Law School Discussion

LSAT as an indicator


LSAT as an indicator
« on: February 20, 2004, 09:21:56 AM »
I've seen many opinions expressed that the LSAT is too heavily weighted; that it should not be considered an indicator of law school success over GPA, which reflects 4 years of hard work.

I'm not necessarily denying the validity of this argument, but I am seeing another side of it.

I think most of us would agree that law school admissions is not meant to be a system of rewarding us for our past achievements. It's meant to be a system for screening candidates, selecting those who have the ability to be a successful attorney, and weed out those who lack the necessary skills and abilities or whose skills and abilities lend themselves to other fields.

With that said...a 4.0 in undergrad may be indicative of a person's work ethic. It may be indicative of the person's general intelligence and ability to succeed in America. It is probably very indicative of the individual's aptitude towards the field of undergraduate study they chose. it tells us nothing of their ability to "think like a lawyer" or whether, beyond their general intelligence, they possess the specific set of skills that make learning to be a lawyer easier.

Now...many of us grew up with the idea that if you are of above average intelligence, you can do anything you want to do, and so we may resist the notion that some people who are of above average intelligence lack a certain set of skills that would lend themselves to the field of an attorney. But in my recent years in the workforce, I've really come to appreciate how individual talents and abilities, when applied to the right field, can predict success; and when applied to the wrong field, can prevent success.

example...I know engineers who think like engineers and while they are incredibly good at what they do, you can never get them into, say, public policy. Because their obsession with detail and order would hinder them in a field that required them to look at big picture of everything.

My point is...maybe the LSAT should be considered a favor to US, the students, rather than just the admissions council. Maybe if we find "thinking like a lawyer" to be the most grueling, irritating moments of our life, we should consider the test a wake up call that our talents/abilities/interests are better suited elsewhere.

I have several friends and family members who are attorneys. I've noticed something lately. They all either love it or hate it. The ones who hate it, hate thinking like a lawyer or have a hard time thinking like a lawyer. they were generally also the ones who hated the LSAT and didn't do well on it. On the other hand, I know quite a few people who thought the LSAT was fun, and starting buying books of logic games long after the need to take the test had passed. and they love being a lawyer, and have always thought like a lawyer.

I know there will always be some people whose scores on the LSAT are not even indicative of their own abilities for logical and/or analytical reasoning.  If that's because you don't test well, I would think carefully about your decision to go to law school. Because your success the rest of your life is going to depend on school exams, the bar exam...and if you want to do any litigation, every case is going to feel like a test.

Now I can see someone who doesn't test well, but does have strong analytical and logical skills being great at a job that requires behind-the-scenes legal work...but you still have to pass the bar.

and if you're upset now that the score on a test can determine your acceptance into law are you going to feel after three more years of hard work, when your score on another test determines whether you can even practice in that field for the rest of your life?

I acknowledgethat there are certain flaws to my argument. I've discussed examples from my personal life that should not be generalized to the public because the people I know are not reflective of all attorneys.

Also: I do think there is a certain flaw to the logical reasoning section of the test. Because of the nature of the questions (pick the "best answer" though several could be correct) it allows for a certain subjectivity. One could be incredibly good at "thinking like a lawyer" but score poorly on the LSAT by always picking the second best answer, while someone else scores higher than them just from picking answers at random.

But...I'm trying to argue the unpopular side right now. So...anyone want to discuss?

Re: LSAT as an indicator
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2004, 09:39:53 AM »
-----pick the "best answer" though several could be correct----

For every LSAT question, there is one right answer, and four wrong ones.  One or more of the wrong ones may be attractive, but there are ALWAYS four that are equally wrong.


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Re: LSAT as an indicator
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2004, 10:23:05 AM »
I agree that the LSAT is a mere means of screening.  You've got to have some unbiased moray that exposes every candidate to the same scrutiny. The possibilites for outside influence are too numerous to count, and the LSAT is the kind of thing that provdes the best chance for the greatest number of people to own an unbiased credential during the app process.
To that end, especilly when applying to elite programs, the LSAT is a favor.

