Facing COVID-19 challenges, the LSAT goes remote: A home test is being held this week and in June

Floods, they've dealt with. Hurricanes, too. Earthquakes, wild fires and blizzards, as well. All such disasters forced administrators of the LSAT to make adjustments on the fly.

But now comes COVID-19, which caused the cancellation of the March test and has put future tests in jeopardy. 

“This is unprecedented,” said Kellye Testy, president and CEO of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which administers the all-important test that most prospective law school students take.

However, LSAC has come up with a solution — at least temporarily. It's created an at-home test called the LSAT-Flex

It will be administered this week for those test-takers who signed up for the April test, as well as those affected by the March cancellation. And LSAC recently announced the June test will be held remotedly as well, during the week of the 14th.

The next test date after that is July 13. 

"We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic closely and will make other LSAT-Flex test dates available this spring and summer if the situation warrant," LSAC said in a statement. "We plan to resume the in-person LSAT once conditions allow, in strict accordance with public health authorities and using all necessary health and safety measures."

Nearly 10,000 people signed up for the March test, but only 470 were planning to apply to law school in the fall. Others were re-taking the test or planning to apply later. The spring tests don’t attract as many test-takers as tests held later in the summer and fall, which made the impact minimal … so far.

The LSAT moved to a digital format last year, after decades of the test being done by paper and pencil. The move was done for a number of reasons. It’s easier to administer in that form and allows for students to see their scores more quickly And now the transition could salvage the test.

“It enables us to have an option we wouldn’t have had,” Testy noted.

Those taking the test need a laptop or desktop computer with a Windows or Mac operating system. 

Security is a big concern, given the stakes involved with the test. Score highly and you improve your chances to go a better law school as well as get scholarship money.

However, a number of steps are being taken to ensure security, LSAC noted. 

"All LSAT-Flex test takers will be monitored by live remote proctors via the camera and microphone in the test takers’ computers," LSAC notes. "The video and audio feed will be recorded, and further reviewed by human reviewers and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques.

So should test-takers who qualify take it? Jeff Thomas, executive director of admissions programs, Kaplan Test Prep, says they should, particularly if they plan to apply for enrollment for the 2020 fall semester. 

He applauds the innovation, saying it makes "an uncertain and stressful situation a lot more manageable."

Thomas expects the pandemic will likey affect future tests, too. "The good news is that the format of LSAT-Flex is the same as LSAC's new digital practice tool, so this will not be in a format with which students are unfamiliar."

The GRE has moved to go remote, as well. The organization behind that test ETS, is also doing so in wake of the coronavirus outbreak. A growing number of law schools now take the GRE in lieu of the LSAT. They’ve been doing so to attract students who are majoring in math, science and engineering.

“The test is identical in content, format and on-screen experience to the GRE General Test taken at a test center,” ETS notes on its website.

It has security measures too. Test-takers are monitored by a proctor during the entire test. And the test is recorded as well.

Several thousand have already registered for the at-home GRE, the company said.