Over the years I have heard a number of pervasive myths discussed as people attempt to compare one particular LSAT administration to another, perhaps the most common of which is that one test is typically easier, harder, or somehow different than the others. Interestingly enough this idea came up just last week as a student fretted over the October test, essentially lamenting, “This is the most popular of the four…so won’t it be harder since this is when well-prepared people tend to take it??”
That thought in mind, I want to take a moment to set the record straight: the truth is that every LSAT is more or less the same. That’s true in terms of content, structure, and difficulty with respect to final score.
Now, granted, some tests do prove to be “harder” than others, but there’s three things I encourage people to keep in mind:
- “Hard” is remarkably relative, and as a general rule won’t necessarily apply to you or any other individual test taker, so it’s a misnomer from the outset;
- There’s no consistency regarding when a slightly more challenging exam might appear, so no reason to think of any specific administration (February versus October, say) as being predictably tough;
- “Harder” exams have looser conversion scales, so it takes fewer questions answered correctly to attain a particular score.
That last one is of particular importance. Essentially what happens is that if a test is found to be somewhat more challenging for the average test taker (average number of questions answered correctly is slightly lower than normal), the test makers adjust the scoring scale in your favor: fewer correct needed for a given score. This allows them to keep the score percentages consistent across exams, even if the difficulty varies somewhat. So let’s imagine for a second that the October test is actually harder than the others. What would happen? They’d award you a higher score for X number correct than they would for that same number correct on an easier test. In short: they use the scale to negate any subtle changes in overall difficulty.
There is a ton of awesome info on the scale here if you want to learn a bit more.
But let me be clear! I’m not saying that every LSAT administration itself is exactly the same. Take the February LSAT, for instance, and how it varies slightly with respect to the other three: it’s not released so you won’t be able to review it when you get your score, it’s administered too late in the admissions cycle for a number of schools if you’re trying to apply for that same calendar year, and it’s arguably given at the worst time of year in terms of keeping a high level of energy/enthusiasm (what is probably a cold, grey Saturday morning, at least for most of the country). For me all that’s a deal-breaker and I much prefer one of the other three, with June at the top of my list since it is administered in the afternoon. Subtle, consistent differences do exist in the specifics of test administrations.
But is the February test or the June test consistently easier/harder than the others? Nope. So if you’re feeling ready to go in a month, there’s absolutely no reason not to take the October exam! The same is true for the three other LSAT administrations as well.
Photo: “Most Difficult” courtesy of tacodelgato.