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Taking an LSAT Diagnostic Test

If you’re planning on going to law school in pursuit of a legal career, then you must know by now that a major hurdle you’ll have to clear is performing well on the LSAT, which is the main admissions test used by law schools. Most aspiring lawyers spend months on their LSAT prep, and a whole industry has been built up around it, including LSAT prep materials, LSAT prep courses, and one-on-one LSAT prep tutoring. 

But no matter what path to conquering the LSAT you take, just about everyone has to start at the same place: the LSAT Diagnostic Test. The LSAT Diagnostic Test is basically a way of referring to your first attempt at taking an official LSAT test in an effort to gauge your starting position and to design your approach to LSAT prep. 

Taking this first step is difficult and often intimidating. The LSAT can be a highly challenging and demanding test, and getting in the right mindset just to sit down and take it can feel overwhelming. But there’s no way around it—if you want to maximize the results of your LSAT prep so you can earn the best possible score, you’re going to have to take an LSAT diagnostic test.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about taking an LSAT diagnostic test, including how to approach it, how to make sense of your results, and how to apply them going forward. 


How to Approach an LSAT Diagnostic Test


The first thing you want to do as you approach the LSAT diagnostic test is respect the purpose of it, which is to provide an accurate assessment of your starting performance level. Therefore it’s crucial that you treat it like an official LSAT test. That means:

  • Only using an official past LSAT test, to make sure you’re getting the most accurate assessment of your performance
  • Get in the right mindset to focus for several hours as if you were taking a real LSAT
  • Cultivate good environmental conditions, without distractions
  • Follow the actual LSAT rules and timing constraints to the letter


Making Sense of Your LSAT Diagnostic Test Score


Okay, so once you’ve done all that, now you’re going to want to know what to make of your LSAT diagnostic test score. 

The first thing to know is that the range of possible scores on the LSAT is 120-180. 

If your LSAT diagnostic test score is in the 120s, that means you’ve answered almost none of the questions correctly and likely haven’t understood the material. This doesn’t mean it will be impossible to improve your score, it just means you’ll have a long way to go, and that will start with identifying what happened during the test. 

Did you spend almost all the time for each section working on just a few questions? In that case, continuing to study the material is likely to help you make incremental improvements. Your speed will improve as you develop more mastery of the subject matter.

On the other hand, if you answered most or all of the questions, then there’s a good chance you’re working too fast. As you go about your LSAT prep, you should concentrate on working more patiently and slowly to ensure greater accuracy. It’s better to answer even a smaller number of questions correctly than to answer more questions incorrectly. And as you learn the material, the speed will return naturally.

In either case, you’ll definitely want to look into options for improving your LSAT performance. The best thing you can do is work with an expert LSAT tutor, who will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and design a study plan that will help you improve your performance on the test.

If you’re scoring in the 130s or 140s, you are answering some number of questions accurately, but you’re still performing below average. This means that there’s significant room for improvement, and you’ll definitely want to work with an LSAT tutor to get you ahead of the curve.

If you’re scoring in the 150s and 160s, then you have some natural aptitude for the material, but there’s still room for improvement. Working with an LSAT tutor and devoting significant energy to your LSAT prep can help elevate your performance to an elite level.

If your LSAT diagnostic test score is in the 170s, then you’re already among the top tier of LSAT performers. That doesn’t mean you should slack on your LSAT prep. You’ll still want to take more practice tests to ensure the diagnostic test wasn’t just a fluke, and you’ll want to make sure you’re solidifying your strengths before test day.


What Your LSAT Diagnostic Test Score Does and Doesn’t Tell You


Now let’s take a closer look at what your LSAT diagnostic score does and doesn’t tell you.

Your LSAT diagnostic score DOES tell you:

  • Where your strengths and weaknesses are 
  • Your current scoring range, plus or minus about five points

Your LSAT diagnostic score MIGHT tell you:

  • What kind of score you can expect to earn if you were to take the official LSAT today
  • What kind of score you can expect to earn in the future, after investing significantly in LSAT prep

Your LSAT diagnostic score DOES NOT tell you:

  • What your exact score on the official LSAT will be
  • How likely you are to succeed in law school or as a lawyer. Both those outcomes depend on much more than your test-taking ability, and involve work ethic, commitment, and a range of skills beyond just what it takes to score well on the LSAT


How to Use Your LSAT Diagnostic Test Score Going Forward


By pointing to your strengths and weaknesses, your LSAT diagnostic score can help you determine where to devote the most energy in your LSAT prep. It can also help you identify how much time and money you’ll need to invest in order to reach your target score. Finally, it can give you a sense of realistic and ambitious scoring goals, as well as what law schools you might be eligible for.


Your LSAT diagnostic score will also be immensely helpful as you begin a relationship with an LSAT tutor. An expert LSAT tutor will be able to analyze your diagnostic test results and help you build a customized study plan that’s tailored to your abilities and your goals.


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That first step of taking an LSAT diagnostic test can be intimidating for everyone. It takes a lot of activation energy to commit to actually sitting down and focusing for the length of an entire test. But there’s really no getting around it. Taking a diagnostic test is a necessary step to beginning your journey toward conquering the LSAT and putting yourself in the best position for a successful legal career.