Summary of Self-Reported Methods of Test Preparation by LSAT Takers for 1990-1991 Testing Year (RR-93-02)
by Robert McKinley

Executive Summary

A study was conducted to examine patterns of test preparation for the LSAT during the 1990-1991 testing year. This investigation represents an extension of an earlier study that examined self-reported test preparation methods for the June and October 1989 test administrations. The 1990-1991 testing year was used rather than completing the 1989-1990 year so the results would be based on revised test preparation questions. As with the earlier study, all analyses for this study were descriptive in nature, and no attempt was made to evaluate the effectiveness of different methods of test preparation.

In this study five different types of analysis were performed. The first type of analysis consisted of determining the response rate for each test date to determine whether there were appreciable differences in response rates across administrations, and to assess the extent to which response rates in this study differed from those reported in an earlier study (Wightman, 1990). The second type of analysis performed as part of this investigation consisted of a comparison of respondents and non-respondents in terms of mean age and mean LSAT score to determine to what extent the respondents were typical of the entire testing population. The third type of analysis consisted of an evaluation of the utilization rates for the different methods of test preparation to assess the frequency of use of the different methods. The fourth type of analysis consisted of an evaluation of the extent to which test takers used multiple test preparation methods. The final type of analysis consisted of comparing users and non-users 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 non-users.

The response rate in this investigation was higher than the response rate obtained in the earlier Wightman study (86% versus 75%), both at the subgroup level and the total group level. The lowest response rates were among those who also declined to respond to the other questions, such as the language and ethnicity questions, although this was not true for the gender question. The variation among ethnic, gender, and language subgroups was not large, with the highest response rates among Caucasians, females, those fluent in English, and those for whom English is the dominant language.

Overall the patterns in the results of the comparison of respondents and non-respondents were consistent across administrations. The mean LSAT was higher for respondents than for non-'respondents, a result also found in the earlier study, and the mean age was higher for non-respondents than for respondents. This was similar to the pattern reported for the earlier study. These results indicate that the respondents differ systematically from the non-respondents, and caution should therefore be exercised in generalizing any of the findings of this study to the non-respondents. On the other hand, the response rate for all four test dates 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 appeared to remain relatively stable across administrations. The most popular method of preparation was use of the sample questions in the Law Services Information Book, followed closely by a book not published by Law Services and the sample test in the Law Services information Book. These three methods were selected by 45 to 50 percent of the respondents. The Law Services test preparation materials and self study were selected by about 40 percent of the respondents. Commercial test preparation courses was selected by as few as 28 percent of the respondents in February and as many as 40 percent in October. The remaining three options, undergraduate institution courses, other methods, and no methods, were selected by relatively few respondents.

On the average, respondents used between two and three methods of preparing for the LSAT. The most common number of methods was 1 (selected by about 25 percent of the respondents), but typically from 15 to 18 percent of the respondents reported using two, three, or four methods. The lowest average number of methods used, and the highest percent reporting using only one method, was for the February test date. Black and Puerto Rican respondents tended to report relatively low numbers of methods used, as did respondents who are not fluent in English or for whom English is not the dominant language.

The most significant finding in the analysis of users and non-users of each method is that LSAT scores were higher for respondents indicating use of any of the first five methods, and lower for respondents selecting the last four options, undergraduate institution courses, self study, other methods, and no methods.

Among the conclusions reached for this study were the following.

  • Females were slightly more likely to respond than were males.
  • Caucasians were more likely to respond than were members of other ethnic subgroups; members of the Black/Afro-American subgroup were least likely to respond.
  • Those for whom English is not the dominant language, or who are not fluent in English, were less likely to respond than were those for whom English is the dominant language or who are fluent in English.
  • Respondents tended to be, on the average, one to two years younger than were the nonrespondents and tended to score two to three points higher on the LSAT than did the nonrespondents.
  • The largest differences between respondent and non-respondent scores tended to be more the Puerto Rican subgroup.
  • The Law Services Information Book and official test preparation materials were clearly heavily utilized, as are books from other publishers.
  • Caucasians were more likely to use the Law Services official test preparation materials than were Blacks/Afro-Americans, Chicano/Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans.
  • Puerto Ricans and those not fluent in English were far more likely to report use of no methods of preparation than were other subgroups.
  • Courses provided by undergraduate institutions were utilized by relatively few test takers.
  • Females tended to use more methods of preparation than did males.
  • Puerto Ricans and test takers not fluent in English tended to use fewer methods of test preparation than did other subgroups.
  • Caucasians tended to use more methods of preparation than did other subgroups.
  • Users of undergraduate institution courses, self-study, other methods or no methods tended to have lower scores than non-users of these methods.
  • Users of Law Services materials, commercial schools, and non-Law Services books tended to have higher scores than did non-users of these methods.
  • Users of the Information Book materials tended to be older than non-users, while users of commercial schools, self-study, and other materials tended to be younger than non-users.
Summary of Self-Reported Methods of Test Preparation by LSAT Takers for 1990-1991 Testing Year (RR-93-02)

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