When Should I Take the LSAT?
Most people should start studying for the LSAT as soon as possible. A slightly different–but no less common–question is “When should I take the test?” That’s a much tougher question. I can’t really answer it offhand, but I can definitely give you some factors to consider.
1. The LSAT is only offered four times per year (February, June, late September or early October, and December).
2. It takes three weeks to get your score back.
3. Law schools start accepting applications for next year in fall of THIS year. As soon as they start accepting applications, they start admitting students and giving away all their scholarship money. This is known as “rolling admissions.”
4. Because law schools use rolling admissions, it’s in your best interest to have your applications ready to go at the beginning of the admissions cycle. If you wait until late in the cycle, there will be many less seats available, and little to no scholarship money. I know you don’t want to hear this, but this means many students are better served by waiting an extra year before starting law school.
Think about this: Would you rather start now and pay full price at a shitty school? Or would you rather wait a year and go to a better school and/or on a scholarship? The choice is yours.
5. The LSAT preparation process can take as little as a month for some lucky students, but averages more like three months for most students, and can commonly take as much as six months to a year. You’ll only really know that you are personally ready to take the test after you’ve taken a ton of practice tests, gotten some professional help, and seen your scores improve, then level off.
Everybody eventually reaches a plateau. When you’re at that plateau, if you’re not going to do something different with your preparation to break out to a new plateau (like a different teacher, different books, etc.) then it’s probably time to take the LSAT.
6. Many (or most) schools only count your highest LSAT score, which means that taking the test more than once might be advantageous. (Please take that link with a huge grain of salt, and call the admissions offices if you want the latest and most reliable information.) You should schedule one real test date and one backup date, in case you don’t have your best day the first time out. (If you score way worse than your practice test average, then you should definitely take it again.)
Bottom line: When you add all that up, most students who are just starting out should probably go ahead and register for a test that is two or three months from now. You may or may not be ready by then, but signing up will help motivate you to study. If you’re not ready, you can always move your test date back (with a few weeks notice and a small LSAC fee, of course). Here’s a list of upcoming LSAT deadlines.
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