It’s no mystery that access is a major factor when it comes to leveling the playing field within education. Whether the resources plain aren’t there or exposure is limited because the resources are financially unobtainable, the gap between who has access and who doesn’t inevitably means there are less people pursuing higher levels of education than there actually could be. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and Khan Academy are trying to close the gap — in legal education, anyway — with a free test prep course to help aspiring law professionals get ready for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
Khan Academy Official LSAT Prep is the first totally free LSAT prep tool. It takes soon-to-be test takers through the various skills they’ll need to master if they hope to perform well on the law school entrance exam: analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension. To help boost confidence, there are practice questions from previous LSAT exams, timed practice tests, and a diagnosis of strengths and weaknesses so users can zero in on what they need to improve.
The platform went live this month after several months of testing with nearly 5,000 beta users who are registered for the June LSAT. One of the beta users was Camia Elzie, a rising senior at Georgia State University who plans to attend law school to become a civil rights attorney. In a press release announcing the launch of the free LSAT prep course, Elzie said the tool increased her confidence level. “There are explanations for every question. When I get something correct or incorrect, I know precisely why and can develop in that area.”
MORE ACCESSIBLE, MORE INCLUSIVE LEGAL EDUCATION
Although there is buzz that the LSAT is losing ground to the GRE — due to more law schools saying yes to accepting the GRE — this joint venture to offer free LSAT test prep doesn’t come as a surprise. Since assuming her post as president and CEO of LSAC a year ago, LSAC President and CEO Kellye Testy has been clear about her quest to make legal education more accessible and more inclusive.
“The big motivator here is access and leveling the playing field. We had become concerned students thought they had to pay for an expensive prep or course and for some students that’s just not feasible. I know it wasn’t feasible for me when I was entering law school.”
As far as the GRE is concerned, Testy says, “I think most schools looking to the GRE are doing it not in a replacement way, but in an additive way. I think most students applying to law school will take the LSAT. For schools looking to the GRE, that’s a very small pool because most still want you to take LSAT. It’s a critical tool.”
Testy also explains why LSAC was motivated to collaborate with Khan Academy, a nonprofit, global provider of free online education. “We approached Khan because we respect their mission of educating anyone, anywhere and their respect for education.”
In a video about the partnership, Khan Academy CEO Sal Khan said, “We’re excited about increasing the level of opportunity for aspiring law students.” Later in a press statement, Khan also states, “We’ve seen that free and personalized test prep that is widely available for everyone can have a profound and positive impact.”
While free of charge and instantly accessible at Khan Academy online, Testy says users shouldn’t expect a watered down, lackluster tool. As a long-time law professor and former dean of Seattle University School of Law and University of Washington School of Law, she says she’s impressed by the platform’s ability to prep students not just for the exam, but even their first year of law school.
“I’m delighted with the way it turned out,” says Testy of the platform that was jointly created by a team of LSAC and Khan collaborators. “I was a law professor for a long time and I was really impressed with how clearly they teach the skills of analysis and reasoning.”
“In addition, this idea that it enhances confidence and reduces anxiety is really important to me. Test anxiety can be an impediment especially for first generation professionals. Anything we can do to reduce that, we see it as another way to level the playing field and help all students thrive.”
THE TEST PREP MARKET RESPONDS
While great for test-takers, those in the test prep business are, naturally, not as thrilled with the new tool and its free-of-charge offering according to a recent article. They also say they expect the Khan Academy program to be a place where LSAT takers get their feet wet, but will likely function as a supplement to existing LSAT prep programs.
“There is no doubt that when this was announced, everybody was like, ‘Well, this could be a really big deal,’” Dave Killoran, chief executive officer of PowerScore Inc., said in the article. His company offers LSAT test prep for a fee. “I’d say that within the industry, there was a healthy amount of concern. Now that we’ve seen what it is, that concern has largely disappeared.”
In response, Testy says that she fully believes Khan Academy’s prep can serve as students’ only tool if that is their desire. She also notes that since the free test prep announcement, some of the existing for profit companies have approached LSAC and they’re now in talks to offer free courses of their own to students who get exam fee waivers from the council. “That would be great. Students will have the option of Khan and also the option of a fee waiver plus complementary course from some of the other companies,” Testy says.
Finally, Testy believes the partnership with Khan will help meet LSAC’s goal for getting people thinking about law at a young age. “Right now, Khan Academy has over 60 million students in over 190 countries,” she tells Tipping the Scales. “As young people are learning their algebra or studying for the SATs, they’re going to see that Khan also does law. Part of our mission is helping people realize at an early age that a legal career is possible and for them and aspire to it.”