June scores have officially been released, which means that at least some people are now faced with a difficult decision: To retake or not to retake? There are two big truths that you need to take into consideration when deciding whether to give the LSAT another try.
Truth #1: It will almost definitely help your application
If you think you can do better on the LSAT, then it will almost certainly be worth your while to retake, even if it means that you won’t be able to submit your applications until later in the cycle than you’d originally planned — given the choice between submitting earlier with a lower score, or later with a higher score, the latter option will pretty much always result in more success.
Truth #2: Most people don’t actually score much higher when they retake
LSAC has actually released data on what happened to people who took the LSAT more than once (PDF), and it’s pretty interesting stuff. The data shows that, although most people did increase their scores, on average their scores were only higher by a couple points. For instance, of the 531 people who originally got a 160 on the LSAT, 359 managed to score better on the second time around, while 42 got the same score and 130 actually did worse. (Yikes!) The average score for on the second try for those people who’d originally scored a 160 was 162. You see the same trend all over this chart — test takers at pretty much all levels snagged one to two extra points, but not much more than that.
Now, there’s no question that scoring even a couple extra points on the LSAT can boost your application (see truth #1). But there are a couple lessons we can learn from this information (if we leave the realm of verifiable data and enter the world of measured speculation).
I surmise that one reason scores change so little on average is that many retakers underestimate the amount of time they’ll be able to spend studying for their second take. If you decide to retake but then don’t have much time to actually prepare, your score isn’t going to change by much. On the other hand, if you’re able to continue devoting a lot of time to your studies, it’s more probable that you’ll “beat the odds.” So if you’re going to do this thing, you should be prepared to go all in on your studying.
At the same time, statistics are statistics for a reason. So if you’re choosing whether to give the LSAT a second (or even third) try, you should consider the very real possibility that your score will only improve marginally (if at all). Only you can decide whether it would be worth dedicating the extra time, money, and effort for that kind of change. Again, that’s not to say that your score definitely will follow the average trend; you just need to be cognizant that it’s a possibility.
You might think I’m trying to talk you out of retaking the LSAT, but in fact, it’s quite the opposite — if someone is unhappy with his or her score, in most cases, I’d advise that it makes sense to take the test another time. But the best decision is a fully informed one, so make sure you’ve considered all possible outcomes before you take that step.