The National Admissions Test for Law, or LNAT, can seem like a formidable hurdle for many students applying to read law at university; this is particularly the case when one considers the historically low average scores (usually around 50%) and the fact that many students do not know what to expect. However, like most admission tests, the LNAT is simply examining one’s ‘aptitude’ for law and is a test of skills you should have been cultivating in many subjects over the past few years; no prior knowledge is required.
Whilst some may find this proposition comforting, others may recognise that ‘no prior knowledge required’ is not quite the same as ‘no preparation is required’! Indeed, the LNAT requires confidence with a kind of analytical thinking, a strong attention to detail and various reading and writing skills that can be practised and honed in the lead up to the test-day.
The test itself is a computerised, 2 hour and 15 minute written exam with 2 sections:
- Section A comprises 12 passages and 42 multiple choice questions. You have 95 minutes to complete it using reading, comprehension and critical thinking skills. This works out at about 7-8 minutes per passage.
- Section B provides students with three potential essay questions. You have 40 minutes to select and respond to one of these with a logical and persuasive argument.
At a first glance, this seems relatively straight forward but in practice the test is still quite challenging. The best way to deal with this is to understand exactly what skills each section requires of you and, therefore, how to prepare.
LNAT Section A
This section aims to test your ability to comprehend, analyse and deduce information from arguments quickly; skills highly relevant to the study of law. In essence this means:
- Can you understand and identify the various components of arguments within the passages presented?
- Are you able to identify the relative strengths of arguments made?
- Can you use the given reasoning in a passage and apply it to new contexts consistently?
Students who perform well in this section prepare by:
A. Ensuring they have a strong understanding of critical thinking and the vocabulary associated with this.
For example, they can identify and evaluate the strengths of the various parts of an argument like assertions, assumptions, premises and conclusions. They can also evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these elements. They might practice applying these skills by reading non-fiction passages and thinking about the issues raised, the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments and any counter-arguments that could be raised.
Common pitfalls for students to avoid include both not reading the text closely enough (thereby missing important detail) and reading the text too closely (losing the overall gist of the argument). Additionally, students must avoid using outside or general knowledge to affect their answer to a question, rather than relying solely on the information in the passage.
B. Using practice papers to hone their exam technique.
Some papers can be found on the LNAT website, but purchasing a preparation book with sample tests enables one to do more. Students should decide whether it works best for them to read the passage or the questions first. Additionally, familiarity with common questions and the reasoning of their solutions will be useful. There are issues with working both too fast or too slow and so getting used to the optimal pace is a key part of preparing.
LNAT Section B
Students often panic at the prospect of having to write an essay without research or preparation but the key to remember is that it is all about constructing a persuasive and well-reasoned argument; technically, no background knowledge should be required to excel.
A surprising number of students lack the ability to do this, however, and so proper preparation will really help you to stand out in the admissions process. Tutors are looking for:
- Content: a relevant, focused and original response to one of the proposed titles.
- Structure: a well organised argument in which the paragraphs ‘flow’ logically and the reasoning is convincing.
- Writing: a high standard of written english with a focus on clarity and efficiency.
Therefore, to prepare, students should:
A. Practice selecting, understanding and responding to a range of essay titles.
This could be done in note form, perhaps using spider diagrams or bullet point lists. This will familiarise you with the kind of topics that you feel most knowledgeable about (and, therefore, which ones you might want to read up on). The best students will select a title on which they can talk reasonably knowledgeably and with an interesting or original perspective. This is benefitted by some up-to-date current affairs knowledge, so make sure to read around the subjects and take an interest in the news. However, do avoid listing all you know about a subject without having a clear perspective or argument. Additionally, do not ignore any obvious counter-arguments to your opinion; instead acknowledge and try to defeat them.
Another benefit of this kind of preparation is that it will expose you to a range of differently worded titles. It is often crucial to read the title carefully and explicitly interpret or define the ideas raised. This helps your essay to be focused and manageable in the 45 minute time-frame.
B. Learn to plan a good argument.
It is likely that you already know to how to plan a reasonable essay. One should always include an introduction to the topic, body paragraphs which set out the content of your essay and a conclusion to summarise. Additionally, each paragraph should follow a Point, Evidence, Analysis structure.
