As of Sept. 21, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) will be administered digitally. The next opportunity to take the computerized exam is on Oct. 28.
According to a press release from Kaplan Test Prep, an organization that specializes in higher education test preparation, a tablet and stylus will replace the traditional pencil-and-paper format.
“From around the country, test takers and test center workers reported that the Microsoft Surface Go tablets used to administer the Digital LSAT generally worked as expected and provided an easy, accessible, and secure digital version of LSAC’s (Law School Admissions Council) reliable and unbiased law school entrance exam, widely considered the premiere test for measuring the skills needed to succeed in law school,” the LSAC website wrote.
The transition began on July 15, 2019, when the test was originally “soft launched.” Half of test takers took the digital version while the other half were assigned the newly digital test. By September, the LSAT transitioned into a fully digital exam.
“The LSAC has been working on this for years. It has been happening gradually,” Glen Stohr, a Kaplan LSAT teacher for over 20 years and the company’s senior manager of instructional design, said. He noted that the digital switch was the biggest change to the LSAT since the 1990s.
On test day, test takers get their admission ticket and booklet scanned. Each booklet has a unique code that — when scanned — randomly starts test takers on different questions, preventing test takers from copying off one another.
On the digital interface, the tablets are enabled with a software that disables and turns off the tablets when they are out of range of the designated testing room.
The test is taken on Microsoft Surface Pros, equipped with features like highlighting, annotating and increasing the size of the font. In a test run with ten of his top students, Stohr said that eight of them embraced the new features.
Troy Lowry, Senior Vice President of Technology Products and Chief Information Officer at the LSAC, noted that many students utilized the features the tablet offers.
“[Students] loved how smooth the digital experience was, as well as specific features like navigating between questions, flagging questions to go back to, the ease and quickness of selecting answers with a single click, and the on-screen timer and five-minute warning,” he said via email.
Stohr recommended getting acquainted with the new LSAT beforehand to alleviate any stress or concerns about the digital delivery. On test day, he hopes the test takers “think about the test and not the tablet.”
Lowry pointed out that LSAC.org offers many services to help people gain familiarity with the new format before the exam.
“Our free Get Acquainted with the Digital LSAT site shows how the tablet test works so that test takers can feel confident on test day and allows test takers to practice using the tools and features they will use on the day of the test,” he said via email. “In addition, we have published several full digital practice tests to the Digital LSAT familiarization site. These practice tests provide an experience that mirrors the Digital LSAT. And, our free Official LSAT Prep with Khan Academy provides an excellent way to practice for the LSAT in a digital environment.”
There hasn’t been any changes made to the test since 1992, but Stohr cited the 2000 LSAT cheating story as a driving force behind the shift.
“The existing methods for ensuring the security and integrity of our test weren’t up to our standards,” Lowry added.
In 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported that an exam was stolen at knifepoint in Glendale, Calif. The answers were then transmitted via pager to two test takers in Mānoa, Hawaii. All three were ordered to pay $97,000 in restitution to the admissions council.
Freshman political science major Anaya Laurent isn’t planning to take the LSAT until her junior year, but she is welcoming the change with open arms.
“Paper and pencil is so archaic, and it’s a good thing that the LSAT is finally adapting to a technological world,” she said. “It makes it easier to take the actual test and now resembles most of the tools we already use — digital.”
The LSAT is the last exam to move to a digital platform, following other exams like the Medical College Admissions Test, Graduate Management Admission Test and the Graduate Record Examination, according to Stohr. But it is the only test that kept the content and structure of the test the same after the transition.
Taylor Esposito, a junior double majoring in political science and philosophy and double minoring in U.S. history and professional writing, started studying to take the LSAT this summer. While she prefers the original format, she saw no issues with the change.
“I prefer traditional,” she said, adding that she wasn’t concerned about security. “I’d rather underline and highlight.”
David Scott J.D., Stony Brook alum and professor in the School of Professional Development, said the shift from the platform the LSAC has used for nearly two decades has been a long time coming.
“The train has left the path on digital testing,” Scott said.
While Scott has a neutral standpoint on the LSAT being administered on tablets, he pointed out that what defines a lawyer can’t always be determined through a score.
“A student can’t be reduced to a number,” he said. “Law school is diverse in many ways. Think about life experiences for law school communities. Law school builds diverse individuals. Find something you’re passionate about. It’s not just about going to court everyday.”
Corrections 10/27/19, 12:57 p.m.:
A previous version of this article mistakenly said that Oct. 28 would be the first opportunity to take the digital LSAT. Although it is the next opportunity to take the digital LSAT, the new version of the test was launched in September.
Quotes attributed to Troy Lowry, Senior Vice President of Technology Products and Chief Information Officer were initially mistakenly attributed to Lindsay Rech, Content Marketing Specialist at the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC).