safe, and goes with the classics that people know and love.
Many people studying for the September LSAT avoid these summer blockbusters as they prepare for the big test. And yet, much in the same way that Hollywood produces movies that are safe and familiar to well-versed moviegoers during the summer, LSAC will produce an exam that is safe and familiar to well-prepared test takers in September. LSAC knows that the September LSAT will, in all likelihood, be the most widely administered exam during the calendar year. The September test will be administered to people not only in the Americas, but to people in Europe, Asia, and other far-flung locales as well. So on the September test, LSAC tends to play it safe, and go with the classics that people know
and love. Just like Hollywood.
And those who took the September 2018 LSAT on Saturday were treated to a test that hit all the typical and expected beats that test takers should be inured to. Have many recent exams featured a proliferation of Strengthen, Flaw, and Necessary questions? Yes, and this September test was no different. Have recent exams made Reading Comprehension the most challenging section? Absolutely, so you can count on that section being the most challenging on this September exam. Has nearly every recent test featured a 1:1 Ordering game, a Tiered Ordering game, and an Unstable Grouping game? Yep, and those boxes were all checked on Saturday.
So what test takers encountered on Saturday was as normal and predictable as an LSAT can be. There were no major curveballs on this test — just your usual LSAT and all the joy and pain it brings. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything notable about this test, or that there weren’t any difficult parts, or that we can’t fill out a blog post with our usual mixture of insight and terrible jokes. So below, we have a rundown of each section of the September 2018 LSAT, based on what we’ve heard from those who took it.
It’s hard to get an accurate reading of the Logical Reasoning section in the immediate aftermath of an exam. Obviously, when you’re hard at work diagramming conditional statements, identifying common fallacies, and strengthening cause and effect in an extremely limited amount of time, you’re not simultaneously cataloging the various topics and question types that are appearing. Also, there are typically 51 Logical Reasoning questions on the exam. I can barely remember all 50 states — Delaware always seems to slip my mind — so it’s no surprise that these get lost in the dustbins of test takers’ short term memories.
Nonetheless, there are always some questions striking enough to lodge themselves in test takers’ brains. For this test, we’ve heard there were yarns spun of bumblebees and fairy rings, of max salaries and fish hatcheries. And of course, there were dinosaurs. The only people more obsessed with dinosaurs than six-year-old boys are the psychometricians who make this exam, so your typical LSAT wouldn’t be complete without a cameo from the Cretaceous Era.
As far as question distribution, we’re hearing that things were pretty consistent with recent LSATs — more Soft Must Be Trues than Must Be Trues; a lot of Flaw, Necessary, and Strengthen questions; not too many Main Point, Describe, or Role questions. One particular question that popped up a ton on the September test — as it had on the June test as well — was the Strengthen Principle question. For whatever reason, these have proliferated on recent exams. On this particular exam, we heard there were Strengthen Principle questions on many topics, including one about whether a guy can ethically dump waste into a river because he’s the only person who fishes from that river. The answer to this question could have conceivably been “It’s OK to [explicative deleted — this is a family blog] where you eat,” so we look forward to seeing that one.
As has been the case on many recent exams, the general consensus is that Reading Comprehension was the hardest section. Unlike the equine-riding Botai people from the first passage, the exam writers were not horsing around when they composed this section. But since this was the most formidable section, we’ll spend the most time on it here.
The most-discussed passage was the second passage, on the landmark Supreme Court case Shelley v. Kraemer. That case was argued by none other than first ballot LSAT Hall of Famer Thugood Marshall, meaning another old LSAT fav made a stealth appearance on this exam. The court case Shelley v. Kraemer even showed up as an example in an old passage on the June 2000 exam, which was about Marshall’s pre-Brown v. Board cases. Anyway, in Shelley, the Supreme Court held that racially restrictive housing covenants — terrible little contracts that prevented people of color from buying or renting property in certain neighborhoods — were not actually illegal, since they don’t involve a government action. Just private citizens being racist as hell.
