I get angsty emails each December, as law school prospects decide whether to apply now or retake the LSAT, putting their applications off for another year. Here's one, from Angela S., a student in my online class:
I got my LSAT score back a few months ago, and I got a disappointing 150. I had been testing between 153-156 steadily and my last test before the big test was a 157! (My starting point had been a 140.) I've been having a hard time with deciding to re-take or not. The LSAT bracket I am in is 149-153 for LSAC, and say I retook it and got a 155 or 156, I would only move up one more bracket.... I know there are some schools that I could do really well at, but they would never even look at my application because of my LSAT score.
Short answer: Hell yes, you should retake! Nobody wants to put off law school for another year, but you absolutely should not let one bad day determine the entire course of your professional and financial future.
Ignore those brackets you see on the score report; they're meaningless. When law schools submit to being ranked by the almighty US News, they report the score, not the bracket, for each of their incoming students. Schools are deeply concerned with the average score of their incoming class, as well as their 25th/75th percentile numbers. The LSAT is the most important determinant of not only where you get in, but also how much money (if any) you're offered.
Every point counts. Seven points might not seem like much, but 157 would get you into schools that wouldn't even look at you with a 150. That 157 would also attract scholarship offers that 150 would not; quite possibly $100,000 worth. Is it worth another few months of studying to get into an entirely different caliber of school, and/or get 100 grand? To me, that's a no-brainer.
If you apply now, you'll have a big red "150" tattooed across your forehead. This would be fine if your practice tests indicated that 150 is a good score for you. But you can do better! I know this because you have done better, repeatedly, on your practice tests. If you were to retake the LSAT tomorrow, I would bet money on you to score somewhere in the mid- to high-150s. I actually think you're a lot more likely to score 160 than you are to score another 150. Your scores were still increasing on your last test before the big day. Now that you've sat once for the real thing, you're much less likely to be nervous. There is absolutely no reason you can't improve your score on a retake.
There aren't many times in your life where you're making a decision with six figures attached to it. Law school is probably the second-biggest purchase you'll ever make, assuming you're going to buy a house some day. It's also three years of your life, and will dictate which social and professional circles you travel in forever. I'm sure you want to get on with your life, but this is not something to rush into. What's the difference if you graduate in 2018 instead of 2017? What's the difference if you practice law for 30 years, instead of 31?
I know you don't want to study LSAT forever, but you should try to look at this as an opportunity. If you study hard between now and the February LSAT (and/or the June LSAT), you can very likely push yourself into the 160s, which is an entirely different stratosphere from where you're currently at. If you end up with 160-something, you'll realize that your bad test day was actually the best thing that ever happened to you.
Questions / feedback? Please drop a line in the comments!