Should You Push Your LSAT Back To February?
“I scored a what? This can’t be!”
You’re probably hearing that refrain from everyone who’s taken an LSAT practice test this month. “I need a 165 to get into Northwestern,” they’ll say. “There’s no way I can be ready for December!”
Excuses, excuses. Or is it? If you’re looking to push back your LSAT from December to February, people may think you’re putting off the inevitable. But are you really procrastinating or simply bowing to reality? Fact is, you’ll never get into your program with a low score, no matter how strong your essays and references are. Wouldn’t it be wiser to get the highest possible LSAT score?
According to Shawn O’Connor, CEO of Stratus Prep and a Harvard Law grad, there may be reasons for postponing the LSAT until February. For example, O’Connor would encourage test-takers who score 10 points or more below their target score to push the LSAT back to February. He also notes that candidates can only take the LSAT three times in two years. If students aren’t prepared, why squander one precious opportunity? In O’Connor’s view, test-takers would be better off to enroll in an LSAT class, hire a tutor, and continue studying and taking practice tests.
If students are within 5 points of their target score, O’Connor would advise them to take the LSAT in December after additional tutoring and study. Here’s why:
1) Deadlines: Many law schools set a March deadline for applications. Since it can take a month or more to get back LSAT scores, taking the test in February risks missing this deadline.
2) Wrong Impression: Adcoms can get the impression that students taking the LSAT in February waited until the last minute to apply and aren’t serious about attending law school.
3) Only Get One Chance: Everyone has bad days. If students flop in February, they’ll need to wait another year to get into their preferred law school. If they bomb in December, they can always re-take the test in February.
4) Fewer Slots: Many students have applied – and been admitted – to law school by March. As a result, students applying late are competing for fewer spots, let alone less scholarship money.
However, there are disagreements on O’Connor’s approach. Ann Levine, President of Law School Expert and a former admissions director, doesn’t believe a late application hinders students’ ability to enroll in their choice school. She observes that the decline in the number and quality of law school applicants means schools are waiting for later submissions before making final decisions. Still, she encourages students to apply by mid-January to stay in contention.
How To Manage A Drop In Your LSAT Score
That’s all well and good. But what if you re-take the LSAT and your score dips? Doesn’t that raise a red flag?
Shawn O’Connor addressed this question as well. First, there is no way to hide a lower score. O’Connor notes that the Law School Admission Counsel will release each LSAT result from candidates. Unfortunately, many schools don’t take the highest score. They either average them or consider them individually. As a result, applicants have three options:
1) Do Nothing: In this case, applicants would simply focus on strengthening their essays and references. This strategy is pertinent to students with similar LSAT scores…or scores that don’t deviate much from practice test results.
2) Re-Take the LSAT: For applicants who are scoring higher on practice tests – or faced extenuating circumstances like illness or personal issues – O’Connor suggests taking the test over, paying special attention to sections where performance was weakest.
3) Explain the Reason: If their LSAT score drops, applicants must add an addendum to their application explaining why. In particular, O’Connor recommends summarizing “why the lower score does not accurately represent [their] skills”…and “establish(ing) that the lower score is an outlier.”
Source: US News and World Report