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With Which LSAT Score?

If you've received just one LSAT score under standard test conditions, the law schools will use that number. But what if you've taken the LSAT twice? What if you took it under nonstandard conditions of some sort?

If you've taken the LSAT more than once but canceled your score on the earlier administration, your file will be treated the same as that of a student who took the exam one time and received a score. Since there is no other score, nothing can be averaged; and since many people either take the test and cancel the score, or schedule to take the test but don't, there is no disadvantage to having a canceled score the first time around.

One Not-So-Good Score

Some people take the LSAT, have an off day or poor testing conditions of some sort, and want to explain their lower-than-usual score to the admissions committee. As a general rule, the committee's response will be that they can only look at the score in front of them. If you want them to believe you really deserved a higher score, you'll have to prove it by taking the exam again and getting that higher score.

Tests Under Nonstandard Conditions

Law Services uses the phrase "nonstandard conditions" in three different circumstances:

  • Monday test administrations for Saturday Sabbath observers (See the LSAT Registration Bulletin or LSAC online.  Go to online registration, under "test date.")
  • People with learning or physical disabilities who took an "accommodated" test -- one with extra time, a reader, or other assistance;
  • People who took the test at a center where something went wrong -- a blackout, a gas leak, or a proctor who shortchanged the group by five minutes.

Admissions officers are likely to treat each of these situations differently.

Monday Test-Takers

The Monday test-takers took the LSAT under the usual timing. Even though Law Services does not report a percentile for these test-takers, most admissions committees will assume the score means the same thing as a Saturday test-taker's score.

People with Disabilities

People who were granted a testing variance based on a doctor's evaluation may be perceived differently. Law schools are not supposed to treat these LSAT scores differently from regular scores, but many admissions officers report their committees' skepticism over them. In the discretionary range this could hurt you, since the committee may be hesitant to take you over a very similar applicant with the same LSAT score earned under standard conditions.

NOTE that this is not true at all law schools, nor should you be dissuaded from taking the LSAT under nonstandard conditions if your doctor advises it. A 160 under nonstandard conditions will get you into a number of schools that wouldn't seriously consider you with a 153 under standard conditions.

Poor Test Conditions

Something frequently goes wrong on test day. A blackout, a gas leak, a proctor who shortchanged the group by five minutes, have all been part of my personal experience. Law Services gives you your choice of a letter saying there was a problem at your test center or a free retake. My experience is that the letter is meaningless in the admissions process. If you really think the poor conditions affected your score, accept the offer of a retake.

Multiple LSAT Scores

More Important News From LSAC

This was announced June 14, 2006:  

"...beginning with the October 2006 Annual Questionnaire, which collects LSAT data on the Fall 2006 entering class, the Questionnaire will seek 75th percentile, median, and 25th percentile LSAT data based on the high score rather than the average score for matriculants who took the test more than once."  

As of 2011, virtually every law school will now take the higher of two LSAT scores.  Law schools used to dislike a person's taking the LSAT three or more times; they tend to discount a good third score, thinking that you just got lucky. In fact, when I asked admissions officers about multiple LSAT scores, several said they take the higher of two, but average three or more. But with most law schools' taking the higher score, admissions officers are becoming more tolerant of three or even four LSAT scores.

Should I Retake?

If you're still deciding whether to retake the LSAT, you may think it's not worth it if the scores will be averaged. I generally think it is worth the trouble. The average increase on retaking is four points. After averaging, this will leave you with a two point increase. That's enough to substantially improve your chance of admission at any law school where you were in the high discretionary range. Of course, you should plan to prepare thoroughly, to make sure your score increases.

We heartily recommend the DeLoggio LSAT Achievement Program in Seattle, WA for your test preparation. However, there are two problems:

1. You may not be able to come to Seattle; and

2. I may not be teaching the course. After 25 years, I have cut back my LSAT schedule to a maximum of one course a year.

If the DeLoggio LSAT Program is inaccessible to you, look for another local course, or you can look into the major national programs. The quality of these programs can vary widely depending on the instructors or the regional managers, so I suggest you seek local advice rather than relying on web info from other cities. However, to save myself from a few dozen queries, here's my own (and very limited) opinion:

  • Test Masters -- I like their approach to reading and games, but not arguments.
  • Power Score -- I like their approach to reading and arguments, but not games.  I think the Power Score Logic Games Bible is a disaster.  It teaches you to separate elements of a system when your goal is to integrate them!  
  • Princeton Review -- very mixed strengths and weaknesses in each area; stronger on general test-taking tips and weaker on approaches to each section.
  • Kaplan -- very content-based rather than strategy-based; its strength is its uniformity.  

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