The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is required for most law schools in the United States and Canada. The test was created and managed by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). The goal of the test is to assess the skills necessary for success in the first year of law school. The test is difficult for most students but for those with a learning disability or mental health condition, it’s even more challenging and stressful.
In our practice, after the State Bar Exam, the LSAT is the second most common test that students request academic accommodations. Similar to any other standardized test, Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals are entitled to reasonable academic accommodations if they have a mental or physical disability.
The LSAT has a dedicated website that outlines its policy for accommodations for test-takers with disabilities. Their website is confusing and most students aren’t sure of the steps they have to take in order to get accommodations on the LSAT.
The goal of this article is to provide a summary of the LSAT’s policy regarding academic accommodations and the steps that applicants have to take in order to get accommodations.
How does the ADA apply to LSAT accommodations?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals are entitled to reasonable academic accommodations if they have a mental or physical disability. We have a detailed article on how the ADA applies to standardized tests.
According to the ADA, an individual with a disability is an individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. “Substantially limits” doesn’t mean that an individual is unable to perform an activity. The individual can still perform an activity but their performance needs to be compared to other individuals in the general population that don’t have that disability.
Reasonable accommodations are modifications to tasks or the environment so that an individual with a disability has an equal opportunity to fairly compete and participate in an academic program or job. Reasonable accommodations are changes that allow an individual with a disability to play on a level playing field with their peers and perform at their true potential.
What disabilities are covered under the ADA for academic accommodations?
The ADA covers a wide variety of mental and physical disabilities for accommodations on the LSAT. The most common conditions include:
- Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Psychological Conditions (e.g., Depression, Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), etc.…)
- Physical Disabilities
- Visual Disabilities
What are the documentation requirements for LSAT accommodations?
LSAT accommodations are granted because an individual has a disability that is preventing them from taking the exam in a standardized setting.
It’s up to the applicant to show objective evidence that their disability is substantially limiting a major life activity. In the case of the LSAT, that activity would be reading, concentrating, thinking, and writing.
Similar to the State Bar exam, the LSAT requires documentation and evidence of how a disability is causing a substantial limitation. If applying for accommodations due to a learning disability, ADHD, or a psychological condition, the LSAT generally requires a comprehensive evaluation by a psychologist or neuropsychologist.
It’s difficult to get accommodations if the evaluation does not thoroughly explain why the applicant has a disability, how that disability is impacting their abilities to take the test, and why accommodations would help the applicant. A letter or note is generally not sufficient to get approved for accommodations.
Applicants often want to know why they need cognitive and academic testing completed if they have a psychological disability (e.g., depression, anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD, etc.…), ADHD, or a learning disability.
The purpose of academic and cognitive testing isn’t just to provide a diagnosis. The goal is to objectively measure the impact of your symptoms on your cognitive and academic abilities in order to demonstrate a functional impairment.
Testing can help quantify their level of impairment (e.g., mild, moderate, or severe) which can help justify why they need reasonable accommodations (e.g. extra time or a private room) to play on a level playing field with their peers.
Automatic Approval Based on Prior Approval of LSAT Accommodations
Applicants are automatically approved to receive the same accommodations they previously were approved to receive on their last administration of the LSAT without having to submit a new request for accommodations.
LSAT Accommodation Request Based on Prior Accommodations on Certain Other Standardized Postsecondary Admission Tests
Applicants may eligible for LSAT accommodations based on their history of prior accommodations on certain other standardized postsecondary admission tests, as long as they meet all of the eligibility criteria. They have a list of approved tests that they will consider when deciding if you would qualify for accommodations.
These documentation requirements apply if the applicant isn’t requesting accommodations based on proof of approval to receive accommodations on the LSAT or certain other standardized postsecondary admission tests.
These other requests fall into three categories:
- Category #1 requests where the applicant is not requesting extended time
- Category #2 requests
- These requests are for those that don’t have a severe visual impairment and are requesting up to 50% extended time, or if they have a visual impairment that requires taking the test in an alternative format and they’re requesting up to 100% extra time.
- Category #3 requests
- If an applicant does not have a severe visual impairment and they’re requesting more than 50% extended time, or if they have a severe visual impairment that requires taking the test in an alternative format and they’re requesting more than 100% extended time.
Most applicants are going to fall into “Category 2”. It’s not unheard of to get more than 50% extended time on the LSAT but based on our experience, it’s not an accommodation that’s regularly granted. There needs to be objective evidence and rationale as to why an applicant would require more than 50% extended time.
