Take the LSAT Early and Often
It used to be that nearly half of all LSAT takers registered for the test twice. About 20% registered, decided they weren't ready, and took it later instead. About 5% took it unprepared, canceled their score and retook it later. Another 20% took it, get a bad score, and took it again.
All that was before the ABA gave law schools permission to report the highest LSAT score an applicant gets, instead of the average. Now, (as LSAT data reported here shows) both the schools and the applicants are playing LSAT roulette. If you have a low LSAT score and don't retake, admissions officers are asking why not.
So prepare before you take the LSAT the FIRST time -- a bad score early won't get you anywhere -- but plan to take it again, unless you have a really compelling reason why you can't. HINT: "I'm getting married that day" isn't compelling enough; the logical next question is, "Well what about the LSAT after that?"
The myth of applying early was thoroughly debunked by an LSAC survey of 150 schools. 95% said the February test can help, and some were even willing to consider June LSAT scores at wait list time.
Test Day Advice
The most important rule for test day is the motto: be prepared. Bring everything you might possibly need. The test center may not have a pencil sharpener, a clock in the test room, a working soda machine or dollar changer. Remember not to park at a parking meter, since you won't be able to add money as needed. If you live a distance from the test center you might want to arrange backup transportation, especially if you have a finicky car. Bring aspirin, Band-Aids (for paper cuts), and food to eat at break. DO NOT eat chocolate during the test; aside from the potential damage to your answer sheet, it often metabolizes too quickly in a high adrenaline situation, leaving you more tired than before you ate it.
The test itself is about four hours long, but you may be at the test center as long as six hours. Initial processing includes taking your thumb print,
Special news bulletin: beginning with the June 2011 LSAT, test proctors will no longer take your thumb print; instead, you must bring attached to your test authorization a passport-sized photo taken within six months of your LSAT date. The photo will not be returned.
As I was saying, processing includes having you write out a handwriting sample, and reading detailed instructions aloud. Don't arrive any earlier than you must; if your registration ticket says to arrive between 8:00 and 8:30, arrive at 8:25, to avoid the extra half-hour of stress.
Keep or Cancel?
You have 5 working days after the test to decide whether to keep your score or cancel it. Try not to make this decision based on emotions. Your good or bad feelings may not match your actual performance. Instead, look at objective indicators of your score.
How Is the Test Scored?
So many people ask me so many questions about how the LSAT is scored that I feel compelled to try once again to explain that which I do not actually understand.
Most people have a sense of whether the games were easier or harder than usual, and think you can predict the way the scores will move based on this. But the difficulty of the arguments and reading sections are much harder to sense. So a slightly harder games section might be balanced by a slightly easier set of arguments. Moreover, each LSAT is equated and normalized. (These words come to you direct from Law Services.) What that means is that the raw score to scaled score conversion is adjusted for the overall difficulty of the test. In the end, there's no way to predict the score. Of course, if the games are VERY easy or VERY hard, they may carry the curve in one direction or the other, but I never trust a client's sense that Saturday's games were near either extreme.
NOTE that these numbers have been revised to reflect data gathered in 2011.If your score is between 163 and 168, you're in No Man's Land. The 14 schools in the Top Ten are virtually out of reach for a mainstream applicant. Settle for your state school, or retake.
I can help any of these people: steering you to the right school, picking up the phone to see who needs people "like you" in whatever way that may be, or hitting you upside the head until EVERYTHING is as good as it can be, are all in my normal repertoire.
So when my phone starts ringing with the 141s and 137s, I try to help the people who really don't think the way you need to think to survive law school. My experience has been bleak; the preparation you need take six weeks or more. I can't give you that much of my life, you can't give me that much of your life, and I can't find anything else that works. If you'd like to try on your own, look at the books at ther bottom of this page.
Don't Schools Average Multiple Scores?
For years LSAC recommended averaging multiple scores. Then they changed their minds and said nothing at all about multiple score. Once LSAC changed, the ABA allowed law schools to report the higher score in the data for their entering class.
Once schools started looking for higher scores, applicants started trying to produce them. What this means to you is that if you scored 5 or more points lower than you normally do, retaking is a good idea. If you scored within 4 points of your usual score, you shouldn't bother UNLESS you plan to prepare more thoroughly.
Retaking without better preparation is just taking a chance.
If you haven't taken the LSAT yet, you will be at a further disadvantage; many schools with February deadlines will not accept a February LSAT score (because the score won't be available until well after their deadline). And the time needed to prepare the applications and all the supplemental documents may catch up with you. You'll wind up choosing between a lot of sloppy apps or a few good ones.
"I'm Just Not Good at This"
Some people think they "can't" take standardized tests. My question always is "Why not?" Click here for some common problems and attempts to solve them.
"Why Can't They Ignore My LSAT Score?"
In 2008, new ABA regulations about bar passage rates set out, quite clearly, the dilemma faced by law schools admitting people with low LSAT scores. Eliminating all the legalese, it said:
Bad and Good Advice
A good prelaw advisor should, first of all, be available to advise you about taking the LSAT. If your prelaw advisor tells you not to take an accommodated test despite documented learning disabilities, you're getting bad advice. If your advisor tells you that you don't need a prep course, you're getting bad advice. If (s)he tells you not to bother retaking even if you think you did miserably, you're getting bad advice.