The LSAT is a somewhat unique test, in that it is offered only four times each calendar year. And due to the nature of admissions, as well as college schedules (which affect the majority of test takers), each of those four administrations has certain pros and cons that need to be weighed as you consider your planned test date.
With that in mind, I want to take a moment to examine each test administration and outline some of details involved, so you can make the best possible decision about which LSAT is right for you.
The truth is, while the biggest factor in taking this test is making sure that you’re well-prepared (in short: don’t take the LSAT until you know you’re ready!), the decision should ultimately be based on a little more than that. Your chosen exam should also be as beneficial as possible to your application cycle.
Let’s start with this: “Why is my LSAT score so important in the law school admissions process?” However, there’s no hard and fast rule as to which LSAT administration is the absolute best. Contrary to some myths, there aren’t “easier” administrations of the LSAT, as I’ve pointed out in the past (although, some would argue, the fact that the June test takes place in the afternoon makes it a bit more manageable). As far as the test itself goes, though, all of them are calibrated to be as close to the same level of difficulty as possible, so one isn’t “better” than another. As far as which administration is the worst, I would say that it’s probably the February one, for the simple reason that it is nondisclosed, meaning you get your score and percentile, but not a copy of the test or your answers. If you’re going to take the LSAT, you may as well take one that gives you as much feedback as possible.
So, I hear you asking, if there isn’t one administration that’s better than the rest, what difference does it make which one I take? Trust me, it makes a difference.
Assuming you are entering law school in the fall of next year, you should consider the following factors when choosing a test administration date:.
The June LSAT is a great option if you want to submit your applications at the start of the admissions cycle.
- PRO: Taking the June LSAT frees up your summer so that you can work on the other aspects of your law school application (résumé, personal statement, letters of recommendation, etc.) instead of studying for the October administration (assuming you don’t retake in September/October, but even then your prep is likely to be less strenuous).
- PRO: If you don’t do as well as you’d like on the June LSAT, you can easily retake it in September/October or December, and have plenty of time to get applications in.
- PRO: Taking this LSAT gives you the ability to submit your application at the very start of the admission cycle, in mid-September or early October (depending on when applications become available).
- CON: If you’re still in school, you’ll have to spend your spring semester studying for the LSAT, which may be the last thing you want to do (or have time to do).
The September/October LSAT is the most popular test of the year because it falls at the start of the application cycle, and many students take it as they “officially” start working on their law school applications.
- PRO: Taking the September/October LSAT allows you to spend the summer preparing for it, which means that you don’t have to juggle studying and school at the same time (although you may have to juggle work and studying).
- PRO: If you take this LSAT and don’t do as well as you’d hoped, you still have the December LSAT to try your hand at it again. But, CON: The December LSAT will be your last chance if you don’t want to be submitting your apps either right at application deadlines, or just before them.
- CON: As mentioned above, this is the most popular test of the year, which means that testing centers fill up fast and usually well ahead of the registration deadline. If you decide to take this LSAT, make sure to sign up early!
- CON: If you’re dead-set on submitting your applications as early in the cycle as possible, you may not be able to if you take this LSAT, since scores aren’t available until mid- to late October.
- PRO: All schools accept the results of the December LSAT. But, CON: This makes it a popular choice for many applicants, which means that if you don’t register early, you may not get the testing center you want.
- CON: December LSAT scores become available in January of the following year, which means your application won’t be complete until late in the admissions cycle. It also means you’ll spend the holidays freaking out, on top of waiting to complete your apps.
- CON: For most top law schools, the December LSAT is the last test they will accept for admission the following year. So it’s basically your last chance to get the score you’re looking for and, if this is your only score, it’s your only chance.
- CON: If you live in a place that gets gnarly winter weather, you may end up getting snowed out on the day of the test, which can wreak havoc with your mental LSAT preparation.
I consider this to be least favorable test administration. It’s basically a “last resort” for many students applying for admission in the fall of the same year.
- CON: Although many schools accept the results of the February LSAT, they often recommend you take an earlier administration in order to maximize your admissions chances. Very few top law schools take the results of the February LSAT.
- CON: Scores typically aren’t available until early March, which means you’re submitting your applications very late in the cycle (which harms not only your admissions chances, but also–and most importantly–your financial aid chances).
- CON: This test is nondisclosed.
- CON: Just like with the December LSAT, beware of foul winter weather. Testing centers regularly get snowed out.
- PRO: If you’re not planning on applying for admission that same year, then it’s a good chance to get the LSAT completed well in advance. However, this is rarely the reason students take it.
So clearly there is no perfect answer for everyone, but the positives and negatives of each administration make the decision an important one! Consider your schedule, application timeline, and general test-readiness, and make the choice that’s right for you.
When are you planning on taking the LSAT? Do you know yet? If you do, let us know your plans in the comments below!
Photo: “Confused” courtesy of CollegeDegrees360.