Big News: LSAT Going Digital in July!


Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - Big News: LSAT Going Digital in July! by Manhattan Prep

We should have known it could happen to LSAT. If it can happen to music and movies and photographs and phones and, yes, even to wristwatches, then it can happen to the test:

The LSAT is going from analog to digital.

Of course… the LSAT going digital won’t happen until July, so the digital evolution probably won’t affect most people reading this. If you’re currently reading an LSAT blog even though you’re not planning to take the test until next summer, my goodness, you are forward-thinking! Here are the keys to society; we need you in charge.

Look at all these forthcoming “Pencil-and-paper? You-know-that’s-my-caper!” LSATs:

  • Saturday, November 17, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.
  • Monday, November 19, 2018 (Saturday Sabbath observers only) at 8:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 8:30 a.m.
  • Monday, January 28, 2019 (Saturday Sabbath observers only) at 8:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, March 30, 2019 at 8:30 a.m.
  • Monday, April 1, 2019 (Saturday Sabbath observers only) at 8:30 a.m.
  • Monday, June 3, 2019 at 12:30 p.m.

But then, just as the sun sets on June 3, humanity prepares herself for…

T H E     T R A N S I T I O N     T E S T   [coyotes howling]

Monday, July 15, 2019 at 12:30 p.m.

What is this hellbeast?
Half the students take an old-school paper test; half the students take it digitally.

How do you choose which type of student you are?
You don’t.

Do you know ahead of time which type you’ll be taking?
Maybe. They haven’t told us yet whether you do and if so, when you would find that out.

Isn’t that just kinda dumb/evil?
Not evil, because if you take this test (in either form), you automatically qualify for a free know-your-score cancellation and make-up.

Say that again?
If you take this July 15, 2019 test, and only on this test, you get to see your score before you decide whether you want to cancel. And anyone who cancels can sign up for another LSAT between July 2019 and April 2020 for free.

That’s… weird?

So should I take advantage of this opportunity or run away from its unique weirdness?
We would definitely take advantage if it fits your application / testing schedule. There’s really nothing to lose. It’s a free practice test, worst case scenario. Because of that, it will probably fill to capacity soon after LSAT opens it up for registration, which will be sometime in December.

From there on out, it’s all digital, no free make-ups, and you can’t see your score before you cancel:

  • Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 8:30 a.m.
  • Monday, October 28, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. – new testing date
  • Saturday, November 23, 2019 at 8:30 a.m.
  • Monday, January 13, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. – moves earlier from 2019 date
  • Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 8:30 a.m. – new testing date
  • Monday, March 30, 2020 at 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 25, 2020 at 8:30 a.m – new testing date

So what’s the deal with the LSAT going digital? Should I be jealous?
We’d say it’s a mixed bag, but we’re also deeply entrenched in habits founded on the pencil-and-paper version. We think the trade-offs more or less cancel out and so it’s fine either way.

Look at the provided screenshots!

They haven’t released specs, but the digital tablet will be some blend of proprietary hardware and software, and it’ll probably feel like an iPad. You’ll be able to hook up a keyboard to type your writing sample. And you’ll have a stylus that lets you do some stuff on the tablet, but it doesn’t look like it gives you free rein to draw anywhere you’d like.

They’ll also pass out a booklet of blank paper in which you can write your usual scrap work in pencil. So you’ll probably still be doing all your Games diagrams and work on paper. If you feel like diagramming some Conditional Logic in Logical Reasoning, you’ll probably still use that scrap work booklet.

The stylus basically lets you pick your answer, eliminate answers, flag a question you would want to come back to (!), and select from three colors of digital highlighters, which seem to let you highlight any subset of the stimulus, question stem, or answer choices that you’d like.

At the bottom of the screen is a visual number line of all ~25 questions in your section, so it’s easy to see which questions still haven’t been answered and to navigate there with one touch. On this number line, it’s also easy to see which questions you flagged.

It’s very cool that whatever answer choice you’re picking on your tablet is automatically your answer. No one will ever make an accidental “transfer” mistake again and mis-bubble (C) when they really picked (D).

It’s less cool to us that you can’t write on/around the answer choices within Logic Games. Frequently, if we run across some plug-and-chug question like “Which of these would fully determine if true” or “Which of these is an acceptable list of people for Group X,” we’ll start writing tiny scenarios right on/by those answer choices. So for us, having to do that work more remotely on the scrap booklet is a little less desirable.

Also, they didn’t show a screenshot of what Reading Comp will look like, but it seems likely that it will have the functionality of Reading Comp on GRE and GMAT (computer-based tests).

Since the format is to put the passage/stimulus on the left half of the screen and the answer choices on the right half, the Reading Comp passages will not all fit onscreen at once unless you zoomed back to a probably-unreadable level.

So you’ll instead be scrolling up or down that side of the screen to read the extremities of the passage. For us, that’s a small loss, since we’re often scanning for words by taking a “bird’s-eye view” of the passage and then zooming in.

Similarly, for Games and for RC, the fact that we only see one question at a time onscreen means that we’re less able to globally survey the 5-8 questions that will accompany a game or a passage. Our ability to prioritize which questions we do and when we do them is somewhat compromised by our not being able to gaze at them as a collective group of questions.

There you have it. There’s nothing so enticing about the digital form that it’s worth waiting for, but if you are considering the July test, there’s nothing to lose! One bonus of the LSAT going digital will be that we’ll get our scores much faster (they haven’t said how much faster, but we’re assuming one week or less).

Finally, we just want to debunk some rumors you may have heard about the new tablet form of the LSAT:

  • You will not be able to use your remaining time in a section to Netflix and chill.
  • Pressing the power and home buttons at the same time will not screenshot a problem and save it to your Dropbox.
  • There will not be a “phone a friend” option in which you can ask the Russian hacker who’s illicitly observing your test what his/her opinion is on #18.

Naturally, over the coming months you’ll see LSAC and companies like Manhattan Prep rolling out new resources to help students who will be taking it digitally to start getting comfortable with what that will feel like. If you have any questions about it in the meantime, let us (or LSAC) know.

LSAT, we wish you luck on your new digital adventure. Whose turn is next for the analog to digital revolution? Peanut butter? Love? Consciousness? Only time will tell… (but don’t sleep on digital peanut butter®). 📝


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