The LSAT Numbers Are In

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After much speculation by those of us in the LSAT world, LSAC has just recently released the numbers for the June LSAT.

Before I give it away, here is some background. The June test is generally a good indicator for the volume of test takers that we can expect for the testing cycle. Although it is not a perfect correlation, the number of LSAT takers is also an indicator of how many applications can be expected in the next cycle. So the June 2009 test likely tells us how many students will be taking the LSAT in September and December, and the number of students that take the LSAT this year is related to how many wanna-be-lawyers will be applying to law school this fall.

In 2007, 25,103 people took the June LSAT. This number bumped up to 28,939 in 2008. That was a 15.3% increase and the world was in a tizzy. And then the economy decided to take a dive. Everyone was expecting a year for the record books. But that did not really come to fruition. The October test saw only a 1.9% increase from 2007 to 2008, and the December test saw a 3.3% increase. So everyone took a deep breath. All told, the number of LSATs administered in 2008 was up 6.4% in 2008 to a cool 151,400. In addition, the number of law school applicants in the fall of 2008 remained nearly the same as in preceding years.

Then came 2009 and the economy was really in the crapper. And people were really starting to feel it. Would this be the year when law school admissions would skyrocket?

Well, we just got our first real indication.

LSAC just reported that there were 32,500 test takers for the June 2009 LSAT.

That is the highest amount for a June administration, ever. If you crunch the numbers, that is a 12.3% increase over the 28,939 test takers in June 2008.

WOW! Panicked students everywhere proclaim that this is going to be a record-breaking year. There might be over a million people taking the September test. The curve is going to be brutal; you might have to get every question right to get a 157! (Though we of course know that the curve is actually getting slightly easier). And don’t even get started talking about admissions for next year. There is no way that anyone is getting in anywhere. A 160 might get you into some ABA-approved school in South Dakota that no one has every head of, but any legitimate school is going to be looking for Kennedy descendents and 4.4 GPAs. Crap!

In general, this is the type of hysteria that results from such announcements. There are even certain “law school experts” who are predicting very competitive law school admissions based on the high number of test takers.

I don’t buy it. At least not completely.

People are forgetting about a few things, but they are forgetting about one very major thing. There was an important change in the LSAC regarding the LSAT this year.

Beginning this year (with the June 2009 exam, no less), students were given much less flexibility in postponing their test date. Until this year, students could postpone their LSAT until the day of the test. You could even do it after the test started. That’s right, you could wake up sick, nervous, or in need of a Baywatch marathon, go online to LSAC, and tell them that you were just going to take it later. This meant that many students who felt they were not ready would postpone their test date very shortly before the big show. No longer.

Now students have to inform LSAC weeks before the test date if they wish to change their testing administration. For the upcoming September 26 LSAT, the deadline to postpone is September 6. It is very difficult for students to assess whether or not they should postpone their test date three weeks before game day. For students in prep classes, they have likely not taken all of their practice tests and significant improvement can take place in the 20 days before the test.

I believe that this change of rules is also responsible for part of the increase in the number of test takers. Just from personal experience, I would estimate that I had at least ten students in my spring class who would have postponed their test date and not taken the June LSAT under the old rules. But these students were forced to grapple with the mauve dinosaurs just like everyone else under the new system.

So, in my humble opinion, there are two factors that are responsible for the increase in test takers on the June 2009 LSAT.

1. The new LSAC rules forced students to take the test who would have postponed in the past.

2. The economy and job market have sent people to law school that otherwise might not as a way ride out the recession.

At this point, it is hard to discern which of these factors is having a greater influence. However, potential law students can take some solace in the fact that there are two factors in play. Even if the test-taking population in September and December of this year is larger than normal, that will very likely not have a dramatic effect on admissions next year.

So sit back and relax. The only real conclusions will be drawn when application stats come in the door, which will not occur until spring of 2010.

So until the next round of hysteria, study for the LSAT and watch Baywatch if you need to relax. Hasselhoff is huge in Germany for a reason.

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