I am bothered by the LSAT, however, because it subscribes to the modern obsession with numbers. Consider two applicants, both with same GPA, extracurriculars, motivation,etc. Applicant A "crash-lands" the LSAT and gets a 157.  Applicant B, who has access to a 1500 dollar prep course or a serious self-study program, achieves a 162 after months of preparation.  Even with the application of score bands, B is in a much different world. What if Applicant A had to work full time?

Does the LSAT live up to its ambition of creating an unbiased credential when shortcuts--which arent availiable to everyone-- can drastically improve a score?
Granted, there are brilliant folk, who, despite any other socioecominic tag they may or may not possess, are just smart as *&^% and can get a 180 cold.  These people, hands down, deserve the best legal education they can get.

For most applicants, however, their opportunity to own a uniform, unbiased credential--the LSAT score--can be altered by circumstances.  A 157 cold turkey can't be considered the same way a Testprep-aided 162. 

In any good scientific endeavor, there has to be a control.  In the eyes of Admit  Committees, the test questions might be considered such. In light of the different means of preparation, though, I think that the LSAT is just another independent variable.

I read somewhere that parts of the LSAT are derrived from U.S. Navy Pilot batteries that were administered back in the 40s. I read somewhere else that part of it is derrived from an old Pepsi-Cola scholarship qualifying test.

Maybe each school needs to come up with their own entrance boards.  Or maybe, the whole process of law school will reveal itself as an elite excersise, and the process of qualfiyng as a lawyer will return to reading law for a few years and passing the bar on sponsorship.

But on the LSAT.  Yes, its a favor.  Should we, and can we make that favor fairer?


Re: LSAT as an indicator
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2004, 10:33:11 AM »
hookem, there is clearly only one answer that is going to be correct.

however, in one of the prep books I read, they pointed out that almost all of the LR questions, they say, which BEST...

and so the answers are set up with three that are just wrong. one that will answer the question, and one that will answer the question better.the correct answer is the one that will answer the question better, since the true, literal question, is which one is BEST.

so yes, there's only one correct answer because there can only be one best.

but best can also be subjective.

Re: LSAT as an indicator
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2004, 11:59:01 AM »
To the person who originally posted this message: I know it is just your opinion, but I have to say that until you have taken the LSAT and have attended law school, I believe that you do not know what you are talking about.

Blind adherence to the theory that the the LSAT is an absolute indicator of success in law school is a load of crap. The LSAT measures your ability to do well on one thing: taking the LSAT. My GPA was great and my LSAT score sucked. But, I have done great in law school (top of my class) and I have done great on all of the tests in law school.

I'm not saying that the LSAT does not have some kind of value in the process, but to blindly adhere to it and act like it is the "be all/end all" of deciding which applicants are "special" enough to grace the halls of law school is ridiculous.

I know plenty of people who pretty much aced the LSAT but can't seem to pull their head out of their ass in school, or in life for that matter. And for some reason, it seems to be those same people that have been coming to me to ask for help because they can't seem to "get it" when we discuss the material or when we are close the end of semester tests. With a stellar LSAT score, why is that?


Re: LSAT as an indicator
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2004, 12:48:34 PM »
I found your statement that until I take the LSAT and attend law school, I won't know what I'm talking about to be highly amusing.

As a future lawyer, you should know that your argument, applying your personal experience to a general concept, is poorly supported.

On the other hand, if you can show evidence that there is no statistically significant relationship between LSAT scores and law school success, then I would buy your load of bulls**t.

But the fact that you, an individual, scored low on the LSAT and has had success in law school tells me nothing except that you scored low on the LSAT and had success in the law school you are attending. I still do not know how that applies to the rest of America, or how it applies to your ability to pass the bar. it tells me nothing about your ability to actually be a lawyer. I also don't know if there were mitigating circumstances regarding the reason why you scored poorly on the LSAT.

Had I stated that I believed poor LSAT scores meant it to be absolutely impossible to do well in any law school in the country, you would've proven me wrong. I believe LSAT scores are an indicator that someone is able to think like an attorney, and thinking like an attorney will make it easier/more likely to succeed in law school, and make for a happier and more successful attorney.

