LSAT Logic at LSAC | Secret PrepTests

LSAT Blog Logic LSAC Secret PrepTestsThis post is Part 6 of the "Secret PrepTests" series. The series starts with "The Case of the Secret LSAT PrepTests."

In this post, I discuss the Law School Admission Council's (LSAC's) response to LSAT Blog reader Polina's email. I find LSAC guilty of an LSAT-style logical fallacy. Hilarity ensues.

Polina wrote (abridged and slightly-edited below):
I am sending this email in regards to the fact there have been no recent books of 10 PrepTests. 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. 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, LSAT 39 has already become unavailable from Amazon."

An LSAC "Candidate Communication Analyst" responded:
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.

If this email is correct, I'm certainly glad to hear about the upcoming book of 10 exams.

However, the response to Polina contradicts the same analyst's email to me on 4/24/09:
There are no current plans to publish a new book of ten LSATs.

Either his 4/24 email to me was incorrect, his recent email to Polina was incorrect, or LSAC changed its policy sometime between then and now.

It also contradicts what an LSAC representative told me over the phone:
They [LSAC's Publications Department] have no plans to publish a follow-up book of 10 actual LSAT exams. It hasn't been discussed...They [PrepTests 39-42] were selling fine.

At the beginning of this blog post, I promised to demonstrate a logical fallacy in the LSAC analyst's argument. Did you find it? Scroll back up to his email and look again.


Ready? Okay. Here it is:

The LSAC analyst writes: "We remove some [PrepTests] from the list each year because very few people are interested in buying the older individual tests."

This is a logical fallacy worthy of inclusion in a future LSAT Logical Reasoning question. Since it's unlikely LSAC would ever write a question that points out a flaw in its own policies, I'll write the question stem and correct answer.

If the above quote from the email were the stimulus of the question, here's a potential question stem:

"The LSAC representative's argument is most vulnerable to criticism on which one of the following grounds?"

Correct answer: "It fails to consider the possibility that the high cost of older individually-sold PrepTests is the primary cause of the decrease in sales of these exams."

It's unlikely there's actually a lack of demand or interest in these exams, despite the analyst's suggestion. PrepTests 39-42 are certainly more relevant to LSAT preparation than the 3 books of 10 exams LSAC currently sells. Newer exams are more relevant because the exam changes over time.

So then why might PrepTests 39-42 sell less than the older books of 10? The decrease in sales is probably due to their higher cost. The analyst neglects to consider that the cost of the exams affects students' purchasing patterns.

Many students find the cost of purchasing all PrepTests from 39-56 @ $8/exam prohibitive. Instead of buying all 18 exams at $8/exam, they prioritize and choose not to buy the older exams out of the $8 ones.

If these exams were bundled into a book containing PrepTests 39-48 (or even 39-51 - do there always have to be 10 per book?), students would buy them.

If LSAC wants the books to only contain 10 exams each, it could pick 2 from 39-51 to make available for free download.

LSAC could then publish a book containing exams 52-61. The June 2007 LSAT, which comes between 51 and 52, is already a free download (PDF), so it wouldn't make sense to include it in the book of 10.

Question for LSAC: "Why should newer exams fade into obscurity and become difficult to obtain while LSAC continues to publish older (less relevant) exams?"

Furthermore, the analyst writes to Polina, "We will sell individual copies of unlisted PrepTests upon request."

LSAC's website contains no suggestion that exams 39-42 are available upon request. When I emailed to ask the analyst how students could obtain these exams, he simply stated that they were no longer being published. He did not say that it's still possible to purchase them.

Bottom line: While the analyst's email, if true, is certainly welcome news, it doesn't address the majority of concerns I raised in this series of posts.

Unless LSAC has conducted some survey of which I am unaware, many students preparing for the LSAT are interested in these exams. Either LSAC doesn't know you're interested, or it just doesn't care.

Whichever it is, let LSAC know that you want these exams to be easily available to the public.

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

As I said before, 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.

Photo by cesarastudilo

1 comment:

  1. another point to consider, in conjunction with the idea of a policy change between the two emails, is that as we're nearing closer to the june date more people might have been sending in similar emails to polina.

    i had a feeling i might need extra prep tests as well so i saved myself the trouble and purchased them back in february =/ it was a mighty chunk of my paycheck too!