Students who took the February LSAT on Saturday (or Monday, for Sabbath observers), may worry about how they performed and wonder: Is canceling the score the best option?
If you're one of those students, it's essential to evaluate your performance quickly, as you only have six calendar days from the test date to cancel. Canceling your LSAT score means that neither you nor law schools will be able to see how you did. This can be particularly important if you are applying to a school, such as New York University, that averages multiple LSAT scores.
If you decide to cancel your February LSAT, schools will know that you took the exam but canceled your score. If you haven't canceled before, doing so once will not adversely affect your chance of admission. Law school admissions officers understand that everyone has bad days.
However, you should note that you are only allowed to take the LSAT three times in any two-year period, and a cancellation (unlike an absence, which means you did not show up for the test) counts as one of your three test administrations.
Canceling an LSAT score is beneficial for applicants who are certain they did not perform to the best of their abilities. Usually such test takers can pinpoint a specific area in which they underperformed or a clear reason why a score would be outside their normal range, such as poor testing conditions, illness, or a family emergency.
[Learn more about the LSAT's role in law school applications.]
Since the February LSAT is the only one where test questions and answers are not released, there are sometimes slightly less common logic games and passage types on this test. If you have done all of the previous LSATs, especially the only three previously released February tests in the Law School Admission Council's SuperPrep, these likely will not prove very challenging for you. But these less common games and passages can increase your anxiety level, leading you to consider an unwarranted cancellation.
If you cannot articulate exactly why you feel you scored poorly, then you should likely not cancel your LSAT. It is natural to feel worried after this critically important exam, but such nervousness does not necessarily indicate that you bombed the test.
One of my individual tutoring students, Jason, was adamant about canceling last February's exam. He felt that the test did not fit into the pattern of the October and December exams. He was right about the exam being slightly out of the ordinary, but after we discussed his exam-day performance and I reminded him of the preparation we had done for the February exam, he decided to keep his score. He got a 173 and is now at a top five law school.
So how do you decide if you should keep or cancel your score?
• If you're applying to start law school this fall: If you're determined to start law school this fall and you do not have an LSAT score yet, you almost certainly should not cancel your score. In most, though increasingly not all cases, the February exam is the last administration that can be used for fall 2013 admission.
Some schools will not accept February LSAT scores for this fall, so check with each of your target schools. If you decide to cancel and retake the LSAT in June, you will probably need to apply for the 2014-2015 school year.
[Follow this timeline for fall 2013 law school admission.]
• If you're applying for fall 2014: If you feel that you did not achieve your full potential on the February test, you may want to consider canceling your scores if you're shooting for a fall 2014 entrance. You may also want to consider canceling if you were planning to apply for this fall, but you would consider holding off until next year to maximize the chances of getting into your dream school.
Again, I only recommend doing so if you can highlight a specific area of weakness on your February exam. For example, if you typically get to 3½ passages or games and only completed two, you will likely score lower than on your practice tests.
• If you're applying in the next few years: You get a pat on the back for preparing early! If you feel as though you didn't reach your full potential on the February test, you should absolutely cancel. Use the extra time to take every practice test—twice—and consider enrolling in a prep class or getting tutored privately to improve your score.
[Find out what to look for in an LSAT course.]
If you decide to cancel your score, you must send a signed, written cancellation request to the Law School Admission Council within six calendar days of the test. I always insist that my clients cancel by overnight mail as well as fax. You should receive a confirmation E-mail from LSAC within 24 hours of your cancellation. If you do not, you should follow up by phone.