Planning to Take Both the October LSAT and the December LSAT?

Law School Expert Blog

A reader left this great (and often-asked) question on my blog last weekend:

“So if I am planning to take both October and December, I should wait to apply until my LSAT score for December is out?”

Here is my problem with this question – it’s not about when you submit applications, it’s about why on earth you would PLAN to take both the October and December LSATs.

We are 5 weeks away from the October LSAT. If, in about 3 weeks, you don’t feel ready for the LSAT, please don’t take the test! Change your test date until December, get your best possible score, and apply in early/mid-January.

If you are ready for the October LSAT, then why are you also taking December? If you get a score that represents your aptitude on the exam in October, it would be silly to throw away the advantage of applying early because you are taking the December LSAT. Only continue on to take the test in December if the October score ends up not being in line with your consistent practice exam scores. If it’s close to your best possible score, then go ahead and apply in early/mid (or even late) November, and do not retake the test in December.

People who plan to take both tests usually suffer from the following fallacies in their logic (which doesn’t bode well for LSAT performance, does it?):

1. I will try the October test for the experience of it. (Really? This doesn’t sound like very good judgment – your score will be on record, and you’re only allowed to take the test 3 times in a 2 year period, and you never know when you might regret wasting a test administration. After all, what if you get a distracting proctor in December and then you have only one more chance?)

2. The back-up plan mentality: “I don’t really have to prepare for October because I’m taking December anyway.” (This is not a mindset that breeds success; it’s hard to be on top of your game when you’ve convinced yourself it’s not really the game.)

3. It doesn’t matter how I do in October because schools take the highest of multiple scores. (Yes, but they will see all of your scores, and a difference of 3 or more points usually merits having an explanation about your multiple scores, and it’s just painful to have to write an addendum about how poor your judgment was in deciding to take the test in the first place. Also, there is no guarantee you really will score higher in December – the average increase is only 2 points – so it might just confirm that it’s the right score for you anyway….)

“But, Ann, I’m being super slick and will be able to apply to my safety schools early, get in, and then be able to apply to my reach schools with my December LSAT score.”
I just love when people think they are outsmarting the law schools. There is a question about LSAT dates on your application. And if you have a pending LSAT score, schools aren’t going to review your application. It will sit there, waiting for your December LSAT score. Even if your first score might be “good enough” for the school you’ve applied to.

“But can’t I pretend I didn’t think to retake the LSAT until after I applied?”
You are under a continuing obligation to update answers to your application.

But if that’s not enough incentive to wait for your December score before applying, here’s more: I’ve seen law schools make mistakes, review applications with a score pending, and reject people, and then their second score never gets to come into the picture (unless you call them and ask for mercy, which some schools will be good about, but others won’t).

If you are scheduled to take the October LSAT, don’t miss my Blog Talk Radio Show “The LSAT: A 30-Day Plan,” airing on Tuesday, September 3 at 12:00 p.m. PST.


14 Responses

  1. Hi Ann,

    I’m actually debating whether to retake the LSAT or not. I’m planning to apply to law school for the Fall 2014. I took the test back in 2011 and got 161 which I don’t think is a good score since I really want to go to USC. I think it also might not be so competitive for Loyola (my second choice)neither. I’m planning to retake it this Oct, but having a second thought that I might not be ready for it. So, should I go ahead and apply with the 161 or should I take the Oct or Dec LSAT? So worried if I retake it and get an even lower score ><

  2. Hi Anne,

    I am stressing out like everyone else about whether to take the October test or December test. Honestly, I am not ready for the October test but since law schools are rolling admissions, I feel like I have a better chance of getting into schools. The thing is I will probably score a 156 or a little higher. I barely studied because I am working but I was wondering if it would be better to take it in December with a 160 (hoping I get this score for sure!)?

    I am debating whether to take the October test and see my score (which is bad right? 156?) or just WITHDRAW and study Lsats/work on my application by December. Basically, I’m just scared that everyone else will get in because of the rolling admissions.

    Could I get into top 50 schools with a 3.0 gpa and 156 on the Lsats? Maybe with an amazing personal statement and my work experience/undergraduate University?