However, with respect to creating a logical and persuasive argument, it is the organisation of the paragraphs that can make or break the essay in the LNAT. Each one should ‘flow’ logically from the last, providing a road map that can be followed by your reader.
C. Practise writing up your plan within the time constraints.
The students who perform best in this regard write using concise, simple and clear language in order to communicate effectively. They avoid over-complex language, poor spelling and grammar.
LNAT Results and Resits
Once you have prepared for and taken the LNAT test, you will receive the results of your Section A performance by email. You will not receive a score for Section B. Both sections are used by Universities in a range of ways and so their relevance to your admissions offers will depend on where you are applying. If you do not achieve your desired result, you will need to wait until the next application cycle to retake the test.
Is the LNAT hard to pass?
There is no pass or fail mark in the LNAT. Whether your score is good enough to be accepted by any given university depends on a couple of factors, such as:
- How highly ranked or competitive the university is.
- How hard the test is that year and, consequently, how well the rest of the applicants do in comparison to you.
- How strong the rest of your UCAS application is. Stronger grades and a good personal statement may allow room for a weaker LNAT score in some cases.
The test is, however, generally considered difficult. It is nearly impossible to score full marks, with the average score somewhere around 19-23/42 each year.
What LNAT score do I need for Oxford Univesity?
The exact LNAT score you need to achieve for a place at Oxford University cannot be exactly predicted. What constitutes a ‘good’ score will depend on how competitive places that year are, how difficult the test was, and your performance relative to the average applicant. Lower scores may be acceptable within the context of an otherwise excellent UCAS application. Likewise, higher scores may not be enough to improve an otherwise weaker application.
However, by analysing the data regarding successful candidates from previous years, we can get a general sense of the range of scores an Oxford hopeful should be aiming for. This would appear to be around 27-29 out of 42, or around 5-10 points higher than the average each year. Try to aim for this in your practice papers if possible.
What LNAT score do I need for UCL?
The exact LNAT score you need to achieve for a place at UCL cannot be exactly predicted. What constitutes a ‘good’ score will depend on how competitive places that year are, how difficult the test was, and your performance relative to the average applicant. Lower scores may be acceptable within the context of an otherwise excellent UCAS application. Likewise, higher scores may not be enough to improve an otherwise weaker application.
However, by analysing the data regarding successful candidates from previous years, we can get a general sense of the range of scores a UCL hopeful should be aiming for. This would appear to be around 25-27 out of 42, or around 3-7 points higher than the average each year. Try to aim for this in your practice papers if possible.
What is the average LNAT score?
The average LNAT score changes year on year, depending on the difficulty of the test. It is generally between 19-23 out of 42, or around 50%.
What is in the LNAT test?
The LNAT test is a 2 hour 15 minute computerized test with two sections. Section A is a 95 minute, 12 passage comprehension test, assessing your comprehension and reasoning skills. Section B is a 40 minute unseen essay test, assessing your ability to form and communicate a persuasive argument.
The LNAT is not a test of knowledge; therefore, no specific content is guaranteed to be in it, nor should any specific knowledge be required to perform well. It will contain passages on a range of different topics (law, politics, media, philosophy, education, science, morality), but the answers to the questions will always relate to information given in the passages. No outside knowledge should be required. Instead, preparation should focus on honing skills relating to logic, argument and critical thinking.
That said, there is some knowledge that the LNAT expects you to have. You will need to know some terminology relating to critical thinking and argument structure (such as the proper definition of terms like ‘implication’, ‘assertion’, ‘inference’, ‘assumption’), as well as having a generally strong grasp of English vocabulary. Some background knowledge on the core topics mentioned above is also very helpful in ensuring you can answer one of the Section B essay titles confidently, and in such a way as to stand out from other candidates. You should, therefore, be up to date with current affairs and some academic discussion and debate in some of these fields.
How long should I study for LNAT?
The LNAT is not a test of knowledge, and so no studying is technically required at all. That said, it tests skills that absolutely can, and indeed should, be practiced comprehensively ahead of the test.
The best way to work out the right approach for yourself is to use one of the two official LNAT past papers on the LNAT consortium website (lnat.ac.uk). Take the test in timed conditions, using the test screen if you want to emulate the exact conditions perfectly. This could be done as early as a year out from your test but should be done no later than a month before it. Depending on how you score, and how this compares with the average score your chosen universities are looking for, you can then plan in a suitable frequency for practice tests up until test-day.
