LSAT Dates: When to Take the LSAT

The LSAT is currently offered roughly 8 times each year. The structure of the LSAT is the same for each test date and the level of difficulty does not vary based on the month in which the test is administered.

Law School Application Deadline
To ensure the best possibility of being accepted by a law school, you should make sure that your law school application and LSAT score gets to the law school not only before the application deadline, but more importantly, as close as possible to the first day the law schools accept applications. For example, many law schools have an application deadline on March 1, but this doesn’t mean you should wait until spring to submit your application—rather, you should get it in as soon as the school begins accepting applications. The applicant who gets his or her completed application in on the first day of the application window is more likely to be accepted and receive financial aid than the applicant who gets his or her application in on the last day of the application window.

Law schools may search LSAT scores as soon as they are calculated and made available to you, which occurs approximately 2-3 weeks after the LSAT test day. They access these scores through the Candidate Referral Service, which you should definitely sign up for after registering for the test. This allows you to be "matched" with certain law schools, many of which will offer you unsolicited fee waivers after your score is published. If you take the October LSAT, law schools will have your score later that month. That is a reasonable time to apply. In general, you want to apply before the end of the year, which means it is usually best to take the test by October of the admissions cycle year in which you are applying.

Between taking the test in the summer versus waiting until October, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. For those who are still in college, taking the June LSAT would require preparation during the end of the spring semester, right around final exam study time, whereas taking the October LSAT would require preparation over the summer and the beginning of the fall semester when there is likely more free time to prepare. On the other hand, taking the LSAT in the summer allows time for one “mess-up.” For example, if circumstances force you to miss a summer LSAT, or if your performance on the test causes you to cancel your score, you can take the test in October and still be able to have your completed application to law schools at the beginning of the application window. Likewise, if you want to give yourself ample time to retake the test in case you would like to try to get a better score, you should first take the test in the summer. This will allow you to retake the test in the fall.

Preparation Time
Take the LSAT only if you have enough time to adequately prepare for it. You will need at least 8-12 weeks to prepare for the LSAT. The LSAT is not like a college exam for which you can "cram" at the last minute. It takes weeks and weeks of preparation to master the various types of LSAT questions and to condition yourself mentally and physically to handle the rigors of LSAT test day. If you have eight weeks or less to prepare, consider taking the December test, which most schools also accept.

Prior Test Results
Consider taking the LSAT in the fall if you took it in the summer and are not happy with your score. Although law schools will receive all of your LSAT scores and some average them, having a higher score is still better. Law School Admission Council statistics show that upon retaking the LSAT, most students increase scores by an average of just 2.5 points. If you know that you did not prepare as thoroughly as you should have, or you were ill on test day, or there was some other factor that had a negative impact on your performance on the June LSAT, then a re-take is a good idea; you may be able to make a more significant improvement in your score. But in the absence of any of these, you should be realistic about your ability to improve. That said, the American Bar Association (ABA) recently changed the requirements for LSAT reporting from member law schools. While the ABA used to request score averages of accepted students for the purpose of ranking law schools, they now only require the highest score. For that reason, even if you only think you can boost your score by 2 or 3 points, it may still be worth retaking. Note that schools also see on your record whether or not you canceled a score.