June 11, 2015, by

Each year, over 100,000 people take the LSAT, the only major standardized test with two Logical Reasoning sections. Despite the test’s emphasis on logic, and its target population of budding legal minds, aspiring law students circulate a number of questionable theories and myths about how the test works.

Let’s examine three common fallacies about the LSAT and see how cutting through the rumors can benefit potential test-takers.

Myth #1: If I take the LSAT and do terribly, it will really hurt me even if I retake the test and do better.

There is only a little truth to this. It is true that when applying to law schools, students are generally required to submit all of their valid (i.e. 5 years old or less) LSAT scores. However, schools care much more about a student’s highest score than they do about lower scores.

Until a few years ago, law schools were required to average each student’s LSAT scores when calculating the school’s median LSAT score for use in determining school rankings. Now, law schools are only required to use the top LSAT score for each student. As a result, while schools will see a lower score, they place greater emphasis on the highest score and give only a small amount of consideration to previous, lower scores.

Besides, if you take the LSAT and something happens on test day so that you know it really didn’t go well (i.e. you are sick, you don’t get any sleep the night before, or you leave a lot more questions blank than on practice tests), you may cancel your scores for up to 6 days following the administration of the test.

Reality #1: You should enter your LSAT with a sense of confidence, knowing your highest scores are the most important.

Myth #2: I should sign up to take the LSAT before I start studying so that I know where I stand.

Taking a practice LSAT to gauge your starting point is a great idea, but you should not use an official administration of the test as a baseline for a few different reasons. First, even though schools care most about your top score, you are still required to submit all of your scores. Second, and most importantly, you are only allowed to take the test a total of three times every two years. You use up one of these three even if you cancel your scores on the day of taking the test. Also, the official test results take two to four weeks or more to be released. Instead, take a full practice LSAT to get a baseline. Make sure to use an official released test for your baseline to get the most accurate results possible.

Reality #2: Don’t squander your opportunities to take the LSAT. Get a baseline test proctored from a reputable test prep company, or time yourself using a previously released LSAT.

Myth #3: The curve is easiest on the December test and hardest on the June test.

There are various explanations for this myth. Some think that because the most prepared students take the LSAT during one month or another, the curve then is more difficult than at other times. Others believe that because lower scoring students tend to retake the test, test days with more people retaking the test are more easily curved because their scores don’t tend to go up very much. Finally, some people think that tests administered on dates with more first-time test takers are more easily curved because the average tester is less experienced and therefore likely to achieve a lower score.

Luckily, none of these perceptions is accurate. The test isn’t curved based on a single administration, but is instead “equated” based on student scores over time. The mean score changes very slightly from one test day to another, based on variations in who is taking the test and, to a very small extent, on random chance. The test is quite consistent in terms of difficulty from one test date to the next.

Excluding international test dates, the LSAT is offered four times each year: in February, June, September or October, and December. One reason to go for a specific test date, besides just what is most convenient for your school or work schedule, is that the June test, unlike the others, is offered in the afternoon, with a start time of 12:30 pm. Tests on the other dates start at 8:30 am. So if you have a strong preference between morning and afternoon, keep that in mind when scheduling your test day.

Perhaps the most important reason to consider one test date over another is the impact of the rolling admissions process. Most law schools begin considering applications in October, but continue to accept applications until February. However, schools are attempting to fill a certain number of spots each year, which means that students who apply early are at an advantage, as the school has more spots to fill at that time.

Therefore, many students would benefit from choosing February as their first test date, as it would allow them time to retake the test in June, if necessary, and still complete their applications by October 1st, rather than needing to wait for scores from a September, October, or December test to come out before they could finish their applications. The only downside to this plan is that the February LSAT is the only one of the standard tests that is not released each year, so if you do take that one and decide to take it again, you cannot request and review a copy of the test to troubleshoot what to work on for next time.

Reality #3: Take the LSAT according to what suits your schedule best, aiming to complete your applications early to gain the greatest chance for admission to your top choice schools.

The LSAT is an important test, and prospective law students should carefully consider when to take it, how to study for it, and what to do with the results. Marks Education offers free, proctored practice LSATs on Sundays during the school year and on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the summer, or by appointment. Please contact us to schedule a practice test, or with any other admissions or test prep questions. We stay on top of the changing law school admissions environment and are here to help you prepare for both the LSAT and the admissions process.

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