Like virtually all standardized tests, the LSAT is broken up into discrete sections, covering specific material. There is a degree of redundancy built into the test; there are five individual examinations, plus a writing prompt given at the end of the regular exam, but the individual exams cover material in these areas:
Logical reasoning – Students are tested on the ability to evaluate, critically analyze and complete a number of arguments. Students must read a short passage, and then answer questions that require test-takers to demonstrate a logical and critical thought process. The questions can take the form of identifying the basic assumption of the argument, another possible conclusion, logical issues, parallel arguments, or possible supporting statements to strengthen or weaken the argument.
Analytical reasoning – Students are tested on the ability to examine a table or set of relationships between entities and draw logical conclusions about the relationships. This examination is designed to demonstrate the ability to logically analyze complex situations. Each question provides an initial condition, a set of rules, and a prompt to deduce a final condition or conditions based upon that information. Follow-up questions may modify the rules or initial conditions, requiring students to reorganize and deduce further information.
Reading comprehension – Students are tested on direct reading comprehension and inference based on the material. Each examination consists of several prose passages that can be taken from multiple disciplines, and are followed by questions on the passage or selected parts, requiring students to draw conclusions, understand the primary argument, locate specific information or comprehend the passage’s overall structure. Skills such as determining the main idea and understanding causal relationships are the examination’s main focus.
In addition to the regular examinations, there is also an unscored section, which is used to test potential future questions or new test forms. The section is not identified as unscored, and none of the questions within it are included in the student’s final score. The section can contain questions covering any of the regular skill areas.
Following the examinations, students are given a short written exercise which is not scored, but is included in students’ score reports. The prompt provides a problem for the student to examine and a pair of criteria that can be used to analyze the issue and come to a conclusion. The student must write an essay using one or the other criteria and defend their decision.