How High Can You Jump (on the LSAT)?

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In my last blog, I wrote about how students can look at the statistics released by LSAC to learn whether or not it’s realistic to expect that they can increase their score by taking the LSAT again. The bottom line, discussed in the post, is that across the range of LSAT scores, the average increase for repeat test takers was about 2.5 points and approximately 70% of repeaters improved their score. However, this news failed to make everyone happy. Apparently, very few people want to go through the pain and suffering of wading their way through LSAT hell (again) for a measly two points. Although I am sticking to my guns that even a small increase can make a big difference in admissions, this blog is to address the question posed by those who want to increase their score by a lot. A large amount. At least five points. In other words, a crap load.

So the new question is: Can I make a big jump in my LSAT score?

There are all kinds of stories that float around for those of us dorky enough to live in the LSAT world. The people who get a 180 without ever looking at a question before. Sure. The testing centers that accidentally give extra time because the proctor is reading US Weekly. Right.

Well, for the matter of this discussion, there are a few anecdotes that I would like to share. Here is the dream. We had a student who was scoring well on her practice tests, then she took the June LSAT and scored a 166. Normally that is a great score but it was lower than she had been achieving. So she kept studying and took the LSAT again in October, scored a 179, and now attends Yale Law School. Is that common? Probably not, but it can happen. Here is what I believe is more common. I had another student who scored a 166 on the June test. She really wanted to get into some of the top schools in the country, so she also took the test again. She got a 171 on the October test and is heading to NYU with a full ride in the fall. So, moderate to substantial increases on your second LSAT can happen. But how often?

Unfortunately, LSAC only releases the numbers for repeaters in 10 point increments. For instance, of the 902 people in 2006/2007 who initially scored a 152 on the LSAT, 102 re-took the exam and scored between a 160 and a 169. This means that we can’t calculate exactly the % increase for every individual, but we do know that these 102 test takers increased their scores by at least 8 points. This means that nearly 17% of test takers with a 152 increased their score by at least 8 points and by as much as 17 points.

So (drumroll please), here are the trends I found overall:

ButÉ Really

First things first, the fact that these numbers stayed very consistent for a 5, 7, and 10 point increase leads to the conclusion that anywhere in the scoring scale would look the same way. It appears that about 1/3 of people that retake the test improve by 5 points or more, roughly 1/5 improve by 7 or more points, and only 1/16 or so improve by 10 or more points. So my analysis from that would be that 10 points seems like a lot to ask for, but an increase of 5 to 7 points seems very reasonable. And that can definitely make a difference for that plaque you will eventually have on the wall of your fancy office.

However, these stats also show something else. There are a lot of people that do not improve (at least significantly) when they retake the LSAT. They go through all of that savage torture for nothing. This means that there is nothing helpful about simply taking the test multiple times and going through the process, otherwise there would be better repeater score increases across the board. So, if you are going to retake the test, you better make it worth it. And that means studying more/better/smarter the second time around. How to do that? That, my friends, is the topic of a future blog.

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