But the Court also held that it couldn’t enforce these racially restrictive covenants, since doing so would entail a branch of the government supporting something obviously discriminatory, which would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. So I guess if people wanted to voluntarily sign up to be discriminated against by the keepers of these covenants, that would be fine according to the Court. But if the keeper of the covenant actually wanted to force a person of color out of a neighborhood by taking them to court, the Court would not abide.
And this odd legal distinction seemed to be the basis of the most difficult question on that passage — a Parallel question that asked you to find something similar to Shelley, in which a policy is technically legal but still unenforceable. A lot of people seemed to have trouble finding the situation that paralleled the Shelley distinction. And since Shelley is a case that you will read, several times, in law school, anyone who had any issues with this passage in general or this question in particular should realize that their legal acumen is wanting and should give up on their dreams of becoming a lawyer immediately.* But, as with all Parallel questions, having an effective motto apparently helped out on this.
Elsewhere on the section, the first passage was about how the remains of horse skeletons from the Botai people of present-day Kazakhstan led anthropologists to conclude They Ride Horses, Don’t They? The comparative passage came third, and focused on the literary arts, just like the comparative passage from June 2018. If 2017 was all about comparative passages about the law, maybe 2018 is all about comparative passages about literature. On this test, apparently the authors disagreed over whether the words and music of opera should be analyzed and appreciated separately or together. Like the arias of La Bohème, the passage was demanding. The final passage was the dreaded-but-inevitable science one, this time focusing on plate tectonics. Particularly, the subduction zones where two massive plates of the Earth’s crust meet and mingle. Reportedly, this passage discussed the earth-rattling movements generated by plates that move toward one another, and contrasted those to the plates that move parallel to each other, which do not generate any movements. Unlike many science passages that appear fourth in a section — and unlike plates moving toward one another in an active subduction zone — this one didn’t shake anyone’s world.
Finally, Logic Games. Continuing apace with, well, pretty much every Games section since 2016, we got the usual combination of ordering and grouping here. Two apiece, in fact. There were no confounding “neither” games, or even unique spins on classic games. Thankfully to most test takers, LSAT played it pretty safe on this section, although there were a few minor twists.
The first game was a basic 1:1 Ordering game concerning the order that an electronics store would put various items on sale. Knowing how the LSAT is at least ten to fifteen years behind current technological trends, I’m sure that some of the electronics were LaserDiscs, Tamagotchis, Walkmens, and VCRs. It was straightforward, but apparently it did not start off with the usual Elimination question, and it did end on the pesky “Substitute a Rule” question. The second was an In and Out game about choosing some textbooks to edit. And reportedly, this also included a “Substitute a Rule” question. The third game was a super common Unstable Grouping game, which required test takers to assign people to staff one of three booths — occupation, retail, or visitor. And the fourth game was another super common game — a Tiered Ordering game. This one seemed to involve ordering artists and the musician that would accompany each artist. As is usually the case with the fourth game, and as is often the case with a Tiered Ordering game, and as is almost always the case when the fourth game is a Tiered Ordering game, this was most difficult game of the bunch.
So What Now?
This was a typical LSAT — which should be good news to you! If you were scoring around your target score on recent practice exams, and it didn’t feel like anything went truly poorly during the exam, you can at the very least expect to get somewhere close to that score. Take a bow, and enjoy some time away from the test before scores are released on September 29.
But if something nonetheless felt amiss about your performance, you may be considering whether to cancel your score. You can read up on LSAC’s official cancellation policy here. According to LSAC, you have until 11:59 pm EDT on the sixth day after the exam to cancel using your LSAC account. If we may translate that mess of bureaucratese for you, that means you have until Friday, 11:59 pm Eastern to cancel. Sleep on it. Heck, take the next few days to think it through. Take a look at this video, if you need a little consultation from Blueprint co-founder Matt Riley.
Before canceling, you should also be aware that 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 law schools will see every score you got on the LSAT, the vast majority of them won’t hold having multiple LSAT scores against you to a significant extent. For most test takers, our recommendation is to choose to receive your score, just on the chance that you’ll be happy enough to with the score that you don’t have to study for the next exam.
So congratulations to all who finished this exam. Hopefully, this blog is the last thing you’ll read about the LSAT, for at least a little while. If you decide you’d like to take another shot at the exam in November, we’ll be here, ready to help.