December or February LSAT? 6 Tips for LSAT Test Day.

Law School Expert Blog

Here are the 4 most common questions that I’m hearing this week from people scheduled to take the December LSAT:

1. I have the flu. What do I do?
2. This is my first time taking the LSAT and I’m not ready. What do I do?
3. If I postpone until February, is that too late in the rolling admission process?
4. Why do law schools say they will accept February LSAT scores?

If December would be your first time taking the LSAT and you’re feeling unprepared or ill, then you have 2 options: (1) take the LSAT and see how you feel about it, keeping in mind you can cancel it if you really feel terrible during the exam, or (2) wait until the February LSAT.

If it’s not your first time, you have to decide how you feel about relying on your previous score(s). If you are ok with the options that score will leave you in terms of a schools list, then go ahead and submit your applications and see what happens. If you aren’t happy with your results, you can take the LSAT next June or October and apply early in the cycle for Fall 2010.

If you are someone who is scoring in the 140s on practice tests, please don’t take the exam when you’re sick. You’ll come back with a score that won’t get you serious consideration at any school, and this is especially true if your GPA is not strong. Plus, you’ll have to deal with the ego blow that will haunt you whenever you do retake the test, and you’ll have to write a pathetic “Boy, I sure do wish I’d done better on the LSAT” Addendum.

Waiting until February is not ideal, but if you get your applications submitted in the next few weeks you may be able to mitigate some of the disadvantage from applying so late in the cycle. Of course, it’s always a gamble to come up with a schools list without a final LSAT score. You can create a schools list based on the range of practice LSAT results you’ve gotten, erring on the side of your lower scores to be safe and to make up for applying late in the cycle.

Lastly, I know schools say they “accept” February LSAT scores. However, you need to understand what that means. The earliest your application will be reviewed is March, at which point most schools will already have dozens or hundreds of applicants on their waitlists. So, in order for you to be admitted you would need to have an LSAT score that makes them want to take you over the others already on the waitlist. When schools say they “accept” February LSATs, it means they hold out for those really competitive candidates.


I hope those of you taking the LSAT this weekend are ready, healthy, and well rested.
1. Go in with the attitude of proving what you can do.
2. Don’t think about your final score.
3. Look at each question as a challenge that you welcome.
4. Don’t worry about the guy next to you.
5. Don’t talk to anyone during breaks (especially people who talk about already having a 172 but trying for a 179).
6. Do what works for you – eat the snacks that work for you, entertain your own superstitions, and try not to get distracted by rude proctors or clicking pencils. After all, those factors will be present in law school and during the bar exam – get used to them now.

Good luck everyone!

31 Responses

  1. . . . not that there’s anything WRONG with having to write a write a pathetic “Boy, I sure do wish I’d done better on the LSAT” Addendum, right?

    They help, don’t they?


  2. My Dear Sarah,
    I would NEVER let your addendum say that. If that’s all you can come up with, you shouldn’t have an addendum.
    Good luck on Saturday! Kick some butt!

  3. Dear Ann,
    My wife took the LSAT today and realized that she mis-bubbled her scantron on the reading comprehension section. She had consistently been scoring 160-169 on her pre-tests and had always scored the best in the comprehension section. She felt very good about the rest of the test but is wondering whether or not she should score this exam given her mistake. Any advice?
    One Proud Husband

  4. Dear Proud Hubby?
    How much did your amazing wife misbubble? 2 or 3 at the end, an entire section, etc? How does she still think she was able to do, and where is she trying to apply? Even if her score is a bit lower than it should have been, will she be competitive at the schools she was hoping to attend, or will her dreams be dashed? Sometimes things seem more clear the next morning – that’s why LSAC gives you a few days to decide whether to cancel.

  5. Dear Ann,
    She is not sure how many she misbubbled. She thinks it was probably in the last 10-15 questions but is not sure. She is worried that if it was early on that it would ruin her score. What looks better to a law school – one cancelled score or two scores where one might be low?

  6. Proud Hubby,
    A cancel is not a big deal and doesn’t have to be explained, and waiting for a score until February is not going to help take advantage of the rolling admissions process, to say the least. Most schools take the higher score, and even if they say they average scores you can explain away an initial score that was low due to misbubbling…

  7. Hi Ann…

    I’ve had a trying lsat experience. I was sick during the October exam and left in the middle. I know I misbubbled during the Dec exam, which threw me off during the last sections. Certain forums have claimed that the section I misbubbled on was the experimental section though…

    What do you think looks better to an admissions committee:

    oct – cancel
    dec – bad score
    feb – good score


    oct – cancel
    dec – cancel
    feb – good score (10+ higher than feb)

    Advice would be appreciated!


  8. actually, the above comment was supposed to read:

    oct – cancel
    dec – bad score
    feb – good score (10+ higher than DEC)


    The main point is wondering how two cancels look. I hear on a lot of forums it looks bad!

  9. Ok, Earthgirl. That does make more sense, thanks for clarifying. I prefer a cancel to a bad score.

  10. Earthgirl – I should preface that: If the “bad” score is good enough for schools you may want to attend then you may want to stick with it. A Feb score for Fall admission puts you pretty behind on the timing….

  11. Hi Ann,

    I took the LSAT test on 7th Dec. 2008, and probably did a poor job. This is my first time with LSAT test, and I didn’t really have good preparation for it (I started my part-time preparation since late Oct.) I was thinking of fall 2010 admission (top 50 if applicable), and intended to “experience” this Dec. test rather than have a score that could take me to any law school. I guess my score could only be something in between 140-150.Please advise:
    (1)Should I cancel the score, or should I have it?
    (2)Usually which one would look worse to a law school, a cancellation or a bad score?
    (3)If I cancelled the score, can I still see my actual score, or do I have to evaluate it by myself?

