The LSAT Enters the Digital Age

Mia Carpiniello, Associate Director

After 71 years, LSAT-takers will put down their #2 pencils for good. Starting this summer, the Law School Admission Test will transition from a paper-and-pencil test to a digital exam administered on the Microsoft Surface Go tablet. To familiarize applicants with the digital format, the Law School Admission Council has created a Digital LSAT Tutorial. In addition, there is an extensive list of FAQs about the digital LSAT on LSAC’s website.

When is this High-Tech Change Happening?

The first digital exam will be administered at the July 2019 test when approximately half of test-takers will be assigned the tablet test and half will be assigned the traditional pencil-and-paper test. After July, all exams will be digital.

To accommodate this transition with the July 2019 LSAT, those who take the July test will be given the opportunity to cancel the test after viewing their score. (Normally, you can only cancel a test before receiving a score.) If a July test-taker decides to cancel their score, they may take one additional LSAT through April 2020. Note that as with all cancellations, a July 2019 cancelled score will be reported to the law schools as a cancelled test.

Beginning in September 2019, all LSAT exams administered in North America will be digital.

What About the Writing Sample?

You might be wondering how the writing sample – the unscored, written section of the LSAT – will be affected by this transition to digital format. This section is changing in two ways starting with the June 3, 2019 test – so even before the digital LSAT is introduced. First, as you probably already guessed, the writing section will no longer be hand-written. Test-takers will now type their essays in a secure, online platform. Second, the writing sample will no longer be administered on test day. Instead, test-takers will complete the writing sample on a computer or laptop on their own, up to one year after their LSAT test date. For more information on the writing sample, check out these FAQs.

If you want advice about when to take the LSAT, we’re here to help! Schedule a pre-law advising appointment through Handshake or by calling our office at 215-898-1789.

It’s (Really) Only One Number… I Promise (And I Know That You Still Don’t Believe Me)

Since the delayed release of the October LSAT scores following Hurricane Sandy – as if anyone needed any further suspense and build-up – I have spoken to many students in the past week about their scores and its impact (or more accurately, their perception of its impact) on their law school aspirations.  With that in mind, I thought it timely to repost a blog I wrote about this very topic two years ago to help settle nerves and provide some grounding and perspective about this particular component of the law school application process.  My hope is that it does just that… and that it allows you to now get back to finishing up those applications!

Continue reading “It’s (Really) Only One Number… I Promise (And I Know That You Still Don’t Believe Me)”

Getting Your (Law School Application) Ducks In A Row

by Todd Rothman



Students often ask me the same thing in various iterations about the law school admissions process during this time of year.  Sometimes it comes in the form of a reluctant acknowledgment, sometimes in the form of a series of rapid-fire questions, and sometimes in the form of a panicked confession.  But in the end, it usually sounds something like this – “I have no idea what I should be doing right now.”  So, since most 2011-2012 law school applications will be officially released to LSAC in the next week or two, here is an attempt to address that very dilemma… as well as what you need *not* be doing right now (which is often equally important).

The To-Do-Now List:


1.       Open a Credential Assembly Service (CAS) Account with LSAC.  The CAS account is an essential part of the law school application process, as LSAC helps you to organize (or “assemble”) all of your application materials (or “credentials”) for the law schools to which you will be applying.  The bad news is that it comes with a $124 registration cost that, in our electronic age, cannot be avoided, as this is now a mandatory part of applying to law school in the United States and Canada.  The good news is that the CAS does an excellent job in coordinating and simplifying the application process for applicants *and* your registration is actually valid for five years.  More information about the CAS can be found on the LSAC website:

2.       Think About and Draft Your Personal Statement.  Although the official law school applications with their instructions and prompts have not yet been released, most law schools will ultimately provide such open-ended questions in the personal statement section that applicants rarely find the prompts to be particularly helpful in drafting their personal statement.  I always encourage applicants to visit the Career Services Pre-Law Website for some basic guidelines before the drafting begins (  The most important advice I can offer, though, is that your personal statement is an opportunity to showcase your strengths, personality traits, passions, and interests in a way that “shows” rather than “tells” the reader about yourself.  This is a chance to relate some personally meaningful anecdotes in your experiences so far that will help you convey those strengths, personality traits, passions, and interests in an interesting and engaging way.  Think of it as a substitute for an admissions interview – if you had fifteen minutes with an Admissions Committee, what about yourself (besides what is already included on your application) would you want them to know?

