How to Manage a Drop in Your LSAT Score

Do not become overwhelmed if your LSAT score drops from your first test.

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Understanding what went wrong on test day can help you improve your LSAT score the next time.
Understanding what went wrong on test day can help you improve your LSAT score the next time.

October LSAT scores were released last week and there are likely some students who, despite hard work and preparation, scored lower than anticipated. Some students likely scored lower than the first time they took the exam. What should they do now?

First, do not become overwhelmed. Many prospective law school students have been in this position before and were still able to submit successful law school applications.

Last year, one of my students at Stratus Prep scored a 163 the first time he took the LSAT, which was lower than his practice test results. He registered to retake the exam, but his brother was hospitalized the week before his test date and he scored a 160. 

He retook the LSAT for a third and final time, after his brother recovered and he was able to focus fully on his studies, and scored a 169. 

Alternatively, I had another student a few years ago who scored in her target range, a 158, but wanted to retake the exam to see if she could achieve a few extra points. Unfortunately her score went down to a 157. 

[Learn to juggle personal commitments and LSAT prep.] 

I advised her not to retake it again, but instead to focus on her essays and recommendations. She followed my advice and was admitted to the school of her choice. 

There are a few questions and answers that will help you decide what to do if your LSAT score is lower the second time than the first. 

1. Do I have to report both scores, or can I just choose the highest? The Law School Admission Council, which administers the exam, will report all of your LSAT results to the schools where you apply. If you canceled your score, they will report that you took the exam and canceled. Whether a school looks at each score or evaluates based on an average of all scores varies from school to school. 

For example, Harvard states that it considers all scores and their average, while New York University evaluates applicants on their average LSAT score "in most cases." 

[Learn how your LSAT score affects applications.] 

2. Should I retake the LSAT again? If you believe you can score higher than your first two scores and have regularly done so on practice tests, then it may be a good idea to retake the test again to demonstrate your true abilities. Review your real LSAT first, noting weak sections where you should focus your studies to gain the most improvement. 

Additionally, consider what happened on your most recent exam. Did you get enough sleep the night before? Were you ill? Did a recent family emergency or personal issue arise that distracted you? Do you simply need more prep time to become comfortable with the exam? 

Though some circumstances are uncontrollable, understanding what went wrong can help you make it right next time. 

[Get tips to help decide if you should retake the LSAT.] 

3. Should I write an addendum explaining my scores? Whether you retake the LSAT again or not, you need to account for the dip in your score and communicate why the lower score does not accurately represent your abilities. You want to establish that the low score is the outlier. 

Even if you retake the exam again and knock it out of the park, you should write an addendum to explain why the most recent score is the best representation of your abilities. If there were extenuating circumstances when you got a low score, you should cite that situation. 

While a drop in your LSAT score can feel devastating, you can mitigate its effects by following the steps above. 

Are you satisfied with your LSAT results? Let me know in the comments, email me or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.