The LSAT puts low-income students at a disadvantage

The LSAT puts low-income students at a disadvantage

The LSAT puts low-income students at a disadvantage
June 07
16:39 2017

Amanda Lee | Staff Writer

It is understood that law school is expensive, but what everyone doesn’t realize is how some people can’t even afford to apply. Doing so requires the Law School Admission Test, the biggest factor for determining your acceptance. To enroll into the top 20 law schools in the country, you need a score between 160 and 185.

The first time I took a practice test, I was arrogant to say the least. I thought if I could do really well on the SAT, then the LSAT would only be slightly more difficult. In some respects, I was correct. The reading comprehension section was just a hair more challenging than what I experienced on the SAT. However, the logical reasoning and logic games sections threw me for a loop.

The logical reasoning section tests one’s ability to analyze arguments and spot flaws. While logic is not taught specifically in high school or even at some universities, most people have a basic understanding of assumptions made by arguments and are able to spot logical fallacies. This could be learned or improved upon easily.

The logic games section was a whole different ball game. It requires the ability to analyze a given scenario and use the supplied rules to answer a series of questions. At first glance, I thought these problems were similar to the extra credit math I enjoyed in middle school. But when you are trying to arrange five hypothetical artists presenting at five different times, your comprehension muddles a bit.

Skills necessary to complete these problems are not taught in high school, nor are there classes offered in college that can help you. We are not groomed with the tools to complete these problems with ease. Exams like the SAT or the MCAT test students on their ability to remember information from previous schooling, or to use skills they’ve developed in their lifetime. To the contrary, the LSAT logic games are completely unlike anything I’ve ever learned. So if one wishes to be successful in this or any other section, they must search for outside help.

After accepting my not-so-great trial run score, I looked for tutoring options. As a full-time student with a nearly full-time job, I knew my options would be limited. What I didn’t know was that I would never be able to afford the help I so desperately wanted. One-on-one tutoring typically costs a minimum of $1,500 through large companies such as NextStep or Kaplan, whereas private LSAT tutors charge upwards of $150 an hour.

Students like myself, who must work to keep a roof over their heads while attending full-time school, cannot possibly be expected to shell out thousands of dollars or make time for private tutoring just to improve one test score. Because of the inaccessibility of tutoring, some students are doomed to try teaching themselves. While self-study can yield incredible results for some, others learn better communally.

Because students are tested on skills they haven’t learned and cannot afford to be taught, their scores suffer. Studies ran by the UCLA School of Law show that only 5 percent of students admitted into the highest ranking law schools come from families who rank at the bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum. Students who cannot afford tutoring are automatically disadvantaged compared to their wealthier peers.

Schools hoping to enrich the socioeconomic diversity of their students are failing to do so. If there is no affordable way to learn the tested skills, students are denied an opportunity before even seeking to undertake it.

The least the Law School Admission Council can do is offer previously administered LSATs for free. This would provide students with the opportunity to see the exact types of problems that are created, along with the correct answers. If you must teach yourself how to solve a single test, the best practice comes from former tests. As of now, books reprinting past tests range from $15 to $20. Cutting this cost could benefit dedicated students on a budget.

Although the LSAT has to be difficult to ascertain the best potential law students, sections requiring students to obtain an entirely new skill set are only appropriate if everyone can access those skills. Only those who can afford private tutoring have a chance to succeed while lower-income students are forced to accept their fate. Until changes are made, YouTube will continue providing the one-on-one tutoring myself and thousands of others.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

About Author

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

Preston served as the Opinion Editor of the North Texas Daily from July 2016 to July 2017, and is a UNT graduate of integrative studies.

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1 Comment

  1. LSAC
    LSAC June 08, 11:29

    LSAC has entered into an agreement with Khan Academy to develop interactive online materials for the LSAT, and make personalized practice free for all. In addition, we offer fee waivers for our services that include a free LSAT prep book, and we do have a free, complete LSAT on our website, LSAC.org.

    Reply to this comment

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