As an LSAT instructor, it is natural to receive the same questions from students over the years. It almost gets to a point where you can predict the issues that students will raise and when they will be raised. However, there is one question that reigns supreme: When is the best time to take the LSAT?
When is the LSAT Offered?
Now, before we actually attempt to answer when to take the LSAT, let’s dive into when the LSAT is offered and how to choose your ideal test day. The LSAT used to be given four times a year: February, June, September/October, and December. However, they’ve slowly increased the number of LSATs every year, with nine dates in 2019 and ten predicted dates in 2020. The summer tests, understandably, are very popular, given that most college students have more time to study once the spring semester ends. Fall and winter are also popular with those that want to apply to law schools in that cycle. Spring LSAT dates are sprinkled in for everyone else.
How do you choose an LSAT Date?
Ideally, you want to give yourself enough time to take the LSAT before you plan to apply to law school to ensure you receive your test score on time, especially if you find yourself having to retake the LSAT. For example, if you’re applying to law school this fall for admission next year, it’s best to take the LSAT before December of this year.
Applications aside, you also need to make sure that regardless of the test date, you have enough time to prep for the LSAT. Think strategically. Taking the October LSAT gives you the entire summer to study, but your law school application won’t be complete to submit as soon as those who took the June LSAT. In this case, the June or July LSAT might seem like a great idea to get ensure you get scores back on time, but you might find it hard to prep during spring semester finals.
Is One LSAT Easier or Harder than Another?
So what does it mean for one test to be easier or harder than another? Essentially, the only factor that can be used to judge the difficulty of a certain LSAT is the curve. The “curve” is a term that has been coined for the conversion on the test from a student’s raw score (how many questions he or she answered correctly) to that student’s scaled score, from 120 to 180. This is all LSAT 101. The curve changes slightly from test to test. Really, if you think about it, there are two components that factor into the curve for a particular LSAT: the difficulty of the test and how well the test-taking population performs. And these factors have caused a great degree of speculation among students.
Is the June test harder because those are students that tend to plan ahead? Is the October test harder because those students have all summer to cram their LSAT prep books? Is the December test harder because there are a lot of people retaking the exam?
So this is the question that I set out to answer in the only way that I really know how – by checking the stats. To be honest, this was a slightly intimidating prospect. I have been telling students for years that the curve always evens out because there are so many test takers and, for that reason, there is no “harder” or “easier” time to take the LSAT. Moreover, LSAC has a vested interest in making sure the tests balance out. If certain test administrations were more difficult than others, it would be unfair to candidates who took the “harder” LSAT (not to mention running against the very intention of the LSAT which is to provide a uniform standard). But what if I had been wrong all along? Also, as an owner of an LSAT preparation company, there could be significant repercussions from doing this bit of research. What if I had to report to people that the December LSAT was always significantly harder than the other tests each year? I am guessing that would not be good for business in the fall.
Well, I crunched the numbers, anyway, from 2001 to 2009. In the end, the results were surprising, but not surprising in the way you might think. Not only are there no significant differences between the various LSAT administrations, but it is also astonishing how little difference actually exists.
For each of the LSAT scores that I averaged (140 through 175 at 5 point increments), the difference in raw score (measured by the percentage of questions answered correctly) varied by no more than 2%. This equates to about 2 LSAT questions. The similarities between the June and September/October LSATs are even more striking. The average difference between the two curves is 0.16% (or well under 1 actual LSAT question). If you are really pushing to find a trend, it does seem that in the middle range of scores, between 145 and 165, the December LSAT seems to be a little more forgiving. Again, take that with a grain of salt.
In conclusion, there is no “harder” or “easier” time to take the LSAT. There have been rough and forgiving curves for all test administrations and they even out over time. So quit worrying about when the LSAC thinks you should take the LSAT and give it a shot when you have a good amount of time to put into your prep course and studying.