For years, eager law students have kept their lead pencils well sharpened for the LSATs. Like a rite of passage, wooden No. 2s with good erasers were the tool that test-takers wielded. While pencils are still an option, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) is making the transition to a digital testing format beginning with the July 2019 test.
To get the scoop about pencils and other materials admissible by LSAC for LSAT, I visited the LSAC website. Surprisingly, this warning was listed as one of the LSAT Test Center Rules:
No Electronic Devices
Test takers are not permitted to have any electronic devices in their possession at the test center from the time of their arrival until the conclusion of the test, including the break. A test taker found in possession of an electronic device will be issued an LSAC Violation Notice and will be immediately dismissed from the test center. Such violations are grounds for score cancellation, and test takers who receive a violation notice may be subject to an LSAC Investigation by the Questioned Score Review Board, the Misconduct and Irregularities in the Admission Process Subcommittee, or both.
The prohibited devices include:
- cell phones, beepers, pagers, personal digital assistants (PDAs)
- digital, smart, alarm, beeping, and/or calculator watches
- electronic timers of any kind
- fitness tracking devices
- personal computers
- photographic or recording devices
- listening devices
- headsets, iPods, or other media players
- electronic cigarettes
I understand cell phones, fitness trackers … really everything except for tablets. After all, this is exactly the piece of digital hardware that the LSAC has chosen for near-future LSAT candidates to use to complete the exam. The decision to go digital isn’t just a bunch of talk, either. LSAC is really going to do it, apparent by its recent announcement to use thousands of Microsoft Surface Go tablets.
On the surface (no pun intended), the decision to go with the Microsoft tablets might seem a little mainstream as a way to administer the LSAT exam, but LSAC and Microsoft are working together to include special test-taking features. The tablets will come loaded with patented software. A timer, highlighting, and flagging, for example, are helpful additions. Additionally, the digital format enables faster reporting of scores. Security features are built-in, as well, to ensure the integrity of the exam process and protection of the test results.
“Legal education and the legal profession need to keep pace with technological advancements,” says Kellye Testy, president and CEO of LSAC. “With the breadth of their solutions and their commitment to privacy, security, accessibility, and inclusion, Microsoft will be a tremendous help to the legal education community as we navigate these accelerating changes.”
The Microsoft Surface Go tablets will get quite a workout next year, as the LSAC reports that it has more than doubled the number of test administrations it will offer in the 2019-2020 cycle, compared to the 2017-2018 cycle. However, to ensure that there is no statistical advantage between pencil and digital formats, some test takers starting in July 2019 will be assigned pencil-and-paper tests and some will be assigned digital tests.