Does Taking The LSAT In December Hurt Your Chances Of Admission?

One of the most frequent questions we’ve gotten lately is whether the December LSAT is too late to take the LSAT if you are applying the following fall (and you want the best chance of getting admitted to a good law school and getting a good scholarship). Short answer: December is not too late. Applying to law school with a December LSAT should not significantly lower your chances for admission or scholarships.

Search the internet and you are going to read plenty of stuff that says otherwise. This information is outdated. Back in 2010 or so when tons of people were applying to law school, it was indeed likely that you were hurting your chances somewhat by applying in late December after you get your LSAT score (while it didn’t usually lower your odds at safety schools, it likely affected your chances and/or scholarship pulling power at reach schools and safety schools).

That was then. In the past couple of years, the number of people applying to law school has fallen dramatically. Law schools, even the higher ranked schools, have far more spots open than they have qualified applicants to fill them. If you apply in December there will be lots of seats and scholarship money to go around.

Do not, however, take this as an excuse to drag your feet and hand in your applications in January, February, or later. December LSAT takers should have their applications ready to go out the door by the time that their scores arrive. Here is an admissions timeline for December LSAT takers to help you out. If you are behind in the game there, do what you can and catch up the rest of the way in the 3 weeks while you wait for your score.

October Takers- Deciding Whether To Postpone

As of this writing, the October LSAT is less than a week away. For those signed up who might be considering postponing to take in December instead, factor the above information into your decision. If you haven’t prepared enough for this LSAT, you stand to benefit from waiting and taking the LSAT when you are really ready. You have until the 4th of October to withdraw.

Withdrawing can be hard even if you know you haven’t prepped right. If you need help with the decision whether to postpone until December, please let us know your situation and we will try to get back to you quickly.

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21 Comments

  1. Hello!

    I just completed the full PowerScore in-class course. I originally expected to take the exam this Saturday, but have, throughout the course, realized that I would need more time to improve my score to get it where I want it to be.

    That said, I know I CAN improve, it is just going to take me longer than others. In fact, this is the first standardized test that I feel I can actually “get.” For the first three exams we took throughout the course, I maintained the same exact score, with a ton of frustration, after feeling like I was “getting” it – finally, on the fourth exam, I feel like I had a nice breakthrough and went up 7 points. That definitely helped validate that if I have more time, I can be where I need/want to be.

    All that said, I am still registered to take the exam this September. I know I can take it again in December, but even with the 7 point bump, I am still 10 points below where I need/want to be. With that, I have NO intention of keeping the score I take on Saturday. The reason I’m considering sitting for it, is to get a sense of the environment, practice, etc., and regardless of how good I feel walking out, I know I’m not where I need to be and plan on cancelling – which I’m fine with (i.e., i’m not worried about feeling good about it, then second guessing my decision to cancel, etc.).

    My question is, from an admission standpoint, does it look bad/will it hurt me to have a test cancellation on record? i.e., is the practice I’m getting worth having that seen by admissions? My background includes transferring schools, changing majors, graduating a semester late (by choice so I could pursue internships, etc.) so I’ll already have a nice explanatory addendum on my applications.

    Again, I already know it’s not the right time to “take it, take it,” so I really just want to know how much, if at all, it would hurt to cancel, and if so, if it is better just not to take it at all.

    Thank you so much!!!!!! And good luck to everyone sitting for this Saturday’s exam!!!!

  2. Hi there!
    I took the LSAT in June and scores mid 160s. I was hoping for a higher score, but also hoping to apply early. Should I submit applications in September, and then update them in December when I retake, or should I wait until December after my scores are released to apply?
    Thank you!

  3. Hi Josh and Evan,

    I’ve already taken the LSAT once one year ago, and it didn’t go well. I scored 150 (13 points lower than my PT average) and assumed this happened because I only spent a month or so on prep and experienced a lot of anxiety during the test. I was planning to re-take in October (this Saturday), but now I’m considering withdrawing and doing my re-take in December instead. My top choice school’s median score is 163, and I’ve been consistently scoring 162-164 on PTs during the last month of my prep (studying since July, taking 1-3 weekly PTs since August). However, I took two PTs last weekend and scored 166 and 169. I’ve taken two PTs this week and scored 164 and 163.

    I’m under the impression that it’s better to be several points above the median. Since I’m hoping for a scholarship in addition to admission, should I postpone to December? Or should I take it this weekend and leave December for a final re-take if needed? How do law schools view an applicant with three scores? MY GPA is just below the 75th percentile and I have post-grad work experience with a nonprofit in the area of law I want to practice, so I think my application is fairly strong otherwise.

