How To Get Accommodations on the LSATJun 01, 2021
By Jasmeene Burton-Martin, Brand Associate & Boot Camp Instructor, S. Montgomery Admissions Consulting
Anyone who has started studying for the LSAT knows how incredibly demanding the skills-based exam can be. You are only allotted 35 minutes to complete 25-27 difficult and peculiar questions on topics that are dense, uninteresting, and incredibly odd. You sit for two hours to repeat the process multiple times with barely any break between, constantly shifting between question types and passages with strangely worded phrases that are almost never used in common speech. The LSAT is designed to apply pressure to each test taker and to record your performance under these conditions, more or less giving schools an idea of your academic capabilities.
The bottom line?
There is very little room for error. In order to attempt every question, you must develop impeccable control over your timing and confident mastery over the content. In order to select answers accurately, you must craft a precise approach for each game, passage, and argument. You must cultivate laser-focus, never contemplating anything extraneous to the argument’s structure and reasoning.
More and more people are realizing that the LSAT’s difficulty stems beyond the test makers’ design. People of color and students from first-generation and low-income backgrounds are increasingly realizing that they are experiencing stress and testing anxiety. Not only this, but many are realizing that contrary to how they’ve been taught to cope, the experience of testing anxiety is not the norm. When I considered my own path through high school and college, I had assumed it was totally normal to feel increased stress and anxiety whenever it was time to take an exam or work on a huge paper. The day I realized that not everyone needed to take deep breaths during an exam was an eye-opener. It occurred to me that I was spending precious test time using coping exercises whereas my peers without test anxiety used 100% of their time to answer questions calmly.
The purpose of accommodations is to ensure that you can demonstrate your ability on the LSAT. That means that if you are using your time to manage your symptoms or circumstances, you get assistance to overcome those things. LSAC commonly gives accommodations for paper and modified versions of the test, extra time, reduced-distraction environments, breaks, assistive technology, and more, depending on the nature of your request. While these accommodations can be given for permanent disabilities, there are also accommodations that can be given for temporary circumstances, like having a broken arm or being in the final stages of pregnancy.
Applying for accommodations on the LSAT is straightforward, but requires careful planning to ensure you can utilize them successfully. If you are going to take the LSAT in less than two months, it is critical to submit your request for accommodations as soon as possible. It can take a long time for your request to be reviewed, so you want to be sure that you have enough time to practice with your accommodations and appeal your decision, if needed.
Requests for accommodations are typically approved in three ways:
- Automatic Approval Based on Prior Approval of LSAT Accommodations
This means that if you already applied for accommodations, you’ll be automatically approved for exactly the things you previously requested, nothing else required. If you are seeking new or different accommodations, you will need to reapply.
- LSAT Accommodation Request Based Solely on Prior Accommodations on Certain Other Standardized Postsecondary Admission Tests
This means that if you received accommodations on another standardized test, you can request the exact same accommodations and are likely to receive them if you meet certain eligibility requirements regarding the supporting documentation and nature of the request.
- Other Requests
Candidates who have never received any type of accommodation before on standardized tests or the LSAT will follow one of the following types of other requests:
Category 1: Accommodations not involving extended time
Category 2: Accommodations including up to 50% extended time for candidates without visual impairments or 100% extended time for candidates with visual impairments
Category 3: Accommodations including more than 50% extended time for candidates without visual impairments or more than 100% extended time for candidates with visual impairments
The majority of requests will fall under Category 2 requests. Regardless of the request category, the process to apply for accommodations is the same:
Step 1: Register for a test date
It is critical to sign up well in advance of a test’s registration deadline, since this is also the accommodations request deadline. LSAC will not process your application for accommodations until you are registered. Keep in mind, changing your test date will not not affect your accommodations request timeline. Dates and deadlines for upcoming LSAT administrations can be found here.
Step 2: Think about what accommodations you need for the exam
LSAC has a list of commonly requested accommodations which can help you identify what might be right for you. Reflect on your situation and consider what might be necessary to alleviate any issues that come from preexisting conditions. Most importantly, carefully consider why you are requesting each accommodation. Depending on the accommodations you request, you may need to gain additional documentation from a qualified professional or previous experiences with academic or testing accommodations.
Step 3: Speak to your doctor or therapist
Speak with a qualified professional that can speak to why accommodations are necessary in your situation. This is commonly a doctor or therapist that knows you well and can explain how each accommodation will mitigate factors inhibiting your testing performance. If you do not have an official diagnosis for a condition, but believe that you may be experiencing difficulty due to an underlying condition, speak candidly with your doctor or therapist about your experiences and ask whether the accommodations you are considering are appropriate.
Step 4: Gather your documentation
Everyone who requests accommodations must fill out the Candidate Form. This should be filled out by the person taking the test, but your doctor or therapist will likely be helpful in filling out portions of the form. If you received accommodations in school and/or on other standardized tests, you will need to provide supporting documentation. If you are requesting different accommodations than you previously received in school and/or on standardized tests, you must also submit the Statement of Need for Accommodation. If you have never received accommodations, you must submit the Evidence of Disability form, in addition to the previous two forms. This should be completed by both the test taker and the qualified professional.
Step 5: Finalize your request, submit, and wait
Be sure that you have each piece required for your category of request. All statements and documentation should be typed (though if you have supplementary evidence of your disability, neat handwritten script is acceptable). These documents will be uploaded via your LSAC portal under LSAT > Request Accommodations. Once you’ve submitted everything, all there’s left to do is wait! As I said earlier, the best thing you can do is submit as early as possible. Some people get approved in a few weeks, but others (myself included) have taken multiple months to receive their accommodations. If you’re ever unsure what your status is, don’t be afraid to email [email protected] or speak with an LSAC representative via phone.
Once LSAC has reviewed your file and rendered a decision, you will get an email saying that a decision letter has been posted to your LSAC page. If your request is approved, it is important to begin practicing with your accommodations as soon as possible, so that you are able to implement them on test day.
If your request is denied, you may consider appealing the decision, adding more robust documentation to support your request. However, you’ll have greater peace of mind if you take care early on to ensure you make the strongest case possible. LSAC provides information on why requests for accommodations are typically denied. Be sure to review this information to ensure that you are giving yourself the best chance of getting approved the first time around.
Jasmeene Burton-Martin is a rising 1L at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and serves as a Brand Associate and Boot Camp Instructor for S. Montgomery Admissions Consulting. As an LSAT tutor, Jasmeene is committed to uplifting the lives (and the scores) of first-generation students and applicants of color. A neurodiverse student herself, Jasmeene is passionate about helping future lawyers overcome their learning differences and challenges.
If you have questions about the application process and want dedicated guidance through the process, you can contact Sydney at [email protected].