Beat 2 Common LSAT Concerns

A law school admissions expert weighs in on reader questions about the important exam.

Several free online programs help students learn about biology, chemistry and other subjects covered on the MCAT.
Several free online programs help students learn about biology, chemistry and other subjects covered on the MCAT.

As the fall application season and October and December LSATs rapidly approach, I have been receiving many questions from readers regarding the LSAT. In this installment of Law Admissions Q&A, I will focus on two of the most common LSAT concerns: taking the exam multiple times and how to best prepare.

Dear Shawn: I graduated from college in 2011 with an average GPA and a low 150's LSAT score on my second attempt. On my first attempt, I cancelled my score because I was under the weather and knew I didn't do my best. I'm considering taking the test for the third time and was wondering if this would hurt my chances of getting into law school.

I have heard that my dream school doesn't average LSAT scores. I did a summer journalism program there, and I'm hoping my performance there and my extracurricular activities will enhance my application. My plan this go-around is to study harder and take an LSAT prep course.  

Do you think I have a good chance of getting into a top 20 school with my current score and background? How will re-taking the LSAT a third time affect the way law school admissions view my application? -Third Time's a Charm

Dear Third Time's a Charm: In general, taking the LSAT only one or two times is ideal, but in your case, taking it a third time absolutely makes sense. It sounds like your GPA may be on the lower end for the top 20 law schools (which usually like to see an above-average GPA), so having a higher LSAT score would really help.

Also, you will only actually have two scores, since you cancelled your score the first time you took the exam. Law schools understand that sometimes circumstances beyond your control affect your performance on test day, so they do not typically penalize students for one cancellation.

[Find out when to cancel an LSAT score.]

As you already know, many schools will only look at your highest LSAT score, while a few will average all of your scores. Assuming you score significantly higher the next time you take the LSAT, you should try to apply mostly to schools that do not average.

You can usually find out each school's policy on their website or by calling the law school admissions office. Once you score higher, you may also want to add an LSAT addendum to your application explaining why your new LSAT score is most indicative of your abilities.

I recommend doing your due diligence when choosing an LSAT course (look at instructor requirements in terms of score and years of experience, as well as class size). As you are only allowed to take the LSAT three times in a two-year period, this may be your last chance, unless you want to put off your applications another year. Good luck -Shawn

Dear Shawn: I am a law graduate from Central Africa. I am thinking about going to law school. I would like to have some advice from you on how to prepare for the LSAT.  

The last test of this year is in December; should I register for it or should I give myself some time and take the test next year? I have been living in the U.S since 2008. As you see, English is not my first language. As a foreigner, how should I prepare for this test? Also, I am 33 years old. Do you think that I am a little bit old for law school? Thank you for your advice. -LSAT Queries

[Find out how to get into law school as an international applicant.]

Dear LSAT Queries: Since you already have a law degree from your home country in Africa, you may find that an LL.M., as opposed to a J.D., makes more sense for you. The LSAT is not required to apply to most LL.M. programs, so first determine if you are eligible to apply for an LL.M. program and to be admitted to the bar in the state of your choice with just that degree.

If you decide to apply to J.D. programs, you will need to prepare for the LSAT. I recommend enrolling in an LSAT class or tutoring program as soon as possible if you want to possibly take the December exam. If you are not scoring in your target range within a few weeks of the test, it may be best to push off until February or ideally June (since the February test is not released) and apply next year instead.

[Read about two law school application challenges international students face.]

People of all ages go to law school, and while you will likely be older than many classmates, you can certainly gain admission to a good school in your mid-30's. You just need to articulate clear professional goals in your application essays that demonstrate why you need a law degree now. Best of luck! -Shawn