The following is a guest post by Greg Smith, an LSAT instructor at Alpha-Score.com. He has been teaching the LSAT since 2003 both in class and online.
Thinking of retaking the LSAT? Here’s a few things to consider:
Are you insane?
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results – Rita Mae Brown. If you didn’t do as well as you’d like this time around, what is going to change next time? You need a new plan of attack, something needs to change. This could be as simple as reducing your stress, studying harder, or not staying out until 4 am the night before the LSAT, but something needs to change. If you have a plan and you can make significant changes than retaking the LSAT may be in your best interest.
How did you prepare for the LSAT?
If you spent months poring over LSAT text books and reviewing practice exams in preparation for the exam, it is unlikely that a few more months of study will have a significant effect on your score. However, if you avoided LSAT questions in favor of nights out with Jagermeister or even spent your time studying for midterms and writing essays, then you might have some room for improvement. If you don’t think you studied hard enough the first time are you going to commit to a different study plan for a retake?
Did something go wrong?
I’ve heard terrible stories of what can happen on LSAT day. Everything from construction in the room next door to heat waves, panic attacks and illness. If your test day was a disaster you’ve got a great reason to retake. Also, if there were extenuating circumstances during your first LSAT you may want to notify any law schools you apply to of this fact, BUT only after you have proven you can score higher.
Check your score?
Check your LSAT score against your scores on your home practice tests. If there’s a significant difference then something went wrong. If it wasn’t a the testing conditions, illness floods or some other natural disaster then the most likely cause of your downfall is stress. It is possible to overcome this and even turn it to your advantage, some students perform better under stress. Check this guide on stress reduction for the LSAT.
LSAC provides substantial data on students who repeat the LSAT and the results they see. In summary, only about 30% of students retake the LSAT. The ones that do, are more likely to see their score increase than decrease. Approximately 67% of repeaters saw their score increase, 8% experienced no change, and 25% received a lower score.
Effect on Applications
You should also consider the delay of re-taking the LSAT on your applications to law school. Many schools admit students on a rolling basis so it is actually easier to get in if you apply earlier. One option is to apply with your lower score to take advantage of the rolling admissions and then if you get a higher score, alert the school and have another shot at admission. You may also get accepted to a school that is not your first choice based on your initial LSAT score. At this point you can take the LSAT again, stress free because you know you are already accepted to at least one school. Then, if your second score is higher, you might get into the school of your choice. Stress is a very significant factor in how students perform on the actual LSAT so whatever you can do to reduce or eliminate stress is a good thing!
Ann Levine can probably provide better input on how a second score affects your application with respect to rolling admissions.
Average or Highest LSAT Score?
Check with your target schools (usually on their websites) to see if they average your scores or take the highest one. Even schools that average scores can occasionally be persuaded to take your highest if there were special circumstances at the time of your lower scored LSAT. (note by Ann: since schools only have to report the highest of multiple scores to the ABA, they have incentive to rely on your highest score). Law schools are increasingly taking the highest reported LSAT score for applicants as it helps their law school rankings when they report the average LSAT of their admitted students.
Let your schools know!
If you do decide to retake the LSAT, make sure to let your school know about your new score. You need to make sure your new score gets to them. (note by Ann: schools make mistakes about this all the time, so take control of your process and be proactive about making sure schools have your new score.)
For more information about online LSAT prep courses
For more about why Ann Levine considers the December LSAT the “LSAT of LAST RESORT” see The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert. (Also available on download from iTunes or in MP3 format.)