While some of you may be going through other withdrawals a few days after the LSAT (both alcohol withdrawal from the bender you’ve been on, and Adderall withdrawal because you just needed that extra boost), today we’re going to address the new withdrawal policy by the LSAC and how it applies to the test Saturday.
First off, the new policy allows you to withdraw up until midnight Friday. That means you better pull the trigger by 11:59:59 P.M. EST if you don’t want the law schools to know that you were registered for October. Withdrawing means that no law school will be any wiser.
Now, onto the meat of the article.
I’m going to talk about three things:
1) Should I withdraw/postpone my LSAT? (there will be an article next week about cancellation)
2) What’s the difference between a withdrawal, an absence and a cancellation?
3) What should I do if I withdraw/am absent/cancel?
Should I withdraw/postpone my LSAT?
This is a tough question. It’s also fairly difficult to give a solid answer that applies generally.
However, I’m going to do it anyway.
First, some background. It’s a common belief that most people underperform on test day. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule (I overperformed, though; I had the benefit of a belly full of gator meat), but it’s a good assumption to make as part of a worst-case scenario decision. The LSAT score band is a little under three points in both directions, so take two off your practice test average to get a good idea of what your score could look like if an average amount goes wrong on test day.
Now, compare this to your desired score. If you’re more than five points away, you should strongly consider postponing. Five points is HUGE on the LSAT, and if you won’t be happy with your score, there’s no reason to take the exam. You shouldn’t count on a test day adrenaline rush to push you through. That adrenaline rush is part of our fight-or-flight response, and it’s going to tell you to fight. You know what we’re not evolutionarily primed to do while fighting? Answer games based on logic. If you’re that far away from your target this close to the LSAT, it’s time to consider another administration.
What’s the difference between a withdrawal, and absence, and a cancellation?
Here are the basics:
A withdrawal won’t show up on your score report in any way; the schools will never know you registered.
An absence means that you registered for the exam, but you didn’t show up on test day.
A cancellation means that you sat for the exam and decided you did poorly enough that you didn’t want to see your score.
What does each look like to admissions?
A withdrawal looks like nothing to them.
An absence used to be no big deal. However, I assume that with the change in policy you’ll probably be expected (even more than previously) to write an explanatory essay. The schools think that you didn’t show up for one of two reasons: you weren’t ready, or you have a legitimate reason for missing the test. My car broke down, I was sick, Nancy Grace was voted off DWTS. If they don’t get a reason, they might think that you weren’t ready and you were too lazy/irresponsible to withdraw the night before.
Am I being paranoid? Probably, but why risk it?
A cancellation looks like you showed up for the test, but you know that you bombed it. Of the three, this is probably the worst. Nonetheless, it’s still not that bad. It is also much better than a bad score.
The presumption, however, will be that you did poorly on it, not that you were sick (because if you were sick enough for it to affect you, you should have had the better judgment to not sit for it in the first place).
This presumption can be overcome with a good reason (USC’s marching band decided to have an impromptu three-hour flash mob outside the testing center), but you most likely won’t have one. Just suck it up, as the schools won’t care that much. After all, without an actual, reported low LSAT score, they won’t have to report it to US News.
What to do if you:
Withdraw: Register for December. Come up with a study plan and stick to it. Get your applications ready so you can apply as soon as December scores are released.
Absent: Register for December. Come up with a study plan and stick to it. Get your applications ready so you can apply as soon as December scores are released, including a short explanatory essay on why you were absent.
Cancel: Register for December. Come up with a study plan and stick to it. Get your applications ready so you can apply as soon as December scores are released, including a short explanatory essay on why you canceled, if you have a good reason.