LSAT May Be Computerized

Status: 
Archived
Subject: 
University Testing

The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) has begun a five-year effort to investigate the possibility of administering its Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) by computer. By the turn of the century, LSAC expects to have a prototype of the new form of the exam available for widespread testing.

According to the LSAT Computerized Assessment Research Agenda, LSAC staff and consultants will attempt to develop and implement a computerized exam that is secure, efficient, reliable, valid, and above all, fair. The research design uses cautious terms to describe the project, noting that while computerization holds great promise, this technology is not the answer to all testing problems and may generate considerably more questions and issues than originally anticipated.

LSAC promises that it will address many of the questions raised by FairTest and other critics, which were generally ignored by the Educational Testing Service in its rush to computerize the Graduate Record Exam (see Examiner, Fall 1992). These include equity issues such as the fact that minorities, women and low-income students generally have less experience with computers than their white and male counterparts, a fact that could compound racial and gender gaps which already appear on the test. Men now score higher than women on the test, despite the fact that females earn higher undergraduate grades, and Caucasians have higher average scores than any other racial/ethnic group, according to recent LSAT data (see Examiner, Fall 1994).

Other concerns to be addressed in the study include how the new exam could comply with truth-in-testing requirements for periodic item disclosure and whether it could be beaten through coaching techniques. Failure to analyze these questions in the computerization of the GRE resulted in a scandal when a test preparation company admitted that it had obtained a nearly complete copy of test items that were repeatedly being administered (see Examiner, Winter 1994-95). LSAC says it will also examine the potential of including non-multiple-choice item types in a revised exam.

Unfortunately, the LSAC's research design ignores several larger questions which transcend technology. Is any LSAT, either computerized or pencil-and-paper, necessary for the law school admissions process? Can a primarily multiple-choice exam provide a fair and accurate measure of the preparation of an increasingly diverse undergraduate population for a multi-faceted discipline such as law? And, most importantly, how does putting a flawed exam into a different format transform it into a better assessment instrument?

See our fact sheet, Computerized Testing: More Questions Than Answers.