The Law School Admissions Test or, “LSAT”, is the standardized test thought to assess the intellectual and academic skills that are necessary to attain your Juris Doctorate (“JD”) and, hopefully, work as an attorney. The LSAT is vital in determining the tier of law school to which you are admitted. The LSAT is comprised of five multiple choice sections and one writing section. The 5 multiple choice sections are logical reasoning (2 sections), reading comprehension, and logic games (plus one experimental section). Each section is 35 minutes and the test takes approximately half a day to administer. For a more in-depth review of the LSAT check out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_School_Admission_Test
The LSAT is not intended to measure a student’s knowledge base about the law. Its intended use is to measure one’s cognitive reasoning skills. These skills involve mental functions like working memory, problem solving under timed conditions, mathematical/analytical reasoning skills, visual processing and reading speed, verbal abstraction abilities, mental planning and organization skills, and writing skills. Obviously, those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, will struggle with this test. Likewise, individuals Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may struggle with aspects of the LSAT. According to a study of LSAT administrations by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), ADHD constituted 33% of the 7,709 approved accommodations followed by Learning Disorder (24%), Neurological Impairment and Visual Impairment (both 10%), Physical Disability (9%), Psychological Disability (8%), Other/Medical (5%), and Hearing Impairment (1%). Why should these conditions be accommodated? Because if someone has a condition that interferes with reading speed, for instance, then their assessment of reading comprehension has in a sense been contaminated. The question is, would this person with ADHD, had they been able to read faster, done significantly better on the test of reading comprehension? Perhaps so. To aid the person with ADHD the United States Government provides guidelines for accommodating “disabled” students. For more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act and its guidelines please visit http://www.apa.org/pi/disability/dart/legal/ada-basics.aspx.
So how does all this pertain to ADHD? Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a diagnosable mental condition that is typically diagnosed by psychologists and psychiatrists in accord with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. According to the DSM-5, ADHD is a syndrome involving impairments in areas of attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Because cases of ADHD can vary, ADHD is sub-typed into a Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation, a Combined Presentation, and an Unspecified Presentation. Depending on a given person, they may present with a number of symptoms including forgetfulness, poor organization, zoning out, daydreaming, restlessness, the inability to concentrate for long periods, a low frustration threshold, and a hasty and haphazard academic working style where they are not mindful to details. If you simply review this list, then it becomes clear why ADHD can have a devastating impact on academic functioning. The negative impact of ADHD on testing occurs because of effects on visual attention, time awareness, speed of mental processing, and because of anxiety over poor test performance. In fact, in an article published in the August 2014 Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment 32(6):548-557 it was found that students diagnosed with ADHD had statistically higher levels of test anxiety than those without ADHD. Fortunately, accommodations help. The LSAC reported that for 90% of the 20 LSAT administrations in this study, the Accommodated/Extra Time subgroup had higher average LSAT scores than the Non-accommodated group. Findings such as these continue to justify the need for LSAT academic accommodations for students with ADHD.