What documentation do I need to submit for extended time on the LSAT?
All three requests require the same three forms to be completed.
The Candidate Form is completed by the applicant. The applicant has to indicate the accommodations they are requesting and why they need the accommodations. It’s important to make sure that you’re requesting the same accommodations that your psychologist is recommending in their report and paperwork.
The Qualified Professional Form is completed by the psychologist or doctor that completed your evaluation. They’ll document your diagnosis and the accommodations they’re recommending you receive on the LSAT. The psychologist or doctor will also provide an explanation regarding why the applicant needs accommodations and what accommodations they should be granted.
Both forms, along with the comprehensive report, are uploaded to the LSAC portal.
It’s very important to submit your requests with your supporting documentation by the registration deadline to be considered for academic accommodations. There aren’t any exceptions to their deadline.
They’ll get back to you within 14 business days after they receive your request. If they don’t approve part or all of your request, they’ll explain to you why it wasn’t approved.
You’ll have two business days to notify them that you plan on appealing and have four days to submit your request. They’ll let you know if your appeal was granted or rejected within one week.
A common concern that most applicants have is whether or not the law school they’ll be applying to will know if they had testing accommodations on the LSAT.
To put it simply, your law school won’t know that you had testing accommodations on the LSAT.
What kind of academic accommodations are available on the LSAT?
Under the ADA, you’re entitled to reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations are changes that allow an individual with a disability to play on a level playing field with their peers and perform at their true potential.
Standardized tests are designed to accurately assess an individual’s aptitude or achievement level on whatever skill the test is trying to measure. An individual can’t be given an accommodation that will impact the test’s ability to accurately measure their achievement or aptitude.
For ADHD the most common testing accommodations are:
- 50% extended time on all sections
- Private testing room
For psychiatric conditions (e.g., Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression, Panic Disorder, PTSD, etc.…), the most common testing accommodations are:
- 50% extended time on all sections
- Private testing room
- Stop/ Start breaks (as needed)
- Additional breaks between sections
For learning disabilities (e.g., Dyslexia and Dysgraphia), the most common testing accommodations are:
- 50% extended time on all sections
- The use of an electronic screen reader or a human reader
- Paper-and-Pencil format with large print
- Speech recognition software
- The use of a computer for the writing sample portion
What are the common reasons why LSAT accommodations requests are denied by LSAC?
Every applicant is fearful of having their request denied. Applicants can have their requests denied even though they have an evaluation from their psychologist or doctor stating that they have a disability and should be provided with testing accommodations.
The LSAT and the State Bar of California are notorious for denying applicants and have been sued several times for not granting reasonable accommodations.
- Evidence of the disability isn’t from a qualified professional who is licensed and possesses expertise in the disability for which modifications or accommodations are sought. In most cases, since the LSAT requires a comprehensive evaluation and testing, it would be a psychologist or neuropsychologist. Requests for physical health conditions should be made by your medical doctor.
- The evaluator didn’t administer the appropriate psychological, neuropsychological, or academic tests to assess the functional impairment caused by the applicant’s disability.
- The statement of need for accommodation doesn’t provide a reasonable explanation for why the applicant needs the testing accommodation to best ensure that the LSAT results accurately reflect the aptitude or achievement level of the applicant.
- The qualified professional evaluated the applicant for a cognitive disability more than 5 years before the request for accommodation was submitted, or they examined the candidate who is seeking accommodation for a non-cognitive disability before the age of 13.
- The accommodation request is for greater than 50% additional time (or 100% additional time for candidates with certain visual impairments) and the documentation doesn’t provide a rationale based on history and objective evidence, or the documentation doesn’t show that the request has been granted as a consistent accommodation and was approved by an appropriate professional.
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is required for most law schools in the United States and Canada. It’s challenging for applicants without disabilities and it can seem impossible to pass for applicants with disabilities.
Under the ADA, the LSAC is legally required to provide academic accommodations to applicants that have a qualifying diagnosis. The LSAT has a dedicated website that outlines its policy for accommodations for test-takers with disabilities.
If you want academic accommodations on the LSAT, you must have an evaluation completed by a licensed psychologist or neuropsychologist using objective tests that assess the functional impairments caused by your disability. Reasonable accommodations will allow you to play on a level playing field with other applicants and perform at your true potential.