Test day scenario: You are panicking because you bombed a logic games section on test day. All hope seems to be lost. Then, you open the last section of the exam, and, to your eternal delight, a second Logic Games section appears. Maybe you got lucky, and the section you bombed was the experimental section.
Is it possible to determine which section of the test was experimental and which one was graded?
The answer to this question used to be pretty straightforward, but recent changes to the LSAT testing format have muddied the waters. Advice and discussions you’ll find online are no longer relevant today.
Anything written about the LSAT experimental section before 2021 is outdated, so be sure to read this article carefully.
What is the LSAT Experimental Section?
The LSAT experimental section is an unscored section of the exam. An experimental section is included whenever the real LSAT is administered. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) uses the results of the experimental section to refine and revise questions for use on future exams.
The LSAT is a very carefully calibrated exam. Everything from the language on each question to the scoring scale must undergo real-world evaluation prior to being included on a real, graded section of the LSAT. The experimental section gives the test-makers a reliable and accurate way to assess potential questions for future test takers. The experimental section is the lab, and you are the guinea pig.
The Old LSAT Format (Before 2020)
Before the pandemic in 2020, 4 sections of the LSAT were real sections that counted toward your grade. One Reading Comprehension section, one Logic Games section, and two Logical Reasoning sections. A fifth, ungraded, experimental section was included as well.
The LSAT-FLEX Era (2020 through June 2021)
When the pandemic hit in 2020, they stopped offering the live, in-person exam. A new, online, remote proctored LSAT format was quickly developed to ensure an uninterrupted law school admissions test could be safely administered. The LSAT flex eliminated the second logical reasoning section. Mercifully, the Law School Admissions Council also temporarily did away with the experimental section altogether. This new “LSAT Flex” format, with no experimental section, was administered through June 2021.
The New Online LSAT (August 2021)
Beginning with the August 2021 exam, the new online LSAT format once again includes an experimental section. As the pandemic wore on and the need for a more permanent online LSAT became apparent, LSAC introduced the current version of the LSAT. In order to continue developing high-quality exams, they needed to reintroduce an experimental section.
Today, the current format of the LSAT includes only 3 real, graded sections:
- 1 Logic Games (LG) Section
- 1 Reading Comprehension (RC) Section
- 1 Logical Reasoning (LR) Section
- +1 Experimental Section (LR/RC/LG)
There is no longer a second graded Logical Reasoning section on this new version of the LSAT.
Which Section of the LSAT was Experimental?
How to Narrow Down Which Section of the LSAT Might Have Been The Experimental
However, this research wouldn’t work if test takers knew in advance which sections are scored and which section isn’t. Everyone would skip that section and rest. However, by the time you have finished the test, you can at least narrow it down, which may influence your decision whether to cancel or not.
The scored portion of the LSAT always consists of one logic games section, one reading comprehension section, and two logical reasoning sections. Therefore if you see two reading comp sections on the test, then you know that the experimental section was one of them. Similarly, if you have three logical reasoning sections, then the experimental was one of those.
Unfortunately, this is just not going to help you too much in deciding whether to keep or cancel your score.
But Someone Told Me You Can Tell Which Section is the Experimental!
That “someone” took the LSAT in a bygone era when it was often possible to tell. Formerly, the experimental was always in the first three sections of the test, so if you had a second reading comp section after the break, you knew that the first one you did was the experimental section.
Now the experimental section may be any section of the test. The test-makers may place it in the first three sections or the final two.
LSAC likely changed this because cheaters could look ahead in their test book and thereby sometimes tell which section was experimental. They then could do this section half-heartedly or even skip it altogether and have an advantage by being more rested for the scored sections. It would have been hard to nail them because such a cheater could claim to have guessed which section was experimental merely.
Some people claim to sense which section is experimental because ‘it just feels weird’ or it ‘contains strange questions.’ Do not try to do this as there is no way to do it reliably. If you are wrong, that’s obviously a total disaster.
Remember that when taking the test, the only sure strategy for doing well is to put your best effort into each and every section of the test.
Now for those of you who have read to the end, I should mention that there is one little remaining possibility for how to tell which section was experimental. If you go on the forums after the test, people may have identified which section is experimental by comparing questions a little. If someone reports having a certain question that others did not have, then the section containing that question was experimental.
So say there was a game about pumpkins on an LG section you had, and other people report not having a game about pumpkins, then that section was experimental.
HOWEVER, DON’T POST ANYTHING ON FORUMS ABOUT THE CONTENT OF QUESTIONS YOU HAD. Well, I don’t know anyone personally who hasn’t gotten in trouble for this. At least in theory, against the LSAC’s rules (why they care if people say they had a game about pumpkins is beyond me, but the prohibition is out there nonetheless, and you could get in trouble).
So if it really might influence your decision to cancel, I think it’s probably okay to lurk on the forums and try to figure out which section was experimental. I’m sure the LSAC will find a way to make this impossible soon too. It’d be nice if LSAC declared which one was experimental after the test, but, as I am sure we are all aware, LSAC is not our friend.