Should You Take the February LSAT?

Law schools seem more interested in late candidates, so there may still be time to apply.

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As an LSAT tutor and teacher with a decade of experience, I am frequently asked by my students about the pros and cons of taking the February exam.

As you may know, the LSAT is administered four times a year: in February, June, October, and December. Since it’s a standardized test, there should be no discernible differences between the four exam administrations. But it’s important to realize that there are still benefits and drawbacks to each test date.

If you are planning to take the February LSAT in a couple of weeks, be sure this is the right test date for you.

The good news: There’s still a chance for this fall. Many schools, though not all, will accept a February LSAT score for admission this spring to begin classes this fall. If you have not taken the LSAT yet, the February option represents your last chance to attend law school this fall. If you have already taken the exam but need a higher score, this is your last chance to achieve that during the current admissions cycle.

[Follow this law school admissions timeline.]

Law schools generally don’t want to see more than a couple of LSAT scores on your record, but retaking the exam can still be worthwhile. Even a small point increase can mean the difference between admission and the wait list or between substantial merit-based aid and no merit-based aid at all.

The bad news: The February exam can be an enigma. The February LSAT is undisclosed, which means that LSAC, which administers the exam, does not release the questions to anyone—even people who took the exam—after the exam date. (And no, you can’t take your exam booklet with you). This affects February test takers in two ways:

1. Since no one will be able to see the test afterward, the February LSAT has the potential to be a bit less predictable. If LSAC is ever going to experiment with new question types or testing strategies on a real exam, they are more likely to do so on the February exam, as any potential foibles will not be visible after the test.

2. You will not be able to see which questions you answered wrong (or right) after you receive your score, which can be quite frustrating. (But if you are without a doubt applying this year and attending law school this fall, you will never take the LSAT again, so this might not make much of a difference to you.)

Conversely, if you are applying in a future year and are just trying to get a head start on the LSAT, it might be more beneficial to wait until June, which is a disclosed exam that allows you to learn from your mistakes should you decide to retake the LSAT in the future.

[Find out if you should cancel your LSAT score.]

Given the rolling nature of law school admissions, common wisdom has also suggested that it is slightly harder to get admitted with a February score (at schools that accept the February exam) as you are applying later in the application cycle. That may not hold true this year, however, since, based on my work with hundreds of applicants, it appears that applications are down slightly and schools are looking very carefully at later applicants who put together top-notch application packages.

Regardless of which exam you decide to take, be sure to amply prepare first and consider availing yourself of the assistance of true LSAT experts. This test is the most important single factor in your application and should not be taken lightly.

If you decide to postpone to June, contact LSAC as soon as possible to request a test date change. If you decide too close to the exam, this may not be possible. (If that’s the case, just don’t show up.)

Check back next Monday for more specific advice on what to do the week before the LSAT. Also, don’t forget to send in your profile for a chance to be featured in my new admissions advice segment. (Read the full details at the top of my January 16th column.)