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."