Computer Use and Preferences Among LSAT Takers (CT-05-01)
by Ann Gallagher, Andrea E. Thornton, Deborah A. Suto, and Christopher W. T. Chiu
Since 1996, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has collected data on test taker computer usage in an effort to understand how a move to computer-based testing might affect Law School Admission Test (LSAT) takers. The first reporting of results from these data was based on two questions placed on answer sheets during the 1995 and 1996 testing years. Results of analyses indicated that 80 percent of respondents reported being at least somewhat comfortable using a computer and 88 percent reported using a computer at least once a week. In addition, there were no significant differences in comfort levels across racial/ethnic or gender groups. There were also no significant differences in computer use by groups based on gender.
Analyses of groups based on age also showed no significant differences in comfort level or frequency of use. Small significant racial/ethnic differences, however, were found in computer usage, access at home, and how easily participants felt they could access a computer for test preparation. In all these instances, African American and Hispanic test takers reported lower levels than Caucasian and Asian American groups.
Since this first study, LSAT answer sheets used by test takers have contained questions related to computer usage among the voluntary background information that is collected. The goal of this report is to use these data to inform the legal education community regarding (a) students’ comfort level using a computer, (b) the extent to which potential law school students have access to computers and the Internet, and (c) which aspects of a computerized LSAT candidates would find most desirable.
Results show many response patterns that are in keeping with what would be expected in terms of historical trends. Respondents in all groups increasingly indicate that they feel “very comfortable” using a computer and that they have access to a computer and the Internet at home. By the 2004–2005 testing year, at least 70 percent of each group selected these categories. Although the largest difference between population subgroups was in home computer access (about 16 percent during the 1997–1998 testing year), the “digital divide” between African American and Caucasian LSAT takers is substantially smaller than what is found in the general population (i.e., US Census data); from its largest point, the difference in LSAT takers shrinks in more recent years to about 10 percent. As home use and access increases, use and access at school and work decreases.
In terms of aspects of the testing environment, any variations in responses appear to be primarily by population subgroup rather than by testing year. And, in general, these differences are small and appear to be stable across the five years of data collection. The three features most frequently selected as desirable were (in descending order) 1) immediate score reporting, 2) more testing dates, and 3) choice of morning, afternoon, or evening testing session.
These results suggest that the impact of a future decision to administer the LSAT on a computer will be minimal for all subgroups of the LSAT test-taking population that were studied.