Law schools will know if you retake the LSAT, but they are unlikely to care.
There are more than enough reasons to stress out about your law school applications. Retaking the LSAT is not one of them.
Misinformation about this topic is widespread, because policies have changed. Before 2006, law schools reported to the American Bar Association the average LSAT score of their incoming students, which factored into law school rankings. To keep their rankings high, law schools generally averaged each applicant’s LSAT scores in their admissions decisions.
In 2006, reporting changed from an incoming student’s average LSAT score to their highest LSAT score, and law schools followed suit. With the proliferation of test preparation options, discouraging applicants from retaking the test made little sense.
Now, some law schools commit outright to considering an applicant’s highest score only, while others claim to look at all scores. Some say that an applicant’s scores will be averaged if they are roughly similar.
The reason for this range of policies is that law schools care about high LSAT scores not only because they factor into rankings and reputation, but also because they are statistically correlated with law school grades. So, law schools may find an applicant’s overall LSAT record useful in making an admissions decision.
Obsessively retaking the LSAT without a change in results can look a little unprofessional, but score improvement can show positive qualities like perseverance and good study habits.
If you feel you can improve your score by at least a few points, retaking the LSAT is worthwhile.
To leave room to retake the test, schedule your first test by August or September. Retaking the LSAT too late in the admissions cycle, particularly after November, risks application delays that reduce odds of admission to law school.
Is There a Limit on Retaking the LSAT?
Since the introduction of the digital LSAT in 2019, the LSAT has been offered nine times per year. Each test-taker is allowed to take the LSAT up to three times in a single testing year, which runs from July to June. Additionally, test-takers cannot take the LSAT more than five times within five years or seven times overall.
These limits do not apply to tests taken prior to September 2019, nor do they apply to the three-section LSAT-Flex tests temporarily offered at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also do not apply to absences or withdrawals.
Retaking the test can get expensive, since the LSAT costs $215 per test. Need-based fee waivers cover only two tests over two years.
What About Canceled Tests?
Normally, test-takers must decide whether to cancel their score within six days of the test, before they know their score. However, those who purchase the LSAT Score Preview option are able to cancel their score six days after seeing the score. Until recently, this option was available only to first-time test-takers, but now it’s available to every test-taker.
Law schools will see every time an applicant cancels his or her score, and those cancellations still count against the limits on retaking the test.
Law schools won’t hold a score cancellation against an applicant, but they may grow wary of applicants with multiple score cancellations. That said, a canceled score is still better than a low score, and the availability of LSAT Score Preview lowers the stakes for applicants seeking to retake the test.
How Can Applicants Explain Multiple LSAT Scores?
Multiple LSAT scores or cancellations are not unusual and do not require explanation. However, there are a few circumstances that warrant an LSAT addendum.
First, if extenuating circumstances either prevent you from retaking the LSAT or caused you to retake it several times, it’s wise to include an addendum to contextualize your scores.
Likewise, schools appreciate an addendum if your score changes significantly. Generally, this means a 10-point difference unless a school specifies another threshold.
Since it so easy to retake the test, think carefully before writing an LSAT addendum that merely explains a low score. Unless you have a strong reason like a persistent hardship or a documented history of underperformance on standardized tests, it can be hard to make a persuasive case.
What About Other Standardized Tests?
Although the LSAT is still the dominant test for law school applicants, roughly half of law schools accept GRE scores as an LSAT alternative.
A few law schools also accept the GMAT, as well, which can be useful for applicants considering J.D.-MBA programs.
While LSAT scores are automatically reported to you and to the law schools to which you have applied, other tests require you to select recipients. Law schools that accept the GRE typically require applicants to report all GRE scores and will look at this full record.
Generally, if an applicant has both LSAT and GRE or GMAT scores, the law school will focus on the applicant’s LSAT scores. The other scores may be considered for context.
Ultimately, law school applicants should anticipate that they may need to retake the LSAT, not fear it. If you receive a disappointing score, schedule another test and sharpen your skills through diligent and methodical practice.