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Khan Academy's Free, Online LSAT Prep Proves Popular With Test Takers

Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy. Courtesy photo.

It turns out you can’t beat free.

More than 40,000 people each month are using Khan Academy’s new free, online Law School Admission Test prep program, according to figures released Wednesday by the Law School Admission Council and Khan Academy. That’s a healthy chunk of the roughly 100,000 people who sit for the entrance exam annually.

The council and Khan Academy jointly launched the program in June with a goal of making LSAT test prep more affordable and reaching a wider array of prospective law students. The groups say the early results indicate the program is hitting those targets.

As survey of those who took the LSAT for the first time in November revealed that more than half of African-American test takers—52 percent—reported using the Khan Academy prep program. Among Hispanics, 41 used the program. And 38 percent of Asians used the program to prepare, as did 46 percent of women. Forty-seven percent of Puerto Rican LSAT takers also used Khan Academy.

Among white test takers, 43 percent studied on Khan Academy. That figure was 41 percent for men.

“Our long-standing commitment to equity motivated us to help level the playing field by creating wide access to a top-notch program that develops the critical thinking skills required for success in law school and a wide range of careers,” said council president Kellye Testy. “We are excited that so many students are taking advantage of the free tools that LSAC and Khan Academy are offering together. Increasing opportunity for all students will, over time, ensure that our legal system truly reflects the diverse needs of society.”

Traditional LSAT programs can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to $2,000 or more, meaning they are out of reach for some test takers. The program has proven popular with LSAT takers who have educational debt from their undergraduate degrees. Among those who took the LSAT for the first time between June and November, 37 percent of those with debt under $39,999 used the Khan Academy prep program. That figure increased to 41 percent among those with $40,000 or more in debt.

“When you decrease barriers to education and increase access to free resources and tools, all students can really thrive,” Khan Academy founder Sal Khan. He started Khan Academy in 2006 after tutoring a cousin over the internet. The venture has since grown into a juggernaut of free online education. More than 3 million people have used Khan Academy's free SAT prep program.

But the free Khan Academy program hasn’t upended the traditional LSAT test prep industry, said Dave Killoran, chief executive officer of PowerScore, which offers both live and online LSAT prep classes. In fact, the availability of free LSAT questions through Khan Academy actually may be driving more people to seek further assistance, he said. PowerScore, for instance, has sold more LSAT prep books since the Khan Academy program debuted than it did the previous year, he said.

“We’re seeing a lot of student using Khan Academy not as their main form of preparation, but as a supplement,” Killoran said. “I think you’re seeing the natural student migration toward, ‘If I can get it for free, I’ll use it.’ We’ve been telling people it’s a great resource in terms of actually doing questions.”

Killoran said the program appears to be meeting the diversity and accessibility goals that the council and Khan Academy set forth, which is a good thing.

“What I really like about it is the numbers they published about the groups that are accessing the Khan Academy resources,” he said. “In my view, the more people who start preparing for the LSAT and take it seriously, the better off it is for everybody in this space. Previously, too many people would look at a few questions and take the test. It’s just too difficult of an exam to do that.”