3.       Update/Reformat Your Resume.  Law schools either require or strongly recommend that you submit a full resume along with your application, and this is another terrific opportunity to enumerate and articulately describe all of your major activities and accomplishments.  Unlike a resume that you might prepare for the job search, a law school resume has some important distinctions – (a) it can be more than one page, (b) it should devote as much attention and detail to your campus/extracurricular activities as your professional/internship activities, and (c) it should not have an “objective,” nor do you need to highlight your typing speed (even if it is 100 words per minute) nor your computer/technical skills like your “Working Familiarity With PowerPoint.”  Consider the audience here.  You can also refer to the sample law school resume on our Pre-Law Website as a guide:

4.       Contact Potential Letter of Recommendation Writers.  Most law schools require two letters of recommendation and most, if not all, law schools prefer that these letters be academic in nature.  After all, this is an academic program to which you are applying.  Professional and/or extracurricular letters of recommendation might also be helpful and appropriate in light of your experiences, provided your involvement was indeed substantive in nature.  With that in mind, you should identify at least three possible letter of recommendation writers (you never know if someone is on sabbatical/out of the country/doesn’t remember you as well as you think they do) and begin to contact them to see if they can write you a strong letter of recommendation.  I strongly recommend giving your recommenders at least a month for turn-around time, so if you haven’t already begun that process, you should certainly do so now.

5.       Send Your Official Transcripts to LSAC.  You will need to request official transcripts from all of the undergraduate and graduate institutions you attended, including any institution at which you took a college-level course.  And the sooner you start that process, the better.  Yes, that means that your advanced high school course in Accounting that was affiliated with your local community college or university.  Yes, that means the summer college course in Sculpture that you just took for fun during your summer in New York.  Any academic situation that generated a college-level transcript for you, even if those credits never transferred to Penn, must have an official transcript sent to LSAC.  More information about transcripts for law school can be found on the LSAC website:

6.       Research and Formulate Your List of Law Schools.  As with any admissions process, your list should be a comprehensive, realistic compilation of schools that represent a range of schools in terms of selectivity.  This is similar to when you applied to college, as there should be a critical mass of law schools that represent “safety schools,” “in-range/target schools,” and (everyone’s favorite) “reach schools.”  Unless you are very strongly tied to one narrow region of the country (for example, if you only want to attend law school in the Pacific Northwest), I recommend applying to between 10-15 schools, provided that the schools represent the aforementioned range of schools in terms of selectivity.  So if your list of 10-15 schools is a photocopy of the Top 15 Law Schools in US News & World Report’s most recent issue, we have a problem.  The choice of where to apply to law school is a highly subjective one, so a good deal of research is highly recommended; a good place to start is the LSAC website (  Ultimately, your list should represent a synthesis of Where Do I Want To Go (in thinking about geography, reputation, class size, employment prospects, particular areas of interest) and Where Do I Stand A Good Shot Of Getting In (where you should be comparing your quantitative information… undergraduate GPA and LSAT… with the published 25th/75th percentile and median information for the schools on your list).

Since many applicants find some (or all) of this to be overwhelming and confusing, that leads us to the last item of this To-Do List…

7.       Get To Know Your (Friendly and Knowledgeable) Pre-Law Advisors.  And our names are Todd Rothman (that’s me) and my colleague, Anne Reedstrom.  We are available through 30-minute individual advising appointments (in-person or by telephone), email advising, our weekly Pre-Law Walk-In Hours (Thursdays from 2:00-4:00pm in the Career Services Office), our various seminars and programs throughout the semester, and through our Pre-Law Listserv (here is how you sign up:   We are here to help you with any and all of your questions about this process, so feel free to call our office (215-898-1789) to make an appointment with one of us or send one of us an email with your questions.  More information about our services can be found on our website:


The No-Need-To-Do-Now List:

1.       Visit Every Law School on Your List.  Unlike applying to college, law schools do not weigh whether or not you made an actual campus visit to their school as a “plus factor” in their admissions process.  In fact, while I’m sure that they would happily have you on campus to check things out, it will not factor at all into their decision-making process.  I strongly recommend visiting some of the law schools to which you are admitted later in the process (think Admitted Student Programs in the Spring) as you finalize your decisions, but there is no need for a “law school tour” in the summer or fall.  I promise.

