Every year, thousands and thousands of people just like you take the LSAT. Over a hundred thousand, to be precise. To be even more precise, check out this chart listing the number of administered LSATs per test date. No seriously, go check it out. Really.
Pretty fun, right? There’s a few things you may have noticed. First, LSAT apparently wants you to share this chart on both facebook and twitter. But more importantly, the numbers have been fluctuating. During the 2009-10 cycle, LSATs administered were up a whopping 13.3% from the previous cycle, with over 170,000 people taking the test. This was an increase that started during 2008-2009 period, which saw a 6.4% total increase from the cycle prior.
What’s going on here? Well, look where the other massive change was – 2001-2003 had an even larger percentage increase over previous years. That was right after the dot com bubble burst. The more recent increase correlated to the beginning of our recent economic crisis. Economic crises tend drive people into the comforting arms of law school. The thinking is that they can “wait out the storm” of the recession in grad school. Also, becoming recently unemployed can be a good impetus to go and get that degree you’ve always wanted.
Why does this matter? Well, more tests given means that there are more applicants with more scores floating around out there. This can translate to rougher application cycles. Considering a 172+ puts you in the 99th percentile, in the 2009-2010 cycle there were almost 300 more people who got these scores than two years prior. Suddenly there’s a lot more competition.
But all this seems to be changing. During the 2010-2011 cycle (it ends with the February 2011 test), total tests given was down 9.6% from the previous cycle. It was still above the 2008-2009 cycle, but was nonetheless a pretty big drop. People weren’t sure if this trend would continue, but it looks like it will. This June’s test had fewer than 27,000 people sitting for it, lower than any June test since 2007. This represented a nearly 19% drop from June 2010. It seems like the law school rush of the last couple years may have come to an end.
What does this mean for you? Perhaps a more forgiving application cycle. There will most likely be fewer law school applicants, which in turn means that you may get into a couple schools that you wouldn’t have last year or the year before. But it’s not going to suddenly change which tier of schools you’re looking at, so get back to your LSAT study. Regardless of how many people are taking it, that magic three-digit number is the biggest determinant of where you’ll be going to school.