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When to Take the LSAT

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As an LSAT instructor, it is natural to receive the same questions from students and test takers over the years. It almost gets to a point where you can predict the issues that students will raise and when they will be raised. However, there is one question that reigns supreme: When is the best LSAT date to take the exam?

When is the LSAT Test Offered?

Now, before we actually attempt to answer when to take the LSAT exam, let’s dive into when the LSAT is offered and how to choose your ideal test day. The LSAT exam used to be given four times a year: February, June, September/October, and December. However, they’ve slowly increased the number of LSAT tests every year. The summer tests, understandably, are very popular, given that most college students have more time to study once the spring semester ends. Fall and winter are also popular with those that are interested in that seasons’ law school admissions cycle. Spring LSAT test dates are sprinkled in for everyone else.

How do you choose an LSAT Test Date?

Ideally, you want to give yourself enough time to take the LSAT before you plan to apply to law school to ensure you receive your test score on time, especially if you find yourself having to retake the LSAT. For example, if you’re applying to law school this fall for admission next year, it’s best to take the LSAT before December of this year. Check out our LSAT registration dates and register for a day that suits your schedule.

Applications aside, you also need to make sure that regardless of the test date, you have enough time for LSAT test prep. Think strategically. Taking the October LSAT gives you the entire summer to study, but your law school application won’t be complete to submit as soon as those who took the June LSAT. In this case, the June or July LSAT might seem like a great idea to ensure you get scores back on time, but you might find it hard to prep during spring semester finals.

Is One LSAT Test Date Easier or Harder than Another?

So what does it mean for one LSAT test to be easier or harder than another? Essentially, the only factor that can be used to judge the difficulty of a certain LSAT exam is the LSAT curve. The “curve” is a term that has been coined for the conversion on the test from a student’s raw LSAT score (how many questions he or she answered correctly) to that student’s scaled LSAT score, from 120 to 180. This is all LSAT 101. The curve changes slightly from test to test. Really, if you think about it, there are two components that factor into the curve for a particular LSAT: the difficulty of the test and how well the test-taking population performs. And these factors have caused a great degree of speculation among students for what an average score may be.

Is the June test harder because those are students that tend to plan ahead? Is the October test harder because those students have all summer to cram their LSAT prep books? Is the December test harder because there are a lot of people retaking the LSAT exam?

So this is the question that I set out to answer in the only way that I really know how – by checking the stats. To be honest, this was a slightly intimidating prospect. I have been telling students for years that the curve always evens out because there are so many test takers and, for that reason, there is no “harder” or “easier” time to take the LSAT. Moreover, LSAC has a vested interest in making sure the tests balance out. If a certain LSAT administration was more difficult than another LSAT administration, it would be unfair to any test taker who took the “harder” LSAT (not to mention running against the very intention of the LSAT which is to provide a uniform standardized test). But what if I had been wrong all along? Also, as an owner of an LSAT preparation company, there could be significant repercussions from doing this bit of research. What if I had to report to people that the December LSAT was always significantly harder than the other tests each year? I am guessing that would not be good for business in the fall.

Well, I crunched the numbers, anyway, from 2001 to 2009.  In the end, the LSAT test score results were surprising, but not surprising in the way you might think. Not only are there no significant differences between the various LSAT administrations, but it is also astonishing how little difference actually exists.

For each individual LSAT score that I averaged (140 through 175 at 5 point increments), the difference in raw score (measured by the percentage of questions answered correctly) varied by no more than 2%. This equates to about 2 LSAT questions. The similarities between the June and September/October LSATs are even more striking. The average score difference between the two curves is 0.16% (or well under 1 actual LSAT question). If you are really pushing to find a trend, it does seem that in the middle range of scores, between 145 and 165, the December LSAT seems to be a little more forgiving. Again, take that with a grain of salt.

In conclusion,  there is no “harder” or “easier” time to take the LSAT. There have been rough and forgiving curves for all test administrations and they even out over time. So quit worrying about when the LSAC thinks you should take the LSAT and give it a shot when you have a good amount of time to put into your LSAT prep courses, LSAT practice exams, and studying.

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