The Season to Consider Repeating the LSAT is Upon Us: Should You or Shouldn’t You Retake the LSAT?

In a couple of weeks, takers of the October LSAT will receive their scores.  Some will be disappointed in their LSAT score and consider repeating the LSAT.  I’ve received calls already from October’s takers, availing themselves of Advise-In’s free initial consultation and asking whether they should repeat the LSAT.  The best answer differs for each person but there are some useful benchmarks for thinking about whether repeating the LSAT is right for you.

Back in June, I said that the best way of approaching the LSAT was to get your LSAT prep right the first time, so you can avoid the issue of whether you should retake the LSAT.  That’s still true.  I’m pleased that no Advise-In clients have ever repeated the LSAT after my LSAT program; they know they got their best LSAT score.  (A significant proportion of my clients come from other programs, of course, and are retaking the LSAT following those programs.)  Advise-In average improvements of over 12 points and over 30 percentiles aren’t based on cherry-picked success stories but are averages, including clients who have taken other prep courses, the gains from which are built into the base Advise-In numbers and therefore lower our reported average improvement if those programs were effective.

The desire to improve your LSAT score is perfectly rational, of course.  Law school is a significant investment in time and money, and the career payoff of law schools differs vastly, even though the tuition and other fees a law student will pay are remarkably flat.  You’ll pay only slightly more tuition to a top 5-ranked law school (US News rankings) than to a school ranked elsewhere in the top 100, and little less than that to a school that isn’t ranked at all.  And yet, those slightly different expenditures are more than made up for, on average, in a matter of a couple of months out of law school.

Small variations in LSAT scores can make a tremendous difference to admissions and financial aid opportunities.  The difference depends on where an individual is on the LSAT score spectrum, of course, but here’s a little illustrative data.  The median LSAT score of the 21st– and 41st-ranked law schools differed by a total of 6 correctly-answered questions.  That’s 1.5 questions per graded section.  Not much.  That’s why investing in the best LSAT prep program for you is just that—an investment in future earnings potential and career flexibility.

LSAT retakers, on average, do slightly better on the LSAT their second time around.  Anyone repeating the LSAT should be aware that your score can decline as well as rise, and if your first LSAT preparation program didn’t get you the score you thought you could achieve, you should have a clear basis for believing that you’ll be among those whose LSAT score increases rather than declines.

That leads to the crucial point.  Just as LSAT programs sometimes encourage insufficiently-focused practice for practice’s sake, potential LSAT repeaters should know what will be different this time around.

Determining how your second (or third) time around will differ involves understanding why your LSAT prep didn’t work the first time.  You and (if you have one) your pre-law advisor should do a careful analysis to determine what went wrong and how many errors and points each thing that went wrong was worth.

Was there  a problem with understanding certain types of questions?  Did you get confused during the LSAT about how to approach a section or type of question?  Was there just too much to remember, too many LSAT study techniques, too much jargon?  Did you panic or tense up?  Get tired at certain points during the LSAT?  Did your neighbor, or the proctor, annoy you?  Did you have trouble getting started?  Finishing?  Were you insufficiently motivated to do the preparation you should have, and had an instructor or tutor who didn’t monitor what you were doing closely enough?  And how much did each of those problems cost you?  If you can clearly diagnose the reasons for about 5 errors or more, it’s worth thinking about whether to retake the LSAT.

That doesn’t mean you should repeat the LSAT.  To make that decision well,  you need to understand how you’re going to avoid making the same mistakes again.  Volume-based classroom and per-hour tutoring models aren’t structured to help their students attain their highest LSAT score.  Nor is it generally helpful to repeat the same LSAT prep course you took the first time.  It wasn’t the solution, and it’s hard to see how doing the same thing one more time will help.  That’s another part of the unfocused practice problem.  If you have an unhappy rental experience with a landlord, it’s not going to improve your living conditions to rent another one from the same guy, especially if he doesn’t acknowledge the first apartment’s  shortcomings.

During the calls I’m getting now, and receive after every LSAT, law school aspirants  and I talk about that individual’s prep program, LSAT history, troubles with the LSAT and law school admissions profile.  For some, repeating the LSAT is the right answer; for others, it’s not.  It’s your special profile that will determine that.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on October 15, 2010.

One Response to “The Season to Consider Repeating the LSAT is Upon Us: Should You or Shouldn’t You Retake the LSAT?”

  1. […] you think that information necessary, or if you plan on retaking the LSAT (which is a decision with its own pros and cons). My clients do equally well on all tests; there is no good reason to believe that the February […]

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