Breaking Down the LSAT vs Bar: What You Need to Know


For aspiring lawyers, the LSAT and Bar exam are two critical hurdles on the path to practicing law. These high-stakes tests carry immense weight, yet they assess different skill sets and abilities. This article will answer the question, “Is the Bar harder than the LSAT?” and explore the key distinctions between the LSAT and Bar.

Desks with Exam Papers on Top- LSAT vs Bar

Quick Rundown of The LSAT vs Bar

LSAT Bar Exam
Purpose Pre-admission test for law school Licensing exam after law school
Focus Critical thinking, reasoning, and writing Competency in state-specific legal matters
Content No prior legal knowledge is required. State-specific portion + MBE (universal legal principles)
Scoring Scale of 120 to 180 Pass/Fail
Duration Shorter (35-minute per LSAT section) Varies by state (up to 18 hours)

Differences Between Law School Exam and Bar Exam

Our previous articles discussed the differences between LSAT vs GRE and LSAT vs MCAT. This time, we will discuss another comparison—LSAT vs Bar Exam.

The LSAT is your gateway to law school. Thus, it seeks to determine whether you have enough critical thinking, reading, and writing ability. It is intended to measure your basic skills and determine whether you possess essential abilities for law school.

Conversely, the Bar exam is taken at the culmination of your study at the law school and opens the way to practice law in some jurisdictions. It assesses how prepared you are in applying legal principles and professional practice.

The question “Is the LSAT the same as the Bar exam?” can be summed up in the assertion that they are different. The former measures potential for studying law, and the latter measures readiness to practice law.

Each test presents its unique set of challenges, with differences in format, focus, and the skills they assess. While debates about which test is more challenging persist, such comparisons are more complex due to their distinct objectives. The best approach is to understand each exam’s requirements, prepare diligently, and aim to excel in both to achieve your goal of becoming a lawyer.

Is the Bar Exam Harder Than the LSAT: Content and Structure

To better understand whether the LSAT or bar exam is more difficult, it is essential to examine the key differences in their content and structure.

LSAT Content

The LSAT is designed to assess key skills that are essential for success in law school, focusing primarily on:

  • Logical Reasoning: This section asks you to point out assumptions, judge arguments, and draw conclusions. When removed, the analytical reasoning section will be replaced with more logical reasoning added specifically to further test these skills.

  • Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games): This area will be phased out with tests starting in August 2024. Until then, this section measures your ability to understand relationships in a situation and draw inductive or deductive inferences.

  • Reading Comprehension: This section measures your reading and analytical abilities using complex, dense texts. It assesses your capacity to draw main ideas, make determinations on details in question, and understand the structure and function of passages that imitate difficult material.

  • LSAT Writing: The LSAT writing is separate from the multiple-choice part, and students must answer a single writing question. This tests how well you can make a strong case and gets you ready for the kind of writing you’ll need to do in law school.

Mastering the different questions involves consistent practice and a strategic approach for every section. Whether you take an LSAT Prep Course in New York City or an LSAT Prep Course in Washington DC, our prep courses provide the structure and analysis needed to master the ability to effectively take on the unique challenges represented by the different question formats of the LSAT.

Bar Exam Content

The bar exam is meant to cover many different topics, and it is a test for one to know if a candidate is ready to practice law. The subjects include:

  • Multistate Bar Examination (MBE): This examination tests the applicant on basic law in core legal subjects with standardized multiple-choice questions. It covers general topics such as contract law, tort law, real property law, including real estate and estates, criminal law and procedure, civil procedure, and evidence.

  • Multistate Essay Examination (MEE): This is written to test an applicant’s written legal communication and analytic skills through the following essay questions, which require applying legal principles to fact situations. The candidate will be required to prove his capability to spot legal issues, analyze the decided case law in that regard, and formulate a well-supported legal proposition.

  • Multistate Performance Test (MPT): The candidates will be given a fact pattern and asked to answer the questions with legal documents. The second part of the test will require them to draft a legal memorandum, write a client letter, or produce some other legal document appropriate to the information provided.

Can you take the bar without going to law school? Some states allow sitting for the bar examination even if one has not done law school. However, most people attend law school because it offers the knowledge required to pass the bar examination.

Timeline and Preparation Difference Between The LSAT and Bar

When comparing the bar vs the LSAT preparation processes, the key difference is skills development over time for the LSAT versus last-minute comprehensive content mastery for the bar. 

Most students start their LSAT prep six months to a year from their scheduled LSAT test date. This gives the student lots of time to work through practice materials, take full-length practice tests, and develop skills in areas like logical reasoning and reading comprehension long before test day. The LSAT also offers LSAC Accommodations, such as extended time for those who qualify and an LSAC Fee Waiver program, to ease financial burdens.