Speaking in generalities. Looking at populations and trends, not at individual cases.

Re: LSAT as an indicator
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2004, 01:32:45 PM »
Lovin1L, that's not what I got from Kslaw's post, personally. I don't think most people see the LSAT as an "end all/be all" to performance in law school and being an attorney, but I do think a lot of people disregard or lessen the signifance/purpose of the LSAT and resent the exam--I saw this as being more like what Kslaw is saying, pointing out the role of the LSAT, and I basically agree.

I think the LSAT measures a bit more than simply your performance on it, though I'm sure it doesn't tell the complete--or even half--the story of performance in law school. I do, at least, see a relationship between the skills needed on the LSAT and the skills needed in being an attorney...and, from the help I've received in studying for the LSAT from current law students, some skills needed in law school. One law student helped me a little with the LR section by showing me something a professor taught at her law school, which she feels, had she known when she was taking the LSAT, could have helped her on the LR section. No, I'm not yet in law school, so I couldn't entirely know--fair enough. But, like you said, we're just discussing opinions. We're not claiming to know anything.

And, not to be mean, but it's a little funny that you're in law school and telling someone that they don't know what they are talking about simply because they aren't in law school, yet are making leaps about what someone is saying--the kind of interpretive leaps that, it seems, someone who is in law school would know a little bit better than to make. Kslaw wasn't just talking about the LSAT and law school--but that the test-taking doesn't just end with the LSAT and that, later on, more will be at stake based on tests (such as whether or not you'll even be able to practice law). Bottom line, one of these days, there's going to be a test you're going to HAVE to do well on.

And I dislike standardized tests, too, and see the biases--I feel that my SAT scores had little to do with how I did in college--but the one thing I do like about the LSAT is that I see it as being one of the few standardized tests that has more than a little relevance to the program you're trying to get into (but doesn't necessarily say that you'll do well or you won't, but logical/critical/analytical skills are there). It's an opinion--I might, in fact, find differently when I enter law school.

In terms of the biases of the LSAT mentioned by know, I think just about every part of the admissions process is biased. People focus on the biases of the LSAT the most, though. But even Fungoking mentioned how the GPA is biased, without outright stating so, by showing how it can be affected by other things...such as did you have to work through college. And I, personally, have more of a problem with GPA than the LSAT, in terms of biases. Some law schools reward students who went to top undergraduate schools and punish students who went to lower-ranked schools in the index number, when it could easily be that the student from the lower-ranked undergraduate with a 4.0 truly is just as good as the student from the higher-ranked one with a 3.75 but just simply couldn't afford to go to that higher-ranked school or got a scholarship to the lower-ranked one. I feel like the legal profession is a one in which the doors to it are more open to students who have "more" than the ones with "less" because students with "more" CAN take prep courses, CAN go to the top undergraduate schools, CAN afford law school...and where you go to undergrad can affect to ease of your major and GPA (a lot of people feel that lower-ranked schools are easier, but what about "grade inflation" at those top undergraduateschools that are overly-represented in the number of students they send to top law schools??), taking a prep course can affect your LSAT score...I mean, people advise "take a prep course" as if everyone can do it--they can't. I can go on and on, but the point is that there are biases everywhere in the admissions process!

Finally--I actually don't see anything wrong with taking a prep course, if you can. The LSAT is not a test of innate ability. This is a test that most people basically learn, as long as the ability to learn it is there. Some people DO go in without studying and do well--not many, though. Everyone else studies prep material. If you're going to sit there and study "Cracking the LSAT" and "10 Actual, Official LSAT Preptests" is that THAT much different than taking a prep course? In prep courses, they familiarize you with the test by giving you strategies and practice questions. With "Cracking the LSAT" and "10 Actual..." you're doing the same thing. All you're doing is sharpening and/or learning some skills (and, to me, not really even "learning" but mainly "sharpening" because everything I've learned about the LSAT so far were things I knew already, on some level, but just needed them pointed out)...skills that even the people who naturally do well had to learn SOMEWHERE. There's nothing wrong with learning how to do this test and learning skills that help make a successful lawyer and a successful law student.

