To retake or not to retake the LSAT in October?
Every summer – without fail – this turns out to be one of the most often-asked questions that I get from my law school applicants. (Actually, it wins out by only a hair over the, I’ve taken the October LSAT – should I retake it in December, question.) It can also be one of the most challenging questions to answer correctly. Indeed, although some decisions to retake the LSAT are no-brainers, many situations result in the closest of judgment calls. For that reason, even as a law school admissions expert, I’ll often have an applicant forward questions to his or her LSAT instructor before weighing in with a final opinion. And in many cases, I may not even offer a final opinion, but instead a carefully reasoned list of advantages and disadvantages.
There are actually many reasons why one could make a reasonable decision to retake the LSAT in October. As you consider the particulars of your own situation, it is important that you think through a range of potentially relevant factors. Here are some questions that are especially important to many law school applicants who face this challenge:
- Did you attain a score that is lower than what you’re truly capable of achieving?
Perhaps you were injured or ill. (I know of an applicant who was hit by a car on the way to the LSAT, but still took the exam anyway – a very bad move!) Maybe you were in a bad state of mind. (Sometimes a recent personal misfortune, such as a financial struggle or the death or illness of a relative can hinder one’s performance.) Or maybe there’s a simpler explanation for your score: you didn’t prepare as much as you should have, your girlfriend or boyfriend broke up with you the night before the exam, or you just completely froze up the moment the proctor announced that the exam was underway. These are just a few of the reasons why you may have underperformed on the June LSAT. And you know what? They’re all understandable explanations for a lower than expected score. But, did you truly underperform on test day?
When helping an applicant think through this question, I find it crucial to ask for details, such as how the person was scoring on LSAT practice tests prior to the exam and what his or her scores were on other types of standardized tests. If it’s clear that you underperformed on the June LSAT, you might want to think about retaking the test in October. But, hold on a minute. Don’t jump the gun. There are still other types of questions that you need to sort through before finalizing your decision. For instance …
- By how much did you underperform?
If your LSAT score was significantly lower than what you are capable of achieving, then that will add weight to the option of taking the test again. By the way, when I say “significantly,” I mean, at least three or more points. Three or four points can be a lot – in fact, for those scoring in the 140’s, it can be the difference between getting into law school or getting shut out by every school that you apply to. At higher scoring levels, three or four points could help edge you into a slightly more competitive school. So, if your answer to this question is, “yes, I significantly underperformed,” you should start feeling more certain about getting ready to retake the LSAT in October. But not so fast! We’re not done yet.
Stay tuned for the second half of this discussion – where we’ll continue to discuss the question – should I retake the LSAT in October?