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May 15, 2009

Suggestions for LSAC on Restructuring LSAT PrepTest Sales

This post is Part 5 of the "Secret PrepTests" series. The series starts with "The Case of the Secret LSAT PrepTests."

In this post, I discuss why and how LSAC should change its policies regarding student access to PrepTests.

LSAC earns $194 for each student who receives a full set of licensed exams from the prep companies, and all LSAC has to do is give prep companies the PDFs.

The prep companies pay all printing and distribution costs, but they get to market themselves as the exclusive providers of otherwise unavailable PrepTests.

Meanwhile, LSAC enjoys the $18 in profit for the online "ItemWise" Feb 1997 exam. I can't think of a good reason why this exam should be online-only or why it should cost $18. SuperPrep also contains LSAC explanations and costs about $18. However, it's an actual book, and it contains 3 exams.

For LSAC, it seems to be all about the passive income.

Given that most students probably wouldn't purchase $194 or $208 worth of exams on their own, it makes financial sense for LSAC to create scarcity. LSAC wants to give students an incentive to take a course and indirectly pay (through prep course fees) for $194 worth of exams.
Even if a student independently bought two $20 books and 10 individual exams at $8/exam, that's "only" $120, and Amazon and the printing companies get a sizable cut of that.

When LSAC has prep companies do the printing, that $194 is pure profit, baby.

This is a great business model for LSAC, which continues to earn money off these exams long after it has recouped the cost of writing them. However, LSAC is not a business - it's a nonprofit whose ostensible purpose is to serve the public interest, law school applicants, and law schools.

If the word "free" makes LSAC shudder, it should borrow the iTunes concept and let students download every PrepTest as a PDF from its website for a flat fee of 99 cents each. If 99 cents is too low, the least LSAC could do is match what it charges the prep companies. Either way, LSAC's sales of PrepTests would skyrocket, and it'd no longer have to give a cut to Amazon, bookstores, or printing companies.

Students wouldn't waste so much time searching online for PDFs and answer keys because it wouldn't be worth the trouble. The alternative, legally purchasing the exams through LSAC, would be easier and more appealing for students. Besides, these sales would be pure profit for LSAC.

LSAC is technically a nonprofit, but it sure doesn't act like one. Many LSAT-takers are college students or recent graduates (many of whom are unemployed). The cost of a prep course is prohibitive for many. (Courses are often unhelpful, aside from the PrepTests they provide. Please see the LSAT Blog Manifesto for my thoughts on courses.)

The cost of purchasing all past exams is prohibitive as well. Students tend to scrounge for the money, do without the exams, or turn to illegally downloading PDFs.

If LSAC wants to fight "piracy" of its PrepTests and end its discriminatory limits on access to them, it would do well to reconsider its policies.

***
Will there be a Part 6?

It's up to you. Enough of you are reading this that you can do something about it.

You can email LSAC at LSACInfo[at]LSAC[dot]org or call them at 215-968-1001 (then press 0).

Please be firm but polite. The people answering the emails and phones aren't evil, and they're not the ones making the decisions. Just ask the representatives to pass your feedback along to those who do make the decisions.

If LSAC contacts me with anything substantive, I'll publish it on the blog.

***

Update
: Read on for Part 6, "LSAT Logic at LSAC."



11 comments:

  1. I don't think you know what you are talking about... https://os.lsac.org/Release/Shop/Publications.aspx

    Students can purchase a book of 10 old LSAT exams for $20, direct from LSAC. That is a $2 per test cost (plus shipping).

    ReplyDelete
  2. It looks like you didn't read the other posts in this series. Please see Part 3 (Cost of PrepTests | Prep Course vs. Self-Study). I am aware of, and I do discuss, the books of 10 old exams.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great info- I have emailed LSAC, and I'll post the conversation when (and if) I receive a response.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What's wrong with non-profits charging as much as the market will bear and making mega profits? Being a non-profit is not the same thing as taking a vow of poverty or a vow of charity; even if some non-profits claim to be charitable. Non-profit status is nothing more than a tool for avoiding taxation. It's a euphemism designed to keep the public mollified in face of the fact that some legal persons make obscene amounts of money and pay no taxes.

    Is your problem with the profit, the lack of taxation or the fact that you were fooled by the euphemism?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes, some non-profits charge more than is necessary to perform their services. Some pay their executive directors $300,000/year or more. For these non-profits, one might say that the designation "non-profit" is nothing more than a tool or euphemism.

    However, LSAC isn't just any non-profit. It's a gatekeeper of the legal profession, and it's the sole authority over who has access to PrepTests. One could argue that these privileges should be accompanied by specific responsibilities.

    LSAC pays lip service to promoting the equality of opportunity (DiscoverLaw.org and the Pipeline Diversity Directory). For this reason, its practices are particularly disingenuous.

    For these reasons, it should be criticized and exposed for its actions, and it should be pressured to change its policies.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It would be simpler to dispense with non-profit status and make them pay taxes like everyone else. For profit corporate entities only pay taxes if they actually make a profit.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The LSAC would never sell pdfs to students for a small fee, since as soon as one person buys them, nobody at his college would ever buy them again.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I emailed LSAC here is the conversation:
    Me:
    Hello,
    I am sending this email in regards to the fact that their have been no recent books of 10 preptest published. I wanted to know if their was a reason for this? It is a common conception that LSAC is doing this to create scarcity and to benefit the prep companies rather than the students studying for the exams. As I hope this is not the case, I was looking for a different reason for this situation. If LSAC "is a nonprofit corporation whose goal is to provide the highest quality admission-related services for legal education institutions and their applicants throughout the world," why have some of the recent tests NECESSARY for study become either unavailable or significantly more expensive? There is an obvious demand for these tests, considering for example, that LSAT 39 has already become unavailable from Amazon (a known FASTER shipper, than LSAC). If you do not have the answer to these questions, I would appreciate it if you forward this along to someone who may. Thank you very much for your time.

    Regards,
    Polina


    Reply:


    Thank you for your question for the Law School Admission Council:



    We are planning a new book of ten PrepTests to be published in 2011, when we expect to have ten PrepTests with Comparative Reading items in them for inclusion in the new book.



    We remove some from the list each year because very few people are interested in buying the older individual tests. With all of the products we offer, there are nearly 50 PrepTests available, providing an abundance of practice opportunities. We will sell individual copies of unlisted PrepTests upon request.





    Sincerely,



    Milt Klopfer

    Candidate Communications Analyst

    Law School Admission Council

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for emailing LSAC, Polina!

    If Milt's email to you is true, I'm certainly glad to hear it. However, it still doesn't address the majority of concerns I raised in this series of posts.

    Additionally, his email contradicts my previous email conversations with him, as well as my phone conversations with an LSAC representative.

    Milt also exhibits a logical fallacy worthy of inclusion on a future LSAT question. See if you can spot it. I'll include a blog post about it this week.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Steve,

    Thank you for your hard work and diligence to bring change to a system motivated by the dollar and not by the achievement of others. I am new to this area of expertise but am looking to prep for the LSAT in the best possible way. I may not be bright enough for this test, but I think I could handle that news if it were honest.

    John

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for your thorough and passionate pursuit of this Preptest injustice. This really is your life, isn't it? We all reap the rewards. A genuine thank you for all that you do; know that us students truly appreciate it.

    Quinn

    ReplyDelete