    Thanks a lot!:)

  12. Anonymous,
    (By the way, please use a name when commenting otherwise it’s very confusing for readers)
    You should cancel this score. You won’t know your score, but you didn’t adequately prepare and it’s highly unlikely a top 50 school would consider you with a 140-150 LSAT. You have plenty of time, so cancel the score and do it the right way since you’re applying for Fall 2010.

  13. Hi Ann.

    I took the LSAT in June and got a 160. I missed 1 question in games, 6 in each arg. section and 8 in rc.

    I retook it last weekend because I had been scoring a 164-166 on my practice exams and was confident I would do better.

    During this last one, however, I had a panic attack midway and filled in B for 10 questions in rc [and answered 7 shakily]. I also didnt had to guess for 4 questions in games, my best section. I did, however, feel much more confident with arguments. I have no idea if I should cancel my score.

    Do you think I should wait it out or just cancel?

  14. Once again, please try not to use “anonymous” when leaving comments. It’s very confusing to the readers.

    I can’t tell you whether to cancel your score, but the good news is you still have the 160 and that’s a pretty good insurance policy….

  15. Hi, Ann:

    This is my firt time to take LSAT. I am actually applying for Canadian schools. I am actually a new immigrant to Canada and English is of course not my native language. I usually scored around 158 in my practice test. For this Dec. test, I think I didn’t bomb it as LG and RC are not that bad for me. But on contrary to many others, I had a bad time doing both sections of LR. I expected my final score will be still around my normal with a few points lower maybe. And I have total five year working experience including 2 years here in Canada. Do you think what will be a chance for me to get into a law school in Canada? Thanks!

  16. Zhou,
    Thanks for writing.
    I help lots of Canadian applicants, but not with their applications to law schools in Canada because it is a different system and outside my area of expertise. If you have any questions about applying to the U.S. ABA schools, I would be happy to answer them.

  17. Can you explain how it works? Is it built into the test when you take it? Or does it work similar to when your professor grades a test in college:

  18. HI, Ann

    My daughter took the LSAT in September and received a 158. She consistently scored in the low 170’s on practice tests and has a 3.7 GPA at NYU. She wants to go to law school in fall 2011 . . .should she wait until February 2011 rather than take it again in December, in the midst of exams

    1. HI Mary,
      By now, your daughter probably knows whether she’s ready for Saturday’s exam or not. If not, February is not a great time to take the test because it means her applications can’t be considered until March at the earliest. By then, law schools are already waitlisting people and they are moving into the time of year when they are solidifying their classes. I think the plan for your daughter, if she’s not ready for the test this Saturday, is to either apply to schools with her 158 this year, or wait a year and retake the LSAT next fall when she’s not also dealing with the pressures of school and apply for Fall 2012.

  19. Hi Ann,
    I hope this doesn’t sound too ridiculous. I’m looking to teach law, and I just took the Dec. test for the first time and scored a 171. Unfortunately, I know I can score higher than that, but since I’m in my mid-twenties already, I’m feeling the pressure to go ahead and apply this time around. I’d like to go to Yale, frankly, b/c they have the best faculty and probably the best networking opportunities (obviously), but I don’t think a 171 will cut it for Yale, even though I have a 3.9+ GPA (although I can probably get into Chicago, which is also a good teaching school). Do you think I should try to improve my score by taking the Feb. examination, even though I’ll only have 4 weeks to prepare? Or should I wait to apply until next yr, and start when I’m 27? Would that be too old for a TLS?

    1. Evan, First, congrats on a great score. Second, you have a particular career goal that does require you to go to a Yale, Harvard, Chicago, Stanford level school. So, you can try applying now and see what happens. If you don’t get into one of these schools, I suggest retaking in June and applying early for Fall 2012. 27 is NOT too old to start law school. One of my clients from last year (who is now a 1L at Harvard) was in his mid-40s.
      Wishing you all the best!

  20. Ms. Levine – i have made the mistake early on of taking the LSAT in December – got a low score,and rushed to take it in February. I did worse. My highest score was 138 twice. Although I want to retake it after 3 years, I am studying now and want to take it in December. This should give me time to practice raising my score. You cannot rush the LSAT!

  21. Dear Ann, thanks for the helpful posts.
    i am a Chinese student currently studying in Japan. the situation i am facing is that i might not be fully prepared for June LSAT. i know the best would be to take the Oct one but by that time i will be in China. and in China, there will be no LSAT offered in Oct.
    if i want to take that one, i will have to fly to HK or Japan which means i have to prepare a month for visa application…
    do you think i should bother to that or i should just take the December LSAT? because i am worried if this will affect my opportunities to be admitted in a rolling system.

    1. Rachel, it sounds like December is the best choice for you. Lots of people get into great law schools with December LSAT scores. You’ll be in the best shape if you start getting all of your materials ready this summer, then spend the fall studying for the LSAT.

  22. Hello, Ann

    I am a 44 year old banker who wants to get a law degree. I only want to attend night or part time programs. Should I follow the same application strategies you give here for full time students?


  23. Hi,

    I’m planning to accept an opportunity to a scholarship to study in Europe for a year before attending law school. Recently, my university’s prelaw advisor decided I should apply this year and defer admission for a year while I pursue the other opportunity.

    I took the LSAT in June and scored in the 80th percentile. My practice tests range from 168-174,mso I was disappointed by this result. I have missed the deadline for the December LSAT. Should I 1)apply with the score I have and take a later test if I get waitlisted, 2) Take the Feb test, or 3) wait until next year’s cycle?

    1. Hi Liz,
      Wait until next year’s cycle – go enjoy Europe, take the LSAT in February, and get the score that is in line with your aptitude. Then apply early next year.

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