The digital LSAT is a big departure for the exam and its first major change in decades. As one of the last remaining paper-based standardized tests, the LSAT got a digital facelift and moved from the paper booklets we’ve known forever to a digital and mobile interface, on a tablet.
Just as important as what changed on the LSAT in 2019 is what didn’t change: the exam’s sections and questions stayed the same, save for the LSAT Writing Sample which you now take on your own from home. Still, since the bulk of pre-2019 practice and prep material for the LSAT references the paper-based exam, test-takers may be nervous about taking the test on tablet. We’ll dig into the digital upgrades to the LSAT so you can build a strategy toolbox for the new look and feel.
To recap, on test day, you’ll see the same LSAT sections, types of questions, games, and reading passages you’re used to. In short, you could drop a paper-and-pencil LSAT into the digital format, and vice versa, and as far as the content goes, you would not know the difference. Notice that there is also an unscored experimental section. It, too, remains unchanged from the paper-and-pencil administration. The experimental section may appear as any one of the three scored section types, and it may appear at any point in the test. As always, every question on the LSAT is “worth” the same, and there’s no penalty for a wrong answer. As such, one of our oldest, tried-and-true tips is to not leave any bubbles blank. Select an answer for every question even if it is a guess.
At least for now, LSAC is making no changes to its policies and procedures for registering and checking in for the LSAT test. You don’t need to bring pens or pencils for note-taking; test takers will be given a pen to use on scratch paper and a stylus to use for highlighting and underlining on the tablet.
The biggest change entailed in the digital administration of the LSAT was the change from paper to tablet to deliver the questions and to capture test takers’ responses. You can get to know the digital interface through tutorial videos and practice available on the LSAC website.
Below are our teachers’ best strategies for successfully navigating the subtle but important differences in test takers’ digital test day experiences.
Digital LSAT Tip 1: To scratch or not to scratch
For the paper-and-pencil LSAT, test takers were given no additional scratch paper and were forbidden from bringing any to the test site. Well prepared test takers practiced using the space in their test booklets to take notes, draw diagrams, or flag questions they skipped.
Now, each test taker is provided with a booklet of blank paper (you still may not bring any from outside the test site) along with the digital tablet. It’s important to practice taking notes and drawing Logic Games sketches on paper separate from the test questions. As you’re practicing, think about details such as where you want to keep the tablet and scratch paper on the desk as you work. If you are practicing for the LSAT using paper PrepTests from LSAC, start training yourself to take notes on separate sheets of scratch paper. Think of the paper PrepTest as a virtual tablet on which you can highlight or underline, but on which you cannot write or draw.
Digital LSAT Tip 2: Bubbling is dead
This is one area in which the digital interface appears to be a pure win. On the paper-and-pencil LSAT, you, as a test taker, could circle or cross-out answers in the test booklet, but you did not get credit for an answer unless you accurately bubbled it on the answer grid. There were several risks involved in this process. You might fail to completely fill in the bubble, or you could “double-bubble,” both of which would cause the machine scoring the test to register no response for that question. Even worse, you might get your bubbles off by one question—for example, bubbling the answer to Question 5 on the line for Question 6. If you didn’t catch that mistake quickly, it could lead to a disaster in which all of the subsequent questions for that entire section were mis-bubbled. In the digital interface, your only concern is clicking on the correct answer to start with. If the correct answer for Question 2 is (E), let’s say, all you have to do is click (E) to the left of the answer choice. The tablet will record your answer choice for each question and mis-bubbling is a thing of the past.
Even better, you can now see questions for which you have not yet selected a final answer by glancing at the “bubble bar” at the bottom of the screen. On the old paper grid, when all bubbles started to blend together, it was easy to miss a blank space. On the digital LSAT, unanswered questions are easy to spot.
Digital LSAT Tip 3: Raising a flag
The digital interface has a FLAG tool that allows you to note questions to which you want to return, time permitting. Get used to flagging questions you skip and those for which you choose an answer but feel that another look will increase your confidence that you’ve made the right choice. In combination with the new functionality allowing to grey out and eliminate answers, including collapsing answers you know you can safely eliminate, narrowing down your answer choices with visual cues has never been easier. Plus, while on the paper test you couldn’t “un-highlight” a sentence or “uncross” an answer choice, the tablet interface and stylus make this process simple and reversible.
Digital LSAT Tip 4: Timing is everything
For the paper-and-pencil LSAT, proctors were also the official timekeepers for each section. They verbally announced “Begin working on Section X,” and usually, wrote the start time for the section on the board at the front of the room. They also verbally announced “Five minutes remaining” and “Pencils down” for each section.
On the digital LSAT, the proctor tells you to get ready for a section to begin, and then they press a button that starts the section for all of the tablets in the room. There is a countdown timer in the tablet interface that can be hidden if you find it distracting. When five minutes remain in the section, test takers see a pop-up to that effect. You are not able to proceed in the section until you actively close the 5-minute-warning pop-up. From that point until the end of the section, you will not be able to hide the countdown timer.
When you have less than five minutes remaining in a section, take a moment to click an answer (even if it’s a guess) to each unanswered question you have remaining. Check your flagged questions to decide which you want to go back to review in the time remaining.
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