    1. Ms. Stress,
      If you are not ready, don’t take the LSAt. If you can get a 160 by waiting, you should absolutely wait. But if this is your first time taking the LSAT, why don’t you go ahead and take it? You can plan to take December as a back up option (after all, the LSAT is tomorrow and you’ve been preparing) and that way you won’t be left out of this admission cycle if something goes haywire in December.

  3. Hi Ann,

    I got my October ’13 score back yesterday and I’m pretty disappointed. I was testing at 167-169 on my PTs and got a 163.

    I studied for months and was feeling pretty confident, and I had an overall good test-taking experience except for the last part of the last section when I got distracted by a girl whispering extremely loudly – accordingly, those last 5 or 6 questions were all wrong on my answer sheet. Regardless, there was no major “issue” (sickness, accident, etc.) that really contributed to something conscious on my part, and I hear in that case that people shouldn’t retake the exam.

    With a 3.6 GPA (not the best, I know) and a strong LSAT, I was really hoping to attend a T14 on the lower end (like UCLA/Georgetown) or USC. That’s fairly out of the question and now I’m faced with possibly retaking the exam in December. My only concern is what if I don’t do better the second time around? Do you have any advice for someone who’s only hoping to increase his score by a maybe 3-4 points? I’m willing to forgo this cycle and wait until next year to get a good start on the rolling admissions process.

    Thank you!

    1. Cameron, I think you need to retake the LSAT because you were testing 4-6 points higher on the real thing. It sounds like it’s worth the risk of pushing back your applications.If it doesn’t significantly improve you can apply with what you have and see what happens and re-group for next cycle if need be.

      1. Thanks Anne! Took your advice and got a 167 on the December LSAT!

        With a much happier score in tow, I plan to reapply for next year’s cycle with all my material ready at the onset. My question: how many of the T14 average LSAT scores? Do they really look at the highest and evaluate my application holistically, or is it a plug-and-chug of my numbers? I’m trying to determine how to handle applying to schools with two scores now. Should I be applying to schools with a 167 in mind, or with the average (165) in mind?

        Thanks again!

  4. My daughter took the LSAT in Oct. she scored a 141 despite taking classes, It was her first time and she feels taking it next month In Dec will bring up her score. Her gpa is 3.27. She wants to be in the next admission cycle for the fall in the schools of her choice. After reading your suggestions to others I think maybe she should wait, be patient and get more tutoring. She said her practice scores were between 145-147. What do you think?

    1. Worried Dad, I think you are right. She is not ready, and unlikely to see considerable improvement in 4 weeks. I think she should wait, take the June LSAT and apply next year instead.

  5. The year when I took the LSAT In Oct. and Dec. consecutively, I went from 161 in Oct. (I had obviously prepared, but only for a month) to 172 in Dec., just by preparing even more… I don’t buy your prepared/unprepared dichotomy. Any schmuck could get a free ride to Harvard if he started studying for the LSAT in high school. Plus, nervousness (in the first take esp.) is probably the main factor hindering most of us, not ability, so it’s worth retaking it if you have time to bust your butt and take a timed test every other day between dates and you see yourself on a constant up

  6. Hey Ann,

    I have a question, I was planning to take the October LSAT and apply for 2015 admission, however, as a result of my job and the full time school I couldn’t really prepare for the LSAT. Now, I really want to concentrate on the LSAT and take the December test and at the same I’m worried that I’ll not have time to apply to law schools as the score will be released mid Jan. I’ll graduate in May 2015 and would like to start the law school immediately. Do you think it’s wise to take the December test? I really don’t want to lose a year but on the other hand people keep saying that if i apply late January then most likely will be rejected because schools review and offer scholarships before it.

    1. Hasmik, you should take the December LSAT and submit applications in January. My clients who did this still got in and received scholarships because there are fewer applicants now, and if you are competitive as an applicant then applying in early January will be absolutely fine.

  7. Hi Ann,

    I took the September LSAT and then finished all the other components of my applications (Resume, Letters of Rec, Transcripts, Personal Statements). Unfortunately, I got 157 on my September LSAT.

    From reading your blog and talking to others, my parents have been pushing me to forgo this application cycle and wait for the application cycle 2018 (basically wait a year). Do you think this is the way to go? (I have a 3.6 uGPA with ample work experience.)

    If I do decide to do this, will I have to ask for my letters of rec once again? They have already been sent to my LSAC account and I do not wish to bother them again for letters.

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