2.       Decide Where You’re Going to Law School.  Otherwise known as not putting the cart before the horse.  This is a long, hurry-up-and-wait process and, although you may have a first choice or a favorite “dream school” at this point, all you need to focus on in the next few months is applying to a range of appealing schools and putting your best foot forward as an applicant.  What happens over the course of the admissions cycle will – for better or for worse – help to inform you about your options and, as your decisions start rolling in usually beginning in December, you can begin to think through the actual options in front of you.

3.       Panic.  Applying to law school – much like law school itself – requires endurance, stamina, patience, and the ability to handle stress in the face of challenges.  Though it might feel overwhelming at times, please know that being accepted to law school is an entirely attainable prospect, provided that you stay on top of deadlines, set realistic goals, and keep things in perspective.  So, do your research and start working your way through your own personal To-Do List with diligence, attention to detail, and enthusiasm about what lies out in front of you.  And if you don’t have a To-Do List yet, feel free to use this one for now.

Tis The Season (To Be Panicked)… An Observation, Not A Recommendation

by Todd Rothman

As any law school applicant knows (or should know!), the law school admissions process is a rolling admissions process.  Put simply, this means that law schools read, review, and evaluate the applications they receive in the order in which they were completed – not necessarily when they were initially submitted, but completed.  Not mostly completed, but completed.  Not everything-except-my-[Dean’s Letter/second letter of recommendation/December LSAT score], but completed.

The rolling admissions process can either work to an applicant’s advantage, if he/she has been steadfast and systematic in his/her planning and executing, and lead to a stress-free Thanksgiving (family members asking you about your law school/career plans, notwithstanding) and even to some early-than-expected decisions.  Alternately, it can make an already stressful process that much more stressful, complete with the ticking-clock feeling that the likelihood of attending your dream law school is slipping away.  Combine that feeling with the logistical realities of this time of year – final exams and papers for seniors and graduate students, end-of-year professional deadlines and obligations for those in the work force, and a seemingly-endless stream of holiday/family events – and the panic to complete law school applications seems justified, if not appropriate, right?  Wrong.  Here’s why.

For anyone who has ever met with me for a pre-law advising appointment, you will probably recall that I encourage having the end of October (or Halloween) be your target date for completion.  But it’s a target date – a goal to shoot for in an ideal world – not a hard-and-fast deadline after which your law school hopes and dreams will be incontrovertibly squelched.  The truth is, my advice in this context builds in some time for the unexpected and undesirable to happen, as it inevitably can despite the best and earliest of intentions.

While completing your law school applications sometime in September and October is ideal, a November or December completion is certainly not late by any stretch of the imagination.  Let me repeat that for the cheap seats: a November or December completion is certainly not late by any stretch of the imagination. The fact is that it can be rather difficult – especially for October LSAT takers, which is the most popular test date historically – to complete by Halloween, especially since completion involves both components in your control (individual applications, personal statements, resumes, assorted addenda and supplemental essays) and outside of your direct control (letters of recommendation from busy professors and supervisors can often betray even the best-laid plans).  If I cited Thanksgiving as a target date – or even, Winter Break/Holidays as a target date – then the unexpected and undesirable could translate into completion over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday or, even worse, Valentine’s Day.  And there’s already enough stress and pressure around Valentine’s Day.

So for those of you who are still working on your law school applications for this cycle, take a deep breath and keep the following in mind:

  • While timing is certainly a factor to take seriously, strong applicants are strong applicants, period.  Admissions Committees will prefer a solid, thoughtful, carefully-proofread application completed on December 15 over an application clearly completed in a state of frazzled panic and duress before Thanksgiving… or even Halloween.
  • Do not neglect your current academic and professional responsibilities.  Especially for college seniors and graduate students in the application process, your Fall semester grades will almost certainly come into play in the admissions process at this point.  You don’t want your laser-beam focus on completing your law school applications to translate into a poor performance on your final exams and term papers.
  • Your pre-law advisors are here to help, so feel free to check in with us – via email, by telephone, or in person – as you work to put the last touches on your applications.

Happy completing (and proof-reading)!

