In our little world, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a career-defining moment. A few points on the test can mean the difference between going to a law school that can get you a job, or going to a law school where you’ll be locked in gladiatorial combat with every other student in order to finish in the top 10%.
But does this test really tell us anything about a person’s logical reasoning ability? Does it tell us anything about one’s ability to be a lawyer? It’s been well-documented that the LSAT is a great indication of past performance, a solid indicator of law school performance, and a very poor judge of future legal success.
So what is the LSAT really testing anyway? We all know really smart people who didn’t do too well on the LSAT, and we all know incredibly dumb people who got a high score.
On the Huffington Post, Noah Baron argues that the LSAT is really testing one thing: whether or not you are wealthy enough to spend the time it takes to prepare for the exam…
Preparing properly for the LSAT costs a lot of money. More money than many American college students can afford to spend for test prep:
[W]hen I looked online to sign up for one of these lauded prep courses, I found that their cost ranged from $1200 to over $9000 — with in-class hours ranging from eighty-some to over three-hundred! This is very problematic on more than one level.
First, the vast majority of Americans (even the majority of American college students) cannot afford to blow $1,200 to $9,000 on a prep course. Many of us are already heavily saddled with debt, others simply do not have the cash on-hand, others, perhaps, are spending their money paying their own way through one of the dreaded unpaid internships.
Second, of course, is the problem of the time needed to dedicate to these courses. In addition to the massive amount of cash college seniors are expected to fork over to Kaplan or Princeton Review, we must also dedicate hundreds upon hundreds of hours in order to get our money’s worth! While of course dedication and effort should be expected, the problem is that college students have to clock in hours at their job in order to pay for the class in the first place.
We know some people would rather believe that genetic deficiencies are responsible for LSAT score variation among populations. But why rely on seventeenth-century racial logic when there’s a perfectly reasonable economic argument staring you in the face?
Because the test doesn’t just cost the upfront money of a prep course, it also costs hours and hours of studying. And not everybody can afford that either:
But even if a student has chosen not to take the expensive path of a prep course as his or her chosen path to law school, they still face the problem of the sheer amount of time required to prepare for the LSAT. One of these previously-mentioned books suggested that one to two hours of studying each and every day was insufficient — instead, the book suggested, try to study for four or more hours. What not-obscenely-rich student amongst us has four or more hours to study for the LSAT? Even if college students don’t have to pay for the overpriced Kaplan courses, they may still be working to pay for college expenses…
Meanwhile, these lower-class and middle-class students have to compete with those who have the time, effort, and money to not only spend on expensive one-on-one tutoring (exponentially more expensive than the classroom instruction offered) — but who also do not need to worry about a job to help them pay their bills.
If the test is really going to be this important to our system of legal education, at the very least it should be fundamentally fair to all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Instead, the LSAT confers another privilege to those born into a middle-class or better family. It’s another benefit of winning the birth lottery. People should at least consider that aspect of the test before making sweeping judgments about others based on their LSAT scores.
LSAT: The Next “Wealth Test” of College Seniors [Huffington Post]