Episode 47: LSAT Accommodations, LSAT Test-Day Score Drops and Whether to Drill Specific Question Types

We discuss the current state of LSAT accommodations since the topic was discussed in episode 43.

We tackle Logical Reasoning question 10 (Section 2) from the June 2007 LSAT.

Camilla asks what ranges we recommend for reach, target and safety when using the LSAC calculator and the percentage it gives.

Two listeners ask if they should spend time reviewing questions/answers they got correct, or just those that were incorrect.

Chris is heading into the final stretch before the December LSAT. He asks if we’ve seen patterns among students who have experienced test-day score drops compared to their practice test scores. Similarly, Courtney asks if we have suggestions for how to improve her test-day score to match her practice scores.

Chris asks if he should drill specific question types, or continue taking mixed sections to help strengthen the question gaps and understanding. In addition, he asks for suggestions to go from the low 160s to high 160s. Ben suggests using the Strategy Prep question tracker to help with this.

Finally, Courtney is seeking additional test materials to complete her LSAT preparations.

If you’re interested in reviewing a draft of Nathan’s Logic Games Playbook, send him an email and he’ll be in touch!

Thinking LSAT is now on Twitter! Follow us at @thinkinglsat and tweet us a question!

Take a listen and let us know what you think.

19 Comments


  1. Just finished listening to this episode of your podcast and I am blown away at the extremely one-sided interview with your guest, Mika. At no point did she address the adverse side effects of making the accommodations process easier and taking away the asterix from the LSAT reports, nor did she answer how to accurately measure the severity of each persons own disabilities (she attempted to on the latter but didn’t really make sense). She mentioned how she has an incredibly biased lawyer family friend to hold her hand throughout this process, and maybe this is a reach, but what if her doctor is also a family friend and anecdotally diagnosed her as having ADHD? If this wasn’t the case with her, a future LSAT taker will definitely pursue this route to gain an unfair advantage. On a side note, one of my high school classmates had the same GPA as I did, but was accepted to Columbia simply because he was granted close to 7 hours to take the SAT and received an unwarranted 2260. The LSAT is a standardized test for a reason! This ruling complete bullshit! Students with accommodations need to take a harder test to compensate for the excessive extended time for each section. She claims the playing field is now even that she gets time and a half, a quiet room, earplugs, etc., but what about all the kids who apply without these “severe” ADHD symptoms and score a 140? Maybe everyone with a low score automatically will think they have a learning disability. What about someone like me who has worked his ass off (dedicated hundreds of hours towards LSAT studying) and is barely breaking 160? I would without a doubt be in the 170s with 53 minutes per section and no variable section. I am begging LSAC to appeal the verdict and correct this travesty of justice. The outcome does not have to change the entire landscape of the LSAT and give students like Mika an incredible unfair leg-up on the competition. I understand her complaints but I think the solution is a decision that is not so binary. For example, taking away the variable section is too much, as well as 53 minutes per section, other less drastic accommodations may be permitted (possibly 40 minutes and no writing sample instead) but currently the decision made by the courts is not leveling the playing field for everyone, it is heavily favoring disability LSAT test takers based on completely arbitrary standards. I agree with Nathan on this issue and if nothing changes then I guess I will have no choice but to falsely report ADHD symptoms and receive accommodations that will further deteriorate the LSAT’s credibility. Sorry in advance if I offend anyone.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for writing!

      I completely agree that accommodations can give people a huge — and thus unfair — advantage. I suspect that in many, if not most, cases, they don’t level the playing field. Instead, they give the accommodated test-takers a serious edge (which is why, if you can get them, you should — whether it’s fair or not). Even just 5 more minutes, let alone 18 more, can make a difference. Smaller accommodations sound great to me. I think 40 minutes is an awesome idea. Hopefully, LSAC will take note!

      As for Mika, she was invited on the show to share her personal experience, which she did. And I’m glad she was willing to do so. I don’t think it’s easy to open up about these things. Granted, when it comes to LSAC’s policy, I think she’s less concerned about the potential risks of accommodations than I am, but she also knows more about learning disabilities than I do, so until I know more, I’m open to hear her out. I also don’t think it’s helpful to assume the worst about her background.

