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How to interpret your October 2011 LSAT score

Scores from the October 2011 LSAT are likely to be released over the weekend. For those of you who got the scores you wanted, congratulations! (You’re also probably not reading this). Students that were disappointed in their scores should consider a retake; however, this decision can be hard to make, and students often decide based on emotion rather than data. LSAC reports that students improve, on average, between 1 and 3 points on a retake, and that roughly 2/3 of students improve on a retake.

Here are the key factors that go into that decision.

How do you know if you should retake the LSAT?

  • There was some extraneous circumstance, like you were shorted on time, ill, or misbubbled (and for some reason you didn’t cancel)
  • Your score was significantly lower (>2 points) than the average of your final 3 full prep-tests
  • You didn’t devote yourself to a complete course of study (i.e. you worked through LSAT for Dummies and took one full real practice test)

If you got a score that’s comfortably in the range of your past prep tests and you devoted 3+ months to studying the first time, you probably shouldn’t retake. Students that have a vague sense that they “could do better” rarely improve much, and it’s probably time to get on with the admissions process with the score you have. (I’ve gotten calls from students that have been studying for the LSAT for over 4 years. Don’t be one of those students.)

You should also consider how taking the next test will position you in the admissions cycle.  For those who took the October LSAT, having to wait for a December score could put you at a  disadvantage in the rolling admissions cycle of very competitive schools if you plan on entering in 2012.  That said, if you are able to raise your score by even 2-3 points, you’ll on net have a better admissions portfolio.

How to Prepare for a Retake

If you simply weren’t prepared, well, work harder! But for students that thought they were ready for the test, make sure you think about your retake studying strategically. Looking through the same books again or re-taking a prep course is unlikely to help much in our experience. Here are a few guidelines:

  • If you took a prep course, retaking the same prep course, even for free, will likely not help you improve.
  • Students that studied on their own might benefit from the guidance of a one-on-one tutor or another flexible prep strategy. (If you already know the basics and studied from decent prep books, a lecture-style prep course will generally go over the same material you already know).
  • If you weren’t on a regular study schedule, it’s time to get on one. Many students studied haphazardly; LSAT prep is like a job. If you’re going to be successful, your study times and practice tests should go on your calendar just like classes or work shifts.

The good news is that in our experience, students who follow these guidelines often can make substantial score gains that really impact their admissions chances. Needless to say, if you’re retaking in December, today is a great time to start.

Next Step Test Preparation provides complete courses of one-on-one tutoring with an LSAT expert for less than the price of a commercial prep course. Email us or call 888-530-NEXT (6398) for a complimentary consultation.