Trends in LSAT Taking and Scoring

For the past several years, the legal industry has faced long-term financial pressures, resulting in fewer jobs for inexperienced attorneys just entering the job market. Many law schools, including such top-tier schools as Yale Law School, have decided to admit smaller classes because of the smaller available applicant pool. It is not surprising that there has been a corresponding downward trend in the number of students sitting for the LSAT. For 2003-2004, LSAC reports that 148,000 LSATs were administered. For the next three reporting years the numbers declined each year to 140,000 in 2006-2007. The number of tests administered then climbed each year from 2007 to 2010 to peak at 171,500 in 2009-2010. For 2011-2012, the number of LSATs administered declined 16% over the previous year to a nine-year low of 129,958.

The most recent statistic shows that this disturbing trend is continuing. The number of students who sat for the June 2012 LSAT is down 5.9% over June 2011. This down, up, down trend in LSAT taking and law school applications reflects an economy and legal industry that has been troubled for the greater part of the 2000s. The spike in the number of students sitting for the LSAT and, therefore, the number of students applying to law school reflects a brief period when college graduates decided to put off finding a job in a depressed market and instead return to school to pursue a graduate degree. Students speculated that either they would be more marketable after receiving an advanced degree, or that the job market would have improved after three years. The job market did not improve significantly and more students are now choosing to refrain from applying to law school.

A second trend in LSAT test taking shows that the number of students choosing to take the LSAT two or more times has steadily increased over the past 10 years. In 2001-2002, 80.1% of LSAT takers took the test just once, while 17.1% took it twice and 2.8% took it more than twice. By 2004-2005, the number of students taking the test just once had decreased to 76.3%. Fast forward to 2009-2010 and just 68.2% of the LSAT test takers took the LSAT one time, 25.5% took the test twice, and 6.3% took it more than twice. While more and more students are retaking the LSAT, statistics reveal that on average, test takers who repeat the LSAT increase their scores by an average of just 2.7 points, and increase their scores by another 2.1 points when they take the test a third time. In fact, it is so unusual for a repeat LSAT taker to significantly improve his or her score that the LSAC routinely investigates students who receive unusually disparate scores to ensure cheating did not occur. Regardless, for the repeat LSAT taker, the prospect of improving a score 2-3 points is enough of an incentive for an increasing number of students to go through the time and expense to retake the test. After all, improving a score from 169 to potentially 173 after taking the LSAT for the third time may have a significant impact on which law schools accept the student.


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