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      1. You’re right, Ben. I should have refrained from making a leap in judgement about Mika’s personal circumstances and/or background. Those type of comments are definitely not appropriate. She mentioned throughout the interview many times about how much “stigma” surrounds this issue and since I’m not an expert either in this field, I suppose I’m only adding more fuel to the negative stigmatization she was referring to by making irrational assumptions. I understand she did not necessarily volunteer to be judged about her story and from her perspective, she probably has no reason to be overly concerned about the negative side effects of the policy, but from an objective standpoint, part of me wishes that was addressed during the interview. The domino effect of this controversial ruling will without a doubt enable future LSAT takers to heavily abuse the new model in place until eventually LSAC makes a more difficult test. Personally, I would rather not egregiously “cheat the system” just to keep up, but as you suggested previously, I might be better off just throwing fairness out the window and running with the wolves. Alright, I’ll get off my soap box for now. Maybe in the future someone who is an expert in this field could join the show as a guest and answer questions on this heated topic? Just a thought.

        Thanks, Ben!

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        1. She also mentions specifically in her interview that she was tested by a specialist in DC, doing 6-8 hours of testing in a day that cost $2000. Yes, some doctors will just anecdotally diagnose some disorders, but being tested by a specialist is no joke. It’s impossible to fake these, and it’d be stupid to do so since it’s so expensive and time-consuming. The people who administer these tests specialize in neuropsychology, learning/developmental disabilities, and cognitive processes. The expensive evaluation ruled that what she and her medical history/test results report is consistent with an ADD diagnosis

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    2. I believe they take away the variable section when you’re granted extra time because it would take you significantly longer to get done, and usually space is rented for a set amount of time, and having just a few people in for so much longer would be an unnecessary cost, and you legally can’t up price just because of accommodations as that violates the ADA

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      1. I see why LSAC would do it, for the reasons you mention. But lack of an experimental section for accommodate students seems unfair to unaccommodated students. Accommodated students are literally doing less work on the day of the test. How does that show that they are equally capable?

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        1. I would have no problem doing the experimental section. I was surprised when I was informed I wouldn’t need to do it (I was granted accommodations for the LSAT this June). I think the reason is a financial thing. They probably are trying to have the accommodated students done not too much later than everyone else. My testing center assigned is owned by a major university and from my understanding they reserve rooms/buildings for a fee, plus they are probably paying the test proctors as well. It might simply cost too much to reserve for another hour or two when it’s only a few students. They also can’t just charge accommodated students more because that is discrimination, and it would be too late to charge everyone after they’ve already registered. I would have no problem doing the experimental section, but the costs associated are what I think is the likely reason.

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        2. Just to be clear: I do not think it’s very fair either to the other students. They should just make the test cost more for everyone to offset additional costs.

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    3. Also, even if it was a good idea to make a whole separate test for those who get extra time (it isn’t), it is impractical and directly violates the ADA. It is blatant discrimination.

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      1. I don’t remember anyone suggesting that it would be a good idea, but I would agree that it seems impractical.

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        1. I have seen other website forums that I have seen this mindset

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  2. I’m sympathetic to the concerns that Nathan and Ben express over accomodations for learning disabilities. A recent article in The Atlantic, for instance, pointed out that kids born in August tend to be diagnosed with ADHD at much higher rates. This suggests that lower maturity/tendency to fidget (a diagnostic criteria on the DSM) is related to age, rather than a legitimate problem.

    However, not all accomodations are for ADHD or learning differences. Some, for instance, have biological problems that can be empirically measured, such as brain tumors or epilepsy. Further, treatments for such conditions can cause problems like decreased working memory or attention.

    People with such problems are likely resentful of rich kids who go to Dr. Nick from the Simpson’s and get a made-to-order diagnoses.

    There are no simple answers here, but Ben and Nathan should learn a bit more about the range of conditions being accommodated.

    Reply

    1. Do you have a link for that Atlantic article? Reminds me of the Malcolm Gladwell thing about hockey players reaching the NHL in much higher numbers based on certain birth months that made them older than their competitors every year in junior hockey, thus conferring advantages that never stop accruing…

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  3. I disagree with flagging scores because it violates the ADA explicitly. It allows room for discriminating against disabilities, as many disabilities do have some stigma attached to them. Every disability is different, and aren’t always visible. As for ‘anyone can be diagnosed’, I applied for accommodations for an upcoming LSAT date because I have a learning disability I’ve struggled with since childhood. When I sought accommodations in college, I had to see a psychologist who specializes in neuroscience and learning disabilities and do 6 hours of testing to prove my diagnosis, and it cost me nearly $1000 as it wasn’t covered by my insurance. I gave documentation that went back more than 3 years, and was granted extra time and a limited distraction room for multiple choice and writing sections. I understand people are worried about unfair advantage, but I think being strict is okay to be sure a diagnosis is legitimate. I couldn’t have faked my neuropsych testing results if I tried, and certainly not for 6 hours straight. I support stringent standards, which they have (they ask for documentation to prove through medical records and tests) in place already. I support that they made the process streamlined as in the forms are all available in one place & the expectation are made clear for what documentation is needed. The arbitrary time limits are already ‘unfair’ to anyone, as it’s been argued for years, but this stacks the odds unevenly against those with disabilities because it makes their ability to show how well they can do more difficult if not impossible. Moreover, while the extra time is controversial, there are also other accommodations people seek such as wheelchair accessible room, use of a reader, letting diabetics have insulin&snacks, extra breaks, and other things that vary based on the disability. In the past it was nearly impossible to get help even if you had decades of evidence & proof of past accommodations, and denials were unexplained. The whole point is to help those with actual disabilities seek what they need so they can succeed without discrimination. I think untimed could potentially help, but the LSAC seems very against the idea.

