Consider GPA, Score to Decide Whether to Retake the LSAT

A few extra points could make a difference, but so can the rest of your law school application.

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Putting effort into essays and recommendations can help your law school application more than retaking the LSAT for a point or two.
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Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q-and-A, a monthly feature of Law Admissions Lowdown that provides admissions advice to readers who send in questions and admissions profiles.

If you have a question about law school, please email me for a chance to be featured next month.

This week, I will address questions about whether or not to retake the LSAT for students applying to law schools this year.

Dear Mr. O'Connor: When I took the June LSAT, I got a little nervous on the logic games section and scored two points lower on that section than I was averaging in full-length practice tests. On the rest of the test, however, I performed more similarly to my practice tests and overall scored a 171.

I have a 3.93 undergraduate GPA. I would like to attend law school at either Harvard or Columbia. I know that I am a few points below their median LSAT scores; do you think I should retake the LSAT in October or is it more advantageous for me to focus completely on my essays and other components of the application to submit at the very beginning of the admissions cycle? -At the Margin

[Get great law school recommendations with these tips.]

Dear At the Margin: The answer will vary among applicants, but in your case your efforts over the next few months will be best spent preparing your essays, reaching out to recommenders and crafting a compelling application to complement your LSAT score.

Often I encourage students to gain an extra point or two to balance out a lower GPA, but as you have a high GPA and LSAT score already, you can turn your attention to the other aspects of your applications rather than focusing solely on your numbers. Last year, working with students at Stratus Prep, I had several students admitted to Yale and Harvard with LSAT scores ranging from 170-172 and GPAs lower than yours.

When applying to very highly ranked law schools like Harvard and Columbia, components like essays and recommenders become even more crucial to success because they distinguish students in ways that numbers cannot.

Applicants with impressive LSAT scores and GPAs can still be denied admittance if their essays are not on par with those of students possessing lower numbers, which is why putting all of your efforts into the rest of your application rather than focusing on gaining another few points on the LSAT will be the most effective use of your time. -Shawn

[Leverage a unique background in applying to law school.]

Hi Shawn: I am a rising senior and I took the June LSAT with a 161; however, I did not do as well as the 164-166 I had been doing on practice tests, so I am retaking the exam this October. How long do you recommend I study the second time around?

Also, if I want to submit my law school applications ASAP, do I have to wait for my October score before submitting my applications, or can I submit everything else – essay, recommendations, transcript – before I get my October score back? -Second Time Around

[Learn how an October LSAT score affects law school applications.]

Dear Second Time Around: I recommend you get started right away with your LSAT studies to fully prepare for the October exam. To really knock it out of the park, I recommend hiring an experienced LSAT tutor who can help you pinpoint and rectify your weaknesses.

Also take practice tests in real, proctored testing environments consistently between now and the October exam. Doing so can significantly improve your score, thus strengthening your application. I had a student last year who used these two strategies and whose LSAT score increased by 12 points to the 170s between June and October.

You are wise to aim to submit your applications sooner rather than later. You do need to have received your LSAT score before submitting the rest of your materials; however, you can be prepared by having all essays and recommendations ready to submit immediately after you receive your score report. Reports are generated via email approximately three weeks after the test date.

If your LSAT score is the last piece of your law school applications, you will still have plenty of time to submit them. -Shawn