    Thanks in advance!

  4. I’m applying this fall, and I’m all set to take the October LSAT. I had been scoring 172s end of August, but the last eleven days of September I keep getting 169s. So, I’m wondering if I should delay until the December LSAT, in order to get more time to get a consistent 172 or higher. The catch being: Today is the last day to cancel my October spot.

    This is the main issue: I could be more confident with my score if I take the December, but I don’t want to be too late in applying. Is a 169-172 on an application before Thanksgiving better than a confident 172/173 on an application beginning of January?

    Also: should I just take both? Is there a big downside to having something like a 169/171 form October and a 173 from December when applying?

  5. Hi Josh and Evan,

    I’ve read recent reports stating that taking the December LSAT is not as smart of a decision now since the sharp descent in law school applications over the past few years might have come to a halt, and applications are likely to increase in number once again. What do you guys think? Would taking the upcoming December LSAT to apply during this next application cycle significantly hurt my chances of admission?

    • Arman,

      Unless you have a particularly strong reason (e.g., significant time commitments that would prevent you from properly preparing), then I’d always recommend taking the LSAT in October over December & getting your apps in earlier. This also gives you a shot at a December retake if needed, which is especially useful these days, now that most schools only consider your highest score.

      However, if you truly can’t make the October LSAT work, then I don’t think it’s going to be THAT big of an issue.

      In the 2014-2015 cycle, only 101,689 LSATs were administered. Although we did see a slight 0.8% increase in December 2014 takers & 4.4% increase in February 2015, that number is still a 30-year low.

      Even if the trend continues upward, we’re still probably only going to see something in the 100,000 to 105,000 range for the 2015-2016 cycle. Unless something crazy happens (on par with the recent financial crisis), we’re not going to be anywhere close to the 130,000 30-year average, much less the 170,000+ number we saw in the 2009-2010 cycle.

      Bottom Line: It’s always good to get your apps in early, so take the LSAT earlier if possible. On the other hand, we’re still going to be at near-record lows, so keep that in mind as you consider the impact of the modest increase in LSAT takers over the previous 2 administrations. Law schools are still going to be hurting for applicants & a great LSAT score is worth more today than ever before.

      Let me know what you decide to do! Good Luck!

      • Hi guys,

        I appreciate your quick response, Josh. To follow up on my previous question, does that rationale -that applying to law school later in the cycle won’t put you at much of a disadvantage due to the low number of applicants- also apply to the top schools (i.e. top 10)? I ask because I figure the schools at the top still receive a large number of applications from well-qualified candidates despite the dip in law school applications due to their renowned status among schools, and that makes me wonder if they are truly struggling to fill up their classes as are many middle-to-lower ranked schools.

        Also, I have decided to take the October LSAT but keep December as an option in case I don’t reach the score I’m hoping for. Your advise directly contributed to that decision, so I thank you for that.

  6. What about schools with a November early decision date? (i.e. University of Michigan) I know they will probably still have a rolling admission after this date, but I worry that not applying for the early decision may impact my application.

    • Applying somewhere early decision is thought to give a small boost to your chances. However it comes with risks. Typically you are in a much worse position to get financial aid. You should only apply ED if

      1. It is a reach school that you do not have solid chances of getting into through regular admission, and
      2. You are okay with paying full price.

      Also, you can only apply through binding ED to one school. Early action on the other hand, can be used at several schools. That’s non-binding.

      Right now I’m am even more skeptical than usual of the value of applying ED. Schools are getting far fewer quailfied applicants than they want, even amongst the T14. They’ll have a heavy incentive to admit anyone with good enough numbers no matter when they apply during the cycle. Basically, I’m saying not to worry. You should just apply as soon as possible in the regular cycle unless you meet the two conditions above.

  7. Hi,
    So I originally planned on taking the LSAT next week and I decided that I am not going to take it because I am not exactly at the score I want to be at, (goal score upper160’s to low 170’s), (testing at low 160’s-to upper 150’s) I have a 4.0 gpa, and also am in URM, however, I know with certain schools, (Berkley, NYU) they value early applicants, so now I feel like I really at a disadvantage for taking the lsat in december. I saw on the NYU website that the deadline for scholarships is Jan. 1st and I’m scared that I won’t get my LSAT score back in time if I do take the dec. lsat.
    I think my biggest anxiety is that I am not going to be as competitive of an applicant if I applied earlier
    Thanks!

