Should You Cancel Your December LSAT Score?

Canceling has implications, so make sure you know it's a smart move.

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Welcome to Law Admissions Lowdown, your resource for law school news, LSAT tips, and admissions advice. In this weekly column, I'll provide insight to help you navigate the often daunting law school application process.

This first post discusses whether or not you should cancel your December LSAT score, but before we delve into that, a little about me.

As founder and CEO of Stratus Prep, a boutique LSAT preparation and law school admissions counseling firm, I help hundreds of law school applicants nationwide reach their dream school each year.

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For the past decade, I've lived and breathed law school admissions—and thus hope I can touch on some issues, like the decision to cancel or keep your LSAT score, that will be of interest to you.

After taking the December LSAT this weekend, you may be anxious about your performance and considering the possibility of canceling your score. Now is the ideal time to evaluate your performance, as you only have six calendar days to prevent your December LSAT score from going on your permanent record.

Canceling your LSAT prevents admissions committees from ever seeing your score (you also will never get to see it), though they will know you took the LSAT and canceled it.

If you're unable to pinpoint a specific area in which you underperformed, you likely should not cancel. It is typical to feel this way. In fact, a client I worked with recently who took the October exam expressed her anxiety and had considered cancelling. Fortunately, she did not, as she scored a 177.

If you've never canceled an LSAT before, doing it once will not adversely affect your admissions chances. Admissions officers realize that everyone can have a bad day, so while a cancellation is not ideal, it will not make or break your application.

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So, how do you decide if you should keep or cancel your score?

If you're applying this fall and do not have an LSAT score yet:

You have the option of retaking the test in February. However, not every school will accept February LSAT scores for fall 2012 admission, so check with each school to which you're applying.

Since your score in February will be the only one admissions committees see, excelling on that test day is crucial. To perform at your highest potential, you'll need to continue reviewing, studying, and taking practice tests over the next few months. You may also want to consider obtaining some expert help.

If you're applying this fall and already have a previous score(s):

You need to consider several factors. Assuming you'll be able to commit time to studying this winter for the February exam, you should cancel if:

1. Your performance in at least one section was far worse than normal. (For example, you typically get to three-and-a-half logic games and only completed two.)

2. You misbubbled multiple questions.

3. You became ill during the exam.

4. You were unable to focus properly due to poor testing conditions.

5. You have strong reason to believe you did worse on the December LSAT than on a previous exam.

If you're applying in the next few years:

Congratulations on preparing early! If you feel as though you didn't reach your full potential on the December test, you should cancel and retake in June. Since you have more time, you can avoid the February test, which tends to be a bit unpredictable since it's undisclosed, meaning you will never receive a copy of the test to review after you take it.

Take advantage of the extra time to take every practice test (twice), and seek help from seasoned professionals.

[Use this law school admissions timeline to stay on track.]

No matter your situation, remember that LSAC only allows students to take the LSAT three times in a two year period, and cancelled scores are counted toward this three-test limit.

If you decide to cancel your score, you must send a written cancellation request to LSAC within six calendar days of the test. LSAC has more details on how to cancel your score.

 I hope we can create a dialogue here over the coming months and that you'll find these insights valuable. If you have comments or suggestions, please post them below or contact me at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com or @shawnpoconnor. Check back next week for application essay tips.