Checking In on LSAT Changes and Trends
Today’s advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep. Blueprint students increase their LSAT score by an average of 11 points on in-class practice tests, and can enroll in live LSAT prep classes throughout the country or take an online LSAT course from the comfort of their own home.Blueprint students often ask about trends on the LSAT. How are the most recent tests different than old tests, they want to know? Let’s take a look at how the last couple of years’ LSATs have compared to what came before.
First, let’s make the distinction between trends and actual changes to the LSAT. There have been two notable adjustments to the LSAT in the last ten years. First, in 2007, comparative reading was introduced. On every LSAT since then, one of the four Reading Comp selections has been made up of two short passages, with questions about the passages taken together. The second change came in 2012. Before then, each Logic Game was on one page. Since June 2012, Logic Games have been printed on two pages each, leaving test takers more room to sketch out diagrams and do scratch work.
Those changes are here to stay. Everything else we’ll discuss is just a trend. While it’s useful to look at where the LSAT has been going on recent tests, if you’re studying for the LSAT you should know by now that it’s fallacious to assume that a trend will continue. All of this is subject to change at any time.
The Logical Reasoning sections have been pretty steady lately. The types of questions that have been most common historically remain the most common: expect lots and lots of questions about flaws in arguments, weakening and strengthening arguments, and assumptions in arguments. Those questions typically make up close to half of Logical Reasoning.
Some rare question types have become little more common, though. There have been a bunch of what we at Blueprint call “Crux” questions (an example: “The answer to which of the following questions would be most useful in evaluating the argument above?”). We’re still only talking about one or two per test, but historically they came up once every couple years, so that’s an increase. There have also been a few more questions asking on which arguments two speakers agree. These questions were historically very rare, so seeing even a few of them counts as a surprise.
Finally, we’ve seen less conditional and quantificational logic in Logical Reasoning. It’s still important to have those concepts down because they still come up every test; just not quite as often as they did in the early years of the modern LSAT.
LSAT Logic Games mostly come down to putting things in order and putting things in groups. Ordering has always been the more common of those two processes, and that’s still true. But grouping has made a very slight resurgence in the last couple years. Most exams from 2010 and 2011 had one grouping game, or perhaps even none at all; lately it’s been more like one or two per test.
A lot of recent games have benefitted from using scenarios, or breaking the game into a few limited possibilities before attacking the questions. This strategy has led to important deductions on many games, so that skill should be a part of your arsenal.
Finally, a couple recent games have been a bit weird, for lack of a better word. Fundamentally, they’ve still been based on ordering and grouping processes, but they’ve reminded a lot of test takers of the less routine games from the early years of the modern LSAT, back in the ‘90s. We’re still only talking about a couple games, though, and those games still have a lot in common with other recent games. So think of it kind of like ‘90s rappers sampling ‘70s Isley Brothers songs.
The difficulty of the Logic Games section has been pretty variable. Some recent tests have had both very easy and very hard games, whereas others have been consistently moderate throughout. I’ve heard students complain that recent games are more time-consuming rather than hard; in many of those cases, scenarios are your friend.
The Reading Comp section has soldiered along without any big notable changes. Well, some passages have been pretty brutal. There have always been nasty passages, but I think recent tests have been especially bad. LSAT students are often tempted to ignore Reading Comp during their prep… Maybe it just doesn’t have the excitement of the other sections. Maybe it’s boring. But ignore Reading Comp at your peril. It takes work, just like the rest of the test, and it’s getting harder if anything.
One other place that students often look for trends: the infamous “curve.” LSAT score conversion tables have been relatively forgiving lately. Since 2012, you’ve been able to miss anywhere from 10-14 questions to get a 170. 2014’s tests were all in the 12-13 question range. But again, don’t read too much into this; it could change at any time. Devote your energy to studying for the questions the LSAT will throw at you, not to worrying about the curve.
All in all, the LSAT isn’t changing in any kind of fundamental way. You should certainly take the most recent tests as you prepare; they’ll give you the most accurate picture of where you stand, and likely be the closest to what you see on test day. But don’t give them undue weight. The last 20 years of LSATs taken together are more important than the last few exams. Old LSATs are like a good pair of jeans: they never really go out of style. Everything since the mid-‘90s or so is worthwhile, and even if the older stuff is a little weirder, it still works for extra practice.