Should I retake the LSAT?
June 17, 2008 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Should I retake the LSAT? What's the worst that could happen?

Took the LSAT yesterday and don't think I did well. I was practice testing at 170+ and really think I have the "answering-the-questions" part of the test down, but didn't perform 100% on the "test-taking" aspects like time mgmt/test flow/etc. for a variety of reasons (2 hrs sleep, noisy/distracting test site being the two main ones). I can't say for sure I completely bombed it, but it definitely didn't "feel" like a 169+ test. More like below 165.

It seems that recently a lot of schools have switched from averaging multiple LSAT scores to "considering all scores but using the highest." Is this a gimme to take it over no harm no foul or am I missing something? Do I need to cancel my current score if I want to retake or can I let it ride out of morbid curiosity? I guess this is a somewhat recent change on the schools parts so I'm getting a lot of contradictory information.

Oh, and bonus points for where to report test center complaints. I can't seem to find it on the LSAC website.

posted by doppleradar to Education (15 answers total)
I would cancel it if you only had 2 hours of sleep and there was drilling in the background. That plus the stress of actually taking it vs a practice test will kill your score.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:01 AM on June 17, 2008

Do not you cancel unless you're 90% sure you performed below 90% of your average score. Basically, you should know you bombed it before you cancel. Think about how pessimistic people can be immediately after taking a test. Even if you have no history of it, think back to all those who walked out of a room "knowing" that they failed, but ended up doing fine. Then consider whether there's a halfway decent shot you got at least a 167 on your first test. If there is, do not cancel.
posted by aswego at 9:05 AM on June 17, 2008

A couple things, I used to work in Law School Admissions, multiple scores don't help much.

Also, I never took an exam, the LSAT included where I didn't leave and say "Oh shit, I tanked that" so unless you are POSITIVE you did horribly, you might want to let it stand.
posted by Ponderance at 9:22 AM on June 17, 2008

If the test is still fresh in your mind, can you go over some of the questions you were worried about with a friend who took the test on the same date? My LSAT instructor suggested using this technique (with as many people as possible, as soon after the test as possible) to determine whether to cancel your score.
posted by phoenixy at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2008

Recent law school graduate, spent three years working in admissions.

Call the schools you intend to apply to. The vast majority of schools now make their decisions based on the highest score because that's the number they have to report.

If you did, in fact, bomb this test and you do significantly better on the next one, you will want to explain the reasons as an addendum to your application. Most schools now only really look at multiples to figure out if there's something weird going on... like three tests in the 140s and then a 175. One low score and one higher score is something they see all the time, understand, and will probably not be held against you.

The only reason I can think of to cancel your score is if both a) you know you bombed it and b) the school you want to get into averages scores still. In any other case, ride the score out. I felt not-so-great about my LSAT and turned out scoring 5 points higher than my best practice test.

In preparation, it might be wise to write a brief, detailed description of all of the factors that contributed to your performance -- not to send to the law schools later, but to aid your memory if you end up needing that addendum.

First thing to do, though: chill out. It's almost never as bad as it seems.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:34 AM on June 17, 2008

I completely rescind my advice. It's great to hear from admissions people in this thread.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2008

You can take it up to 3 times for them to look at your HIGHEST score. After 3 times, they start averaging it. Why not wait till you get your scores back, till you decide?

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:04 AM on June 17, 2008

This is as much a comment on the Meta community as an answer. I took the LSAT 3 times. The first time cold (157), the second with a little self prep (160) and the third after Kaplan prep (168). I had an extremely low undergrad grade point, just barely a 2.0, and I think discussing things with the admissions people made more difference than my LSAT. (Where else can you go and feel like an idiot for scoring less than 170 on the LSAT???)
posted by Carbolic at 10:15 AM on June 17, 2008

You have a few days to cancel your score if you are really worried. Read up on the LSAT blogs to see if people seemed to have the same issues that you did in the same areas.

You can easily cancel due to the drilling.

But, like others have said, if you're only a few points less, re-take in October - no biggies. Lots of people take twice.
posted by k8t at 10:20 AM on June 17, 2008

And in your score cancellation form, you can complain about the test center. I complained once about irregularities and they were fixed the next time. They also let me retake the next time for free.
posted by k8t at 10:23 AM on June 17, 2008

From personal experience - no. I scored high on practice tests, then felt CRAPPY after I took the LSATs. I almost cancelled the score because I thought I did so bad. Turned out I got a really good score. Everybody still makes fun of me because of my after-test anxiety.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:32 AM on June 17, 2008

YOU ALWAYS FEEL BAD ON THE ACTUAL TEST. (At least in my experience.)

On the computer-aided GRE, there's an option to cancel your scores on site before seeing them. I felt so bad about my performance, I almost did that. I was THIS CLOSE to doing so.

I got a perfect 800 on the verbal, and a 770 on the math.

Look at the score.
posted by paultopia at 11:05 AM on June 17, 2008

Unfortunately, the only reasonably comprehensive chart I could find on this topic hasn't been updated in a while. Still, you might want to glance at it to get an idea of what your target schools tend to do with multiple scores. Seconding toomuchpete's advice to call the schools directly to be sure, though.

Yet another anecdotal data point: after I took the LSAT (years ago, before this new policy), I too was 100% convinced that I had scored much lower than on practice tests. To make a long story short, I was wrong, everything was fine, and the whole thing is now a pleasantly distant memory. Glad I didn't cancel.
posted by barelylegalrealist at 12:32 PM on June 17, 2008

My wife was more pessimistic about her results than you sound, and she ended up scoring a scholarship to a first-tier law school. But then, maybe you're not as generally pessimistic as she is.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 12:41 PM on June 17, 2008

I've written lots and lots of books on this and related subjects, and worked with many thousands of students, which I say not by way of tooting my horn, but rather to tell you that my "take" on your situation should be seriously weighed, and not just factored in as yet another opinion).

From what little you say, and reading between the lines, I'd urge you to cancel your score. The subtext of how you characterized your preparation, characterized the exam day itself, and even how you framed the question itself, raises numerous red flags, based on my experience.

The most serious red flag was your distinction between having mastered "answering the questions" but not so the "test-taking" aspects. Chess players have a saying: "It's not enough to be a good chessplayer, you also have to play the game well." It's not enough to know how to analyze an argument or a reading passage or solve a game -- unless you can do so under pressure.

You're running a real risk in keeping the score, and the psychological impact of a score significantly below your expectations would not put you into a good frame of mind for retaking the test.

But there are many questions you leave unanswered that might affect your decision, but I suspect the answer to these questions will only confirm my recommendation to cancel your score:

1) How did you prepare for the test? Did you take a formal course/prepare with a tutor, or did you prepare on your own?

2) When you say you were scoring 170+ on practice exams, were they (A) actual LSAT's, (B) were your scores consistent, and (C) very, VERY important: were these exams timed by you or timed by someone else like a proctor or even a friend (if the former, subtract 5-10 points from your average score; yes, it makes that big a difference).

3) What is your testing history? How did you do on the SAT or other high-stakes standardized tests? In other words, are you a strong test-taker?

4) what range of law schools are you considering?

BOTTOM LINE: Cancel your score, make sure that you always work with actual tests and always get someone to time your practice sections, and take the process seriously, law school admissions is ferociously competitive so staying up late is self-destructive.
posted by adamrobinson at 6:45 PM on June 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

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