Summary of Self-Reported Methods of Test Preparation by LSAT Takers for Testing Years 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 (TR-05-01)
by Andrea E. Thornton, Deborah A. Suto, and Lynda M. Reese

Executive Summary

This investigation of Law School Admission Test (LSAT) preparation patterns for the 2003–2004 and 2004–2005 testing years represents a replication of earlier studies by Wightman (1990); McKinley (1993); Thornton, Reese, and Pashley (1998); Thornton and Reese (2005); and Thornton, Suto, and Reese (2005). As with the earlier studies, all analyses reported here are descriptive in nature, and no attempt has been made to evaluate the effectiveness of different test preparation methods.

In this study, five different types of analyses were performed. First, analyses were conducted to compare the response rate for each testing year to determine whether there were appreciable differences in response rates across these years, and to assess the extent to which response rates in this study differed from those reported in earlier studies. Second, analyses designed to compare respondents and nonrespondents in terms of mean age and mean LSAT score were conducted to determine the extent to which the respondents were typical of the entire testing population. Third, an evaluation of the utilization rates for the different methods of test preparation was carried out to assess the frequency of use of the different methods. Fourth, the extent to which test takers used multiple test preparation methods was evaluated. Finally, users and nonusers were compared for each method in terms of mean LSAT score and mean age to evaluate the extent to which users of a particular method are different from nonusers.

Overall, the patterns of results for respondents and nonrespondents were consistent across testing years. In general, the mean LSAT score was higher for respondents than for nonrespondents, and the mean age was higher for nonrespondents than for respondents. This was similar to the pattern reported for the earlier studies. These results indicate that the respondents differ systematically from the nonrespondents, and caution should therefore be exercised in generalizing any of the findings of this study to the nonrespondents. However, the response rate for all of the testing years was so high that this represents only a very minor limitation in the interpretation of the results.

The patterns of usage for the various methods of test preparation differed slightly between testing years. Of the eight methods listed, self-study was the most popular method for both testing years studied, and using a book not published by Law School Admission Council (LSAC) was a close second. Attending a commercial test preparation school and using official LSAC test preparation materials were also heavily utilized across testing years.

On average, respondents used between two and three methods of preparing for the LSAT. The most common number of methods was one (selected by more than one-third of the respondents for each testing year), but for the two testing years covered by this report, 9 to 27 percent of the respondents reported using two, three, or four methods.

The most significant finding in the analysis of users and nonusers of each method was that LSAT scores were higher for respondents, indicating use of Methods 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7, and lower for respondents using sample questions in the Information Book, undergraduate institution courses, other methods, and no methods.

Among the conclusions reached for this study were the following.

  • Overall response rates were consistent across the two testing years.

  • Female test takers were slightly more likely to respond than male test takers.

  • Five racial/ethnic subgroups had consistent response rates of more than 90% for the two testing years. Those that did not indicate their race/ethnicity were least likely to respond.

  • Those who are not fluent in English were less likely to respond than those who are fluent in English.

  • Respondents tended to be, on average, one year younger than nonrespondents and also tended to score between one and two points higher on the LSAT.

  • Self-study was the most popular method across the testing years studied, and books from publishers other than LSAC was a close second.

  • The Information Book and official LSAC test preparation materials continue to be popular preparation methods, especially among certain subgroups of the test taking population.

  • Relatively few test takers reported using preparation courses provided by undergraduate institutions as well as other test preparation methods.

  • Female test takers tended to use more methods of preparation than did male test takers.

  • Puerto Rican test takers and test takers not fluent in English tended to use fewer methods of test preparation than did other subgroups.

  • Members of the Black/African American and Caucasian subgroups consistently reported using a high number of test preparation methods for the two testing years.

  • Users of the sample questions in the Information Book, undergraduate institution courses, other methods, or no methods tended to have lower scores than nonusers of these methods.

  • Users of the sample test in the Information Book, materials published by LSAC, commercial schools, self-study, and non-LSAC books tended to have higher scores than did nonusers of these methods.

  • Users of the Information Book materials, other methods, or no methods of preparation tended to be older than nonusers of these materials, while users of commercial schools, undergraduate institution courses, and self-study tended to be younger than nonusers.

Summary of Self-Reported Methods of Test Preparation by LSAT Takers for Testing Years 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 (TR-05-01)

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