Choosing your LSAT test date is like falling in love. How do you know you’re ready?
You just know. When you know you know.
But actually that’s kind of paradoxical, because if you’re presupposing that you know, of course in that case you would know. But what does that even mean? Couldn’t you think that you know, even though you don’t know, because you’ve never known so you don’t actually know what it feels like to know?
Luckily, there are other guides you can use to determine when you’ll be ready to take the LSAT. Many people are probably wrestling with this question as the deadline to register for the October test is now just a month away. Take the October test or wait until December? Here are some factors to consider:
1) How well do you know the test?
2) Are you planning on applying to law school this year?
3) How enthused are you at the prospect of giving LSAC an extra $108?
Okay, let’s start with familiarity. Suppose you’ve never cracked an LSAT book before in your life. It’s not too late to prepare yourself for the October test. But you should know that the next two months are going to be pretty dry. If you are working full-time or travelling or planning on watching TV or interfacing with other humans, you may want to play it safe and take the December test. On the other hand, if you’ve already started studying and have at least basic familiarity with the LSAT, two months of dedicated practice should get you to where you need to be on October 4th.
Next factor: are you hoping to apply to law school this fall? Most law schools accept applications on a rolling basis. There is a significant advantage to getting your application in sooner rather than later. That said, both the October and December tests will allow you to apply for the Fall 2016 cycle. But you won’t get your December score until the end of the month, delaying your application somewhat. An October test date will let you get your foot in the door early. If you’re not applying until next year or beyond and you think you’ll be more prepared with an extra two months, December is probably the safer way to go.
Last factor: how do you feel about taking the test more than once? A big advantage of the October test date is that it gives you time to get your score and then decide whether you want to take another shot in December (and you won’t have to delay your application for a year). For some students with test anxiety, this can be huge. Just the knowledge that there are second chances can let October test takers relax and hit their targets.
Of course, there are downsides to taking the test more than once. You have to pay the registration fee twice. That’s a drag. I mean, there are so many institutions you’d rather give your hard-earned money to than LSAC, right? UNICEF, for example, has helped save way more children from malaria than LSAC has. There’s also the fact that most schools look at the average of your LSAT scores. So if you bomb the test on your first go, that score will hurt you no matter how well you do the second time around. So if you’re not ready in October, you should hold off, even though you’ll only have one more chance in 2015.
Which brings me to my personal recommendation: If you think you have a good shot of being ready in October and are prepared to forfeit $118, sign up for the October and play the wait-and-see game. You can withdraw your registration (no refunds) up to 11:59 PM the night before, depending on how confident you’re feeling. If you do well, you can get your application in early. If your score sucks, you can take it again. If you’re totally unprepared, you can withdraw the night before and redouble your efforts for the December test.
Win-win-win! Sort of.