The September 2019 LSAT

The September 2019 LSAT, the first all-digital version of the test, has now been completed. I did take this test, primarily to see how the digital format works and to see what if any modifications to my techniques are appropriate. Here are my impressions:

The recent (three or four years) trend toward harder games sections continues. This wasn’t the hardest analytical reasoning (to me it’s just “games”) section ever, nor even the hardest in the past couple years, but it wasn’t pretty. Even the two games which were ostensibly simple took a surprisingly long amount of time, and one game was quite ugly — it looked at first like an order game (seven elements with clues about which had higher numbers than which), but the arrangement was circular so that positions 1 and 7 were next to each other. Throw in a clue about two elements that needed to go next to each other (in either order) and two more about what couldn’t go next to each other, and you had a mess. Nothing there was impossible, of course, but finishing on time would be quite a challenge for most people.

We even saw the return of a mostly-deprecated question type, the “suppose… [we change a rule]” question. This type had been mostly supplanted by the “Which of the following if substituted for…” messing-with-the-rules-question in the last few years; the rule-changing type is conceptually easier but more time consuming, and since time is already so tight, that just adds to the potential pain.

By contrast the argument (logical reasoning) sections were remarkably easy. I faced three, meaning one was experimental, and frankly each one of the three felt easier than most recent arguments sections have been. The question distribution was it has been, with plenty of the usual suspects and nothing out of the ordinary. I did observe that on every “follows logically if” question (“sufficient assumption”, to those who’ve taken most of the commercial courses) my quick and dirty technique for narrowing the answer choices down worked well — in fact, it narrowed the choices to exactly one in all but one case. Similarly, a conclusion-focused approach to the parallel questions worked as well as it usually does, meaning pretty darned well. But some of the arguments were quite confusing if you read and tried to understand them… meaning you were better off not doing that. Good technique was strongly rewarded on this test.

The reading comprehension section featured one very long passage (about the Great Zimbabwe) that wasn’t difficult at all. The comparative reading i.e., the split passage, was a moderately challenging pair of passages about lies in putatively factual literature (historical fiction and autobiography, respectively). As usual, understanding the two authors’ basic points was important (and a bit tricky in the case of the second passage), but from there it was mostly plug-and-chug. Meanwhile, the other two passages were straightforward; as long as you didn’t spend too much time on the initial reading, you probably didn’t have much trouble.

All in all, this was an average test in terms of difficulty, but I have to admit that I’m disappointed: the trend toward harder games and easier everything else will reduce the test’s utility in distinguishing among candidates’ fitness for law school. Maybe they’re just trying to justify the (otherwise unjustifiable) shift toward using the GRE for law school admissions; I’ll have more to say about that in another post. Meanwhile, if LSAC is trying to reduce the value of professional preparation, they’re failing: Without a solid approach to games you have no chance, and good technique on the verbal remains very helpful for finishing the sections… which is now more important than ever.

If you took this test, good luck — I hope you nailed it. And if you were among the (apparently many) test-takers whose tests were cancelled due to technical issues (it sounds like a truckload of equipment didn’t show up in time in Northern California, leading to the cancellation of multiple test centers’ tests — how frustrating!), then I wish you the best on your rescheduled exams.

On in a minor side note, I can now personally confirm that the University of Arizona (which is in Tucson) is a perfectly reasonable testing site.

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