Not Nearly As Often As You Might Think 🙂
Every community of test-preppers has its own unique and cherished myths. For people applying to college, there’s the myth that the ACT is fundamentally different from the SAT. For people applying to business school, there’s the myth that every GMAT question immediately affects the difficulty of the next question. And so on.
For LSAT-takers, one of the big myths is the idea that the LSAT is constantly evolving.
So let me be very clear on this: The LSAT isn’t changing in any meaningful way. If it were changing, it wouldn’t be a standardized test; if it weren’t standardized, scores from different test dates couldn’t be compared reliably; if different scores couldn’t be compared reliably, then there would be no reason for the test at all.
I’ll say it again: The LSAT is not constantly evolving.
Don’t get me wrong–the test has changed at certain specific moments in its history, like any other standardized test. The last superficial change was in 2007; the last meaningful change was in the early 1990s.
But that’s it.
So where does the idea that the LSAT is always in flux come from?
Perversely enough, it originates from the fact that most test prep companies were wrong about how to handle the “logic games” on the test from the very beginning. Their fundamental misunderstanding of the logic games continues to have a disastrous effect on LSAT-takers even right up to this very minute, in fact.
All the big prep companies teach you to attack logic games on the LSAT by memorizing the specific ‘types’ that these games can have, and by memorizing a specific approach for each specific type. In the beginning, the types had names like “grouping,” “ordering,” and so on.
Then the games seemed to evolve. Testing companies reacted to this apparent evolution by re-classifying the “new” games, describing some of the new types as hybrids or mutations of the earlier types.
Today, the so-called game “types” might have names like “grouping/splitting,” “sequential,” “basic linear,” “pattern/grouping/matching,” “triple secret scorpion maneuver,” and so on (I made the last one up, but you’d almost never know it . . .).
Everybody classifies the games slightly differently, but you get the idea.
But here’s the thing: The LSAT games weren’t actually changing this whole time. They’ve always done the same important things they always did, relative to the design of the test. They’ve only seemed to change because the test prep companies totally misunderstood their purpose in the beginning, and were tracking superficial aspects of the games that weren’t actually important.
The LSAC never wanted you to beat the logic games by memorizing lists of types and then just spitting back a formulaic solution, so it never bothered to develop the games as types in the first place, which is why the types seem different on each new test.
What the LSAC wanted you to do was read the games carefully and think in terms of rules and variables, which is why every single real LSAT logic game has always involved rules, variables, and careful reading.
In other words, the test was never standardized for supposed “game types.” It was standardized for something else completely. If test prep companies had understood that from the very beginning, they could have saved you from all this nonsense about evolving games and an evolving LSAT. But they didn’t.
Meaningful changes to standardized tests are accompanied by announcements from the testing companies and statements from schools about how they’ll treat the new test data. You’ll notice that such statements haven’t been made about the LSAT for quite a long time. Even the minor change in 2007, which involved the addition of comparative reading questions, was a non-event. Because the change was cosmetic, law schools went right on comparing the scores from 2008 with the scores from 2006.
So remember, no matter what you read from some anonymous tipster on a forum for anonymous future lawyers: The LSAT doesn’t change a little bit every year. It isn’t changing at all, unless you go to www.LSAC.org and see a prominent headline talking about upcoming changes to the LSAT. Even then, you’d have months and months to find out about it and prepare.
So don’t worry 🙂 Those practice tests from 2001 are still worth using if you feel like it.