It’s Only One Number… I Promise (And I Know That You Don’t Believe Me)

by Todd Rothman

Since the results from the October 2010 LSAT exam were released this past weekend – just in time for celebrating and/or self-medicating through Halloween candy – I thought this would be a good time to put this into some perspective.  The LSAT exam is one of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of the law school admissions process, sending even the most calm and reasonable applicants into a tailspin of self-doubt and irrationality.  In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I heard one of the following statements uttered in my office – “I know that the LSAT is the only thing Admissions Committees care about” or “If I don’t get a [insert absurdly high LSAT score here], I know I don’t have a chance at being admitted to any “good” law schools” – well, let’s just say that I could be writing this blog entry from a café in Paris.

(c) King Features Syndicate

As a former law school admissions officer, and one of Penn’s pre-law advisors, I have more than six years of experience witnessing the range of reactions associated with “getting back the score.”  Usually though, these reactions fall into three distinct categories: (1) unqualified joy and relief, (2) utter devastation and panic, or (3) frustration and bewilderment.  Let me try to explain why all of these reactions are at least somewhat (to very) misguided.

1. Unqualified joy and relief…. or the “Now I Have Nothing To Worry About” Misconception. While nobody, myself included, is going to tell you that your LSAT score is unimportant or a non-issue, it is almost never the deal-breaker… or, in this case, deal-maker… that applicants believe it to be.  The fact is, an LSAT score is the single-best predictor of first-year law school performance.  Let me repeat that: An LSAT score is the single-best predictor of first-year law school performance, according to annual LSAC correlation studies on first-year grades in ABA-accredited law schools.  However, it is widely known (and widely accepted) that LSAT scores have little definable correlation with second-year or third-year law school performance, selection to Law Review, bar passage rates, post-graduation job offers… and the list goes on.  With that in mind, law school admissions officers view LSAT scores as a useful, but limited tool in evaluating their candidates for admission.  Sure, if you have a strong LSAT score, coupled with an otherwise strong and attractive application – a rigorous academic curriculum, consistently strong academic performance, a well-crafted and effective personal statement, compelling and detailed letters of recommendation, a history of unfailing extracurricular involvement and leadership, not to mention a host of other factors – then that LSAT score will speak to a candidate with a great deal of potential.  If some or most of those other factors are not present though, a high LSAT score in a vacuum will not move mountains.  Even worse, Admissions Committees might wonder (and rightly so) why a student with clear intellectual potential based on that high LSAT score was so underwhelming in other areas of life.

2.       Utter devastation and panic… or the “Now I Need To Find Another Career” Misconception. If your results of this exam for which you (hopefully) spent a lot of time preparing did not pan out as you had hoped, there is certainly cause for some degree of disappointment.  However, in light of what was just discussed, you need to have faith in the fact that law school admissions officers will still read and carefully evaluate your application with equal attention.  The truth is, the LSAT is a snapshot of who you are as an applicant – on one day (maybe two days… hopefully, not three days) – and Admissions Committees always review applications in their relative context and in light of every other aspect of your application.  I know of no law schools who employ cut-off scores for LSAT performance and, while 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile information is readily available for any ABA-accredited law school, they are not indicative of the full range of scores of successfully matriculated students.  In fact, those numbers speak to the middle 50% of a law school’s incoming class – nothing more, nothing less.  Though a lower-than-expected score might result in refining your current list of schools, you do not need to find another career.

3.       Frustration and bewilderment… or the “But I Scored A 172 On One Practice Exam Back In August” Misconception. As I have previously stated, taking the LSAT is an anxiety-producing experience.  With that in mind, very few students have their best day, score-wise, on the day of the actual exam.  The truth is, most students score between 1-3 points lower when they take the LSAT than on their earlier practice tests.  While sitting for full practice LSAT exams under “simulated test conditions” is strongly advisable in your preparation, it would be impossible to simulate the actual real-world stress of that particular day.  Whether it’s the heightened communal angst of your fellow test-takers… or getting finger-printed for identification… or experiencing a last-minute room change… the pressure of that particular experience is unique and almost always affects your score.  And more than likely, it affects your score negatively… usually to the tune of 1-3 points lower than your typical practice exams.  The good news?  This is a shared experience of anxiety for the majority of test-takers on a curved exam, which in some way actually corrects for this.

To reiterate, it’s only one number… I promise.  And yes, I know that you still don’t believe me.