In contrast, the bar exam prep timeline is drastically compressed. After completing three years of law school, most students start intensive full-time bar preparation around 10-12 weeks before the exam date. This involves studying for 8-10 hours daily to review all the comprehensively tested legal subjects. Both are formidable challenges, but the compressed timeline makes bar preparation more of an endurance test for many.

Man looking through documents while using a laptop

The LSAT or Bar Exam Scoring and Implications

The bar and the LSAT exam have different scoring systems. The LSAT scores range between 120 and 180. Having a high LSAT score improves admission prospects to some of the top programs. 

Indeed, the LSAT is a crucial component of your application. However, alongside essays, recommendations, undergraduate GPA, and other elements, it collectively contributes to a thorough evaluation of each applicant’s candidacy. Considering an LSAT Prep Course in Chicago or an LSAT Prep Course in Boston can help ensure you leave no stone unturned in maximizing your potential.

On the other hand, the bar exam is a pass/fail examination, with every state having a set score point that one needs to meet before admitting the student to practice. For most states, it is around 135 out of 200. Failure to meet the cut-off implies that you are able to practice law once you retake and pass the exam in that jurisdiction.

Bar exam scoring also factors into bar admission character and fitness evaluations. Your score impacts your ability to be licensed as an attorney and can affect employment prospects, especially for competitive roles. Scoring well is imperative since failing impacts one’s legal career.

LSAT vs Bar Duration

The multiple-choice component of the LSAT is a standardized half-day test that takes roughly three hours. Test takers also complete a 35-minute writing sample separately, which they then send to law schools. While the time constraint adds pressure, the LSAT’s relatively short duration allows candidates to maintain focus and endurance. Proper pacing strategies are important, but the condensed LSAT timeframe is manageable with adequate preparation, such as an LSAT Prep Course in Dallas Fort Worth.

In contrast, the bar exam is a grueling multi-day marathon. Examinees face 12+ hours of testing over two to three days, depending on the state’s format. Day one typically includes six hours of the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) multiple-choice questions. Subsequent days bring additional multiple-choice tests, performance tests requiring written responses, and essay portions that span half a day or more each. The sheer duration of the bar exam is incredibly mentally and physically draining.

Is the LSAT harder than the bar? If the LSAT is a sprint, the bar exam is undoubtedly an excruciating multi-day event that pushes examinees to their limits.

Get Accepted to Your Dream School with Efficient LSAT Prep

The Law School Admission Test is designed to assess what might be expected of you as to potential success within the fairly demanding academic setting. Your performance in this examination sets a benchmark against which the admissions committee looks at your application. A good LSAT score can help you secure admission into your chosen law school and also open doors for eminent scholarships.

Odyssey Test Prep has all you need to reach that desired LSAT score through a customizable prep program designed and executed to perfection based on your unique needs and style of learning.

LSAT Prep Course

Ace the LSAT and pave your way to law school excellence with our dynamic prep course. We target the needs that you might have by covering every single section and offering a complete and comprehensive strategy and practice for the LSAT. Choose from various course formats: live online, in-person, or self-paced to fit your schedule.

LSAT Tutoring 

Elevate your LSAT game with personalized tutoring – let our seasoned mentors empower you to surpass your goals and conquer the test. Work one-on-one with a dedicated LSAT tutor who customizes instruction based on your strengths and areas to improve. No matter your starting point, following individualized strategies with regular feedback will keep your LSAT progress on track.

Law School Admissions Consulting 

Forge a path to your dream law school with our strategic consulting – your personalized blueprint to conquer the admissions process. Our consulting services reach far beyond the LSAT. We promise a service to guide you through the whole law school application process. We have you covered on anything else you will need, from writing a standout personal statement to preparing for your interviews.

Wrapping It Up

After knowing the importance and difference between the LSAT vs Bar, focusing your energy on LSAT prep now can unlock the door to your legal career. The bar exam is the final hurdle to becoming a practicing lawyer, and the LSAT is your key to entering law school and acquiring the knowledge and skills tested on the bar. 

While the LSAT and bar exam present distinct challenges along the journey to becoming a licensed attorney, they share one commonality – the necessity for comprehensive preparation. Our LSAT Free Class offers a glimpse into our effective teaching methodologies and personalized approach.

Throughout this engaging session, you’ll experience firsthand how we break down complex concepts into manageable steps, equipping you with valuable strategies to tackle even the most daunting LSAT questions.

Sign up for our FREE 3-Week LSAT Class trial now! Click here to register