To Retake or Not?

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December LSAT scores are out, and that means many students are now facing a tough choice: retake the test or stick with the score you got?

The question is a perennial one, and one that we’ve tackled before here at Most Strongly Supported. According to data from LSAC, most mid-range test takers (those who scored in the 140s and 150s on their previous LSAT) increase their scores by slightly more than two points when they retake it. Test takers who performed worse initially tend to improve slightly more, and test takers who scored better initially tend to improve slightly less.

So the average repeat test taker increases his/her score, but not by a huge amount. Of course, that’s just an average. To get a better sense of how much you personally would be likely to improve, ask yourself these questions:

-Did you have a good, bad, or normal day in December? Did you score within a point or two of the average of your last 2-3 practice tests?
-Did you study as much as you felt you should have? If you were enrolled in a course, did you get through all the homework? Did you feel like you thoroughly understood what to expect from the test and how to approach it?
-Will you have time to study between now and February, or whenever you would next take the test?

If you had an unusually bad day or didn’t get to fully prepare, you may very well beat the spread and increase your score by a big margin your next time around – that is, if you have enough free time to put in to make sure you’ll be ready. Otherwise, you should only project moderate improvement when deciding whether or not to retake.

Suppose you do decide to retake the test. The next question is whether or not to take it in February. Again, it depends on your circumstances. For many schools, the February test is too late for the Fall 2016 cycle, so there’s no real urgency. There’s also the matter of the February test being “weird.” LSAC doesn’t make February tests public, and then tend to be more experimental than the other annual administrations.

But as we’ve pointed out before, weird isn’t necessarily bad, and the February test is still fundamentally the same beast. The upside of retaking it soon is that you’ll be able to build on the studying you’ve already done and then move on with your life within a few months. This gives you all spring and summer to work on the rest of your application and get it in early for Fall 2017.

Ultimately, I’d advise retaking the LSAT whenever you think you’ll have the most time to prepare. It’s like ornery football coach Bruce Aryans says: “You lose games on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. You don’t lose them on Sundays.”

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