The distinguishing factor is that there are some people who just aren't going to be able to learn these! I saw it when I took Kaplan--there were people in that class who, no matter what they were taught or how many practice problems we did, were just not "getting it." I think the only way you shouldn't have a shot at law school, if it's something you want to do, is if you just can't learn the skills needed. There's nothing wrong with "job training." But there are people--you'll try to teach them how to dance, and they'll just never get it. It's not for them! The example about the engineers Kslaw gives--same thing.

And this is speaking more to those people who score so low that they can't get into ANY law school with their score and nothing seems to help. For example, Lovin1L said his/her score "sucked," but it was obviously good enough to get into a law school, when combined with the GPA. Obviously, getting a 146 does show that someone has the ability if there are schools that accept people with that score (and quite a few do)! There are people who score 165, get into a school and have to ask someone who scored a 157 for help in class might not be that this person doesn't have what it takes to be an attorney--they might just be at the wrong school...or not studying enough...whatever! And that person with the 157 could have been a person who scored higher were it not for nerves or timing issues...again, whatever! There are so many things that come into play!

Re: LSAT as an indicator
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2004, 04:17:32 PM »

Wow, I won't be as long-winded as the lot of you, I write too much already at work.  I just wanted to comment on the original post. I agree with you on the point related to finding studying fun.  I enjoyed the majority of the time studying for the LSAT, the way it makes me think is quite like Discrete Math.  In any event, further along in my studies, when the games section just "clicked" with me, I realized that I really do like thinking the way the LSAT forces you to, and that I made the right decision in embarking on this journey towards law school.  I just hope law school is as challenging and fun. 

Re: LSAT as an indicator
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2004, 05:53:04 PM »
There is ZERO subjectivity in correct LSAT answers.  Any preptest book that told you otherwise has stolen your money.  Some wrong answers will look attractive, but when you think about them long enough it is clear why they are wrong.  That's what makes a good test-taker...someone who can throw out the attractive wrong answers quickly.  Andthe aptitude required to do so is conducive to success in law school.

LSAT should matter much more than GPA.  A 3.5 is different at Harvard as compared to Notre Dame, Texas, UNLV, or Ball St.  Some schools engage in rampant grade inflation (Harvard), some are difficult (ND, Texas), and some schools just offer easy curricula (UNLV, Ball St.)  However, the LSAT is the same for everyone.  That is why it matters more, and justifiably so.


Re: LSAT as an indicator
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2004, 06:24:26 PM »
Forgive me for not reading what everyone posted on this discussion, but I would like to say something.  Hopefully I won't be repeating what someone else might have said.  As far as the LSAT vs. the GPA as to which one is the better indicator of how well a person will do in law school/life is concerned, I think the LSAT is the winner.  I know many people who have slacked off in college and yet have still maintained a B+ (or higher) GPA.  I even have a friend who is attending Harvard, where she has a 3.5+ GPA because many Harvard prof's grade easier than non-ivy league prof's so to maintain the school's prestige.  I'm not saying this hasn't happened to me, since I once I earned extra credit on a term paper because I wrote about a field that my prof specialize in, purposely.  I just know that since it (effortless grades/elevated curves/painless prof's) has happened to me, my friends, and other classmates, that it has probably happened to almost every college student at least once: I think almost everyone has gotten a grade that was better than s/he earned.  I do not blindly support the LSAT, though.  I think that the test has many complications and could still be useful even if it was given less importance in the admissions process.  For instance, one improvement would be if the LSAC only released a person's percentage ranking instead of scaled score.  Many law school deans have requested this change.  I think it would be better because the LSAT usually has a three point margin of error.  So, Yale could accept a person with a 176 over a person with a 173, even though both may have the same percentage.  The person with the lower LSAT score could be the better candidate, but s/he would miss out on a chance at Yale because of a margin of error.  A 180 could actually be a 177, and… well, you get my point. 

CLIFFNOTES: My Post – I think the LSAT is better indicator of how well a person will do in law school/life than a person’s UGPA.