For about half of all law school hopefuls taking the Law School Admissions Test in July, the established law school entrance exam looked a little different. Instead of the traditional paper and pencil waiting for them at their desks, aspiring lawyers were instead given tablets. All of those logic questions and reading passages that are supposed to be indicative of a successful law career were now backlit by a bright white screen.
“Paper and pencil kind of has an antiquated feel about it. I mean, it'd be kinda like sending stuff via regular mail,” said Troy Lowry, the Law School Admissions Council’s senior vice president of technology products.
The LSAC, the creator and administer of the LSAT, will officially change the test to digital format on tablets for all test-takers by Sept. 21. The switch to tablets will more than double the available testing dates from four to nine and add new features that will improve the accessibility of the test, Lowry said.
Veteran Kaplan LSAT coach and University of Oregon grad Glen Stohr wrote the book “The Digital LSAT: What You Need to Know.” In the book, he details all of the new features available on the tablets that can help test takers. These features include highlighters, a button to flag questions to go back to and a feature that will cross off wrong answers utilizing the “process of elimination” strategy that Stohr swears by.
For students that have already been studying using paper and pencil, Stohr said that it is “really important to note” that none of the content for the test will be changing and any form of studying is still good; however, Stohr did say that it is “really essential that before the test you practice in the new digital format.”
The new digital version of the LSAT was developed by Lowry and his team with attention to detail. The tablet used for the test, Microsoft’s Surface Go, was chosen personally by Lowry after testing hundreds of tablets.
“I know this is kind of silly, but there’s this amazing kickstand that allows you to put it at whatever angle,” Lowry said. “And I mean it's a really top-notch kickstand which helps mitigate glare and make things easier for people, and it also has a longer lifespan than any of the others we looked at.”
Choosing the Surface Go put LSAC and Microsoft into what Lowry calls a “close business relationship” and makes LSAC the largest single purchaser of the Surface Go — the company owns “tens of thousands” of the tablet, Lowry said. Every test room has a tablet for each test taker, as well as spares.
The tablet and its features for test takers were all selected with disabilities and different learning styles in mind. The team worked with Microsoft’s accessibility team, as well as other organizations, to make sure they were keeping everyone in mind when developing the test.
“We really care. We want this to be the most accessible product, the gold standard for accessibility,” Lowry said.
Stohr said that most of his students had a positive experience with the new test in July but that “there were a few incidents” like students showing up to a test site and the tablets were low battery. But Stohr said those types of issues were minimal and the LSAC said 99.3% of testers were able to successfully take LSAT.
Correction on Monday, Sept. 23: A previous version of this article misspelled Law School Admissions Council Senior VP Troy Lowry's name.