Is LNAT an online test?
The LNAT is taken in person at test centres around the country. You will book a slot that suits you during the relevant testing cycle (usually between early September and mid-January) and attend the centre closest to you.
The test itself is, however, taken on a computer. It is therefore good to familiarise yourself with the test software and screen. This can be done by accessing the test-simulator on the LNAT consortium website (lnat.ac.uk). You will usually be allowed some scrap paper or a whiteboard to make notes as you progress through the test, but you will not be allowed to underline or highlight the texts or questions you read.
Information regarding the cost of this test, and on access requirements, can be found at the LNAT consortium website (lnat.ac.uk).
Who uses the LNAT?
Admissions tutors at select universities use the LNAT scores of applicants as an additional method to assess applications. This is particularly useful for Law Admissions Tutors, as the degree is often competitive and the applicants often generally strong across the board. The score and essay produced by taking the LNAT is used slightly differently at every university that requires the LNAT, and so it should generally just be considered as an equally important aspect alongside the personal statement and predicted grades.
Not every university requires the LNAT as part of their application requirements. The exact list of universities that require the LNAT can change year on year. As such, it is always pertinent to check the LNAT consortium website (lnat.ac.uk) for the up-to-date list.
Which universities require LNAT?
Not every university requires the LNAT as part of their application requirements. The exact list of universities that require the LNAT can change year on year. As such, it is always pertinent to check the LNAT consortium website for the up-to-date list.
When should I take LNAT?
Students applying to LNAT universities to read law must take the test in the cycle that coincides with their UCAS application deadlines. This means that the test is generally taken between September to mid-January in the year before you would attend university. For Oxford candidates, this window is somewhat shorter (September to mid-October) as Oxford has an earlier UCAS deadline. It can only be taken once per cycle; if you miss the deadlines, or perform poorly this time around, you will have to wait until the following year to try again.
The exact dates of the testing cycle each year, including the dates for registering for the test, can be found on the LNAT consortium website.
What are the best ways to prepare for the LNAT?
There is no one approach that works for all students when it comes to preparing for the LNAT. The best approach is one based on your own past paper results and an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Use one of the two official LNAT past papers on the LNAT consortium website (lnat.ac.uk). Take the test in timed conditions, using the test screen if you want to emulate the exact conditions perfectly. This could be done as early as a year out from your test but should be done no later than a month before it. Depending on how you score, and how this compares with the average score your chosen universities are looking for, you can then plan in a suitable frequency for practice tests up until test-day.
In general, Section A is best prepared for by ensuring you have a strong understanding of critical thinking and the vocabulary associated with it and then consistently practicing these skills with past papers. Section B can be prepared for by writing practice essays and plans to a range of different titles from past papers. It can be difficult to assess your strengths and weaknesses in either section by yourself, so try to find materials that give exemplar essays and reasoning behind Section A answers. Alternatively, attend a course or hire a tutor to help you understand your performance and the areas for improvement.
Where can I find practice LNAT tests?
There are two official LNAT past paper tests available at the LNAT consortium website. These should be used sparingly, for two reasons:
- They are the best reproduction of what the test will be like. Other practice papers can differ in style and difficulty. Once used, you will not find them particularly useful to take again.
- They do provide any rationale behind why certain answers are correct or why others are wrong in the mark scheme. Therefore, they can provide you an excellent idea of your current level, but perhaps not an excellent idea of where you are going wrong.
As such, one sensible approach could be to use one of the papers early on to assess your general level, and again towards the test date to see if you are on track. In between these check-point tests, you will need to source other practice materials to help you prepare. You can do this by:
- Purchasing an LNAT preparation book (there are several well-recommended ones available wherever books are sold);
- Paying to attend an LNAT course (with providers offering both online and in-person courses, at a range of price points to suit most candidates); or
- Choosing to work with an LNAT tutor who can provide further materials and advice.
Please do get in touch with Keystone Tutors if you are looking for an LNAT tutor to further support your preparation for this test. Our tutors have extensive experience with the LNAT, both through having successfully sat the test and then gone on to tutor it.
Find out more about our LNAT tutors