    • Where did you hear that about NYU and Berkeley? They, like everyone else, are facing a major shortage of qualified applicants. There should not be a significant disadvantage to applying with a December LSAT score. Even if they recommend applying early, it does not necessarily reflect the realities of their admission process. Berkeley for example will certainly be taking applications and admitting students all the way through their February 1st deadline.

      To the extent there is any small disadvantage, even a 2-3 bump in your score attained by holding off would WAY WAY more than compensate for it. I always advise people not to take if they are unhappy with where they are prepping until they are sure they cannot do better. Making sure entails doing more prep.

      The worst thing that can happen is that you do not like the offers you receive, in which case you hold off and apply early the following cycle. Again, if holding off led to better score, you’ll be in much better shape than applying with a lower September score.

      Talk to NYU and see what that aid deadline means exactly. My guess is that is an administrative deadline you will be allowed to apply for aid even if you have yet to receive your score. That said, LSAT will have your December score back before the first.

  8. Is this still the the case for this year? I have about a 3.5 from great undergrad and got 160 in June. I’m not sure if I can score 170+ on the Sept. 27 exam, so I’m thinking of taking the December one. Thanks a lot for any tips.

  9. Joshua and Evan,

    Do you guys have a two month study schedule? I’ve taken a TestMasters prep course, but I was unsatisfied. Any suggestions?

    • Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

      Well, you can just condense the 3 month one, omitting practice exams that you can’t get to: https://lawschooli.com/lsat-study-schedule/

      Yes it will mean relearning with the powerscore material but that might be helpful.

      If you don’t want to do that, just do as many real LSAT questions as you can in the next two months. If you aren’t good at timed questions yet, work your way up by starting with untimed then individually timed questions.

  10. Hey Evan,

    My gpa is 3.35, which is why I’m reluctant to risk a score lower than 170. I take a pt every day and in the last week my scores are not as high as my average, it must be the stress. And then I get more stressed because of the lower score, which causes my next score to be lower because I’m mentally freaking out. I still have a few practice tests left, some of the earlier ones and the 3 most recent ones.

  11. Hey guys,

    So I am thinking about postponing until the December LSAT. I would like to apply early decision to Georgetown. My GPA is in the 25th percentile and whereas I my average PT scores have been higher, I can’t seem to get my practice test scores above a 168 this week. I would be much more comfortable if I were scoring at least a 170. Do you know what my chances are of getting accepted with a higher score in December?

    • Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

      Zohra,

      I’d have to know your GPA to assess chances. This is the toughest kind of situation because ~168 is pretty great. How much prep material do you have undone? It can be harder to make improvements going forward if you’ve run out of fresh LSAT tests to practice. If you don’t have a lot left, that might mean you should take now, get that decent score in the bank, and then try for better with a retake if needed.

      Best,

      Evan

  12. Hey Josh and Evan,
    I have decided to postpone until December. I have been scoring in the high 140’s-low 150’s range on practice tests. I have been reading your different articles and the comments and joined your study schedule by doing untimed problems this week and last and referring to my materials for problems that are giving me difficulty. I will have to redo some homework problems I have seen previously in individual timed sections and practice tests that I will be taking before the 16-17 fresh practice tests that I am saving for the last month or so but you guys did write that that is ok(correct me if I am mistaken). I am wanting to get tutoring hours to give myself the best chance of getting a 170 of higher. From your experience, does tutoring have a significant impact on students’ scores(the tutor I am considering has scored above 172 and has taught LSAT classes for six-seven years)? Considering my current score situation. roughly how many hours should I get to supplement my studies(weaknesses are finishing RC quickly and accurately within the 35 minutes(without time pressure I get almost all,if not all, right), getting confused with end of the section LR questions with convoluted language and difficult diagramming, and LG setups involving a combination of ordering and grouping elements and making deductions for games where the number of “players” to “slots” is not specified(constantly spinning my wheels making those deductions)) Thanks!

    • Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

      Molly,

      I think a tutor is always worth a try if you can afford it. I don’t think it’s very helpful unless you meet with them for at least a couple of hours each week.

  13. Hey guys, just a question. I am registered to take the test this week but if i decide to withdraw due to lack of preperation, how will that show up on my law school applications? Will law schools know that i withdrew and how may they judge that if they do?

    thanks!

    • Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

      No, as long as you withdraw in time nothing will go on your file. Even if you don’t, you’ll just get marked ‘absent’ on you file. Getting an ‘absent’ is no big thing. Law schools won’t think twice about it. If you had two absent that might be worth explaining in a short addendum.

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