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What is an LSAT® Diagnostic?

By C. K. Lanz
Updated Feb 07, 2024
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An LSAT® diagnostic is a practice test that potential law school students take to help prepare for the official Law School Admission Test (LSAT®), which is administered four times a year throughout the world. The goal of the diagnostic is to mimic the actual test as closely as possible so that the test taker will have a better sense of what areas of the exam he or she needs to focus on. Ideally, the test taker will be exposed to realistic test-taking conditions and will be able to adjust his or her time-management skills as well as improve endurance. There are many different kinds of LSAT® diagnostic tests available.

The majority of diagnostic tests for the LSAT® are based on the official practice and previously administered exams published by the Law School Admission Council. Most individuals preparing for the exam will begin by taking a previously administered test under simulated conditions. The score serves as a baseline that guides a person’s study plan. The Law School Admission Council sells official practice and previously administered exams.

An effective diagnostic will contain the same number of sections and the same question types as the official test. The actual exam includes five sections of multiple-choice questions and a writing sample. The test taker is allowed 35 minutes to complete each section, and there are three question types: reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. Some diagnostic exams are truncated.

If an LSAT® diagnostic is administered under simulated conditions, it will take half a day to complete. Taking a practice test in an environment that mimics the conditions of the official exam will help ensure that the diagnostic score is as accurate as possible. The test taker will also be better prepared on the day of the official exam.

The test taker can purchase an LSAT® diagnostic and take it without assistance, but there are many preparatory services that offer to administer practice tests under actual exam conditions. Such exams are usually given at the beginning and the end of a preparatory LSAT® course. Enrolling in an LSAT® preparatory course often gives the student access to diagnostic exams that can be taken online with a timer or in a classroom environment with a proctor.

The result of a diagnostic exam can be predictive but is not necessarily determinative. A high or low score on a practice test may not accurately reflect the test taker’s eventual official score. What can make a significant difference is how a person uses the information the diagnostic provides. Reviewing the answers and making a note of why a choice was right or wrong is generally an effective study method.

The LSAT® is a standardized exam that is required for applicants to all law schools approved by the American Bar Association. The majority of Canadian law schools and some in Australia also require the LSAT®. Applicants need to maximize their test scores in addition to their undergraduate grade point averages if they want to gain admission to the highest-ranked law schools. An LSAT® diagnostic is often an important part of an effective study plan.

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