    Reply

      1. No problem. The last thing I wanted to say was I am really happy you posted these two podcasts. As someone going through this process, it was very helpful to me to hear someone else’s experiences & get more information about everything.

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  4. Hi,
    I came across this when trying to research how my accommodated test is scored since LSAC has stated that accommodated tests are not included in the curve.

    I am grateful that I was granted accommodations; however, let it be known that I submitted two separate tests done by two doctors 6 years apart at a cost of $4500. Nevertheless, I was actually denied the first time I applied for accommodations. It is not easy to get accommodations as noted above – these theses can not be faked. Also, since ADHD is easily corrected with medication, it typically takes something more such as slow processing speed, dyslexia or other issues – they’re often a package deal.

    That said, I do have some info that might help ease some minds of people who think accommodated tests give some a leg up.

    1. people who take the test with accommodations do not get added to the curve. So how do you think we get our score graded without out one? I can’t seem to find out. If you took as many practice tests as I did, you would have noticed that your raw score for test X may actually be higher than your raw score for test Y, yet test Y’s LSAT could be higher than test X’s LSAT (for example). In other words, without the bell curve, the difficulty of the test you just took is not considered. At least that’s what I’ve been able to surmise. If you took a bunch of practice tests you know they are not all created equally.

    2. People who take accommodated tests only get to see the score and nothing else – no scantron results (or whatever non-accom testers get to see). So after I studied 420 hours for the Feb test and got a score of 140 (with accommodations), I had no idea if I bombed a particular section, completely screwed up my answer sheet by missing a bubble, or something else. Knowing this would have helped me prepare for the June test. I just had to assume all of the above.

    3. If you have a learning disability, you are unlikely to have a stellar GPA, despite how hard you tried, unless you studied something easy and useless. LS do consider your major. To get into LS you’re going to need something else like a fantastic work history, major in something useful like a science, exc… So if you can’t get in, you wont muddy the waters of any LS.

    4. This part is just a guess, but I think the extra section is, at least in part, included to test endurance. A non-accm test takes ~3 hours while an accommodated test can take up to 4 hours, sometimes more if you can PROVE you need it. If testing endurance is a goal, LSAC has served the purpose in both cases, even more so for accommodated testers. Note: every practice test took that long too.

    I would rather not have a learning disability and gotten 35 minutes without having to pay $4500 and dealt with the red take of LSAC. Maybe then I could have sailed through my engineering degree with a fantastic GPA and not gotten a 140 after studying 420 hours. Instead I had to work 10 years in a top eng firm, overcome numerous obstacles to do it, and still there is no guarantee it will be enough to counter my GPA and LSAT. I don’t have my June test score yet but I put another 300 hours in and took 27 practice tests.

    Reply

    1. Hi Blake, thanks for listening. To answer your questions…

      1. They get your score the same way you do when you take old tests: They use the scaled score set by the other test-takers for that test.

      2. No one who takes the February LSAT gets to see their test or their score breakdown; they see only their final score. Let us know whether you see your breakdown for the June LSAT. I’m assuming that you will, even though you got accommodations.

      3. I think this prediction depends on the type of learning disability that someone has. I bet there are many disabilities that affect only how quickly you can think, which might not affect your GPA.

      4. I agree that even though test-takers with extended time don’t take an experimental section, they still spend more time taking the test. Four 53-minute sections is 212 minutes, while five 35-minute sections is 175 minutes. But I still think that most people would prefer the extra time, despite the extra endurance required. Also, I don’t think that the folks at LSAC are including the experimental to test our endurance, even though it does. I think that their only purpose is to pre-test future questions.

      I don’t doubt that most people would prefer to avoid learning disabilities. I think that our concern is that many test-takers with learning disabilities that don’t actually affect their ability to take the test will now be allowed to take it with extra time. Our concern is the ease of access.

      I’ll keep my fingers crossed for your June score!

      Reply

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