Is It Bad to Take the LSAT Multiple Times?

March 16, 2020

The LSAT is required for any student applying to one of the over 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the United States, but other standardized tests are now under consideration, too. In 2020, the LSAT, an acronym for the Law School Admission Test, will increase its test offerings to nine times per year. This change will allow students to prepare and take the LSAT at a time most convenient for their schedule. This gives many opportunities to take the LSAT, but you can only take it five times within the current and five past testing years, or seven times in a lifetime.

A woman reading a book to help prepare her for the LSAT

Why might you take the LSAT multiple times?

Taking the LSAT is fun for some and not so fun for others. For most applicants, the greatest ability to bolster an application is through a competitive score on the LSAT, which is just one factor used in assessing admission. Traditionally, most LSAT scores improve from the first to the second attempt.

Every year I meet with students who use their first official attempt at the LSAT as a practice test. That would not be my recommendation. Taking the LSAT is expensive and a means to an end: a score that could aid you in securing both admission and scholarship to law schools of interest to you. Take your first test seriously and contemplate multiple attempts if you feel you have room to improve.

How many times are you allowed to take the LSAT?

For most prospective law students, this is going to be an important question. You want to get that great LSAT score in order to get into your desired law school and potentially qualify for a scholarship or other form of financial aid. Your score can have a significant impact on your situation upon graduation, but is there a limit to how many times you can take the LSAT?

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) is responsible for setting the limits on how many times you can sit for this test in a given year or over your lifetime. As of last year, the following limits are in place:

  • You can take the LSAT up to three times in a single testing year. You should also note that a testing year is different than the traditional calendar year. The LSAC considers June 1st - May 31st to be the testing year.
  • Seems like plenty of opportunities, but you can only take the LSAT a total of 5 times within the current 5 testing years. This is the timeframe in which an LSAT score can be used to apply to law school. If it has been more than five years since you took the LSAT, that score won’t be usable if you are trying to apply now.
  • You cannot take the LSAT more than 7 times over the course of your entire lifetime.

What do law schools think about multiple LSAT scores?

Law schools will see every time an applicant takes the LSAT. Law schools will see if you cancel a score for whatever reason. Law schools do not average the scores for admission, but we always look at performance if you’ve taken the test more than once. Ideally, it would be best if every applicant could secure their ideal LSAT score on the first attempt, but that is often not the case. Law schools will report the highest LSAT score. Unless there are glaring disparities between LSAT scores, most law schools will not balk at multiple LSAT scores, especially when the score increases. Applicants with multiple LSAT scores with huge score disparities can be harder to review. Once applicants have taken the LSAT two or three times they often see scores start to cluster and plateau.

All law schools are eager to admit applicants to their schools who possess solid aptitude scores on the LSAT. Taking the LSAT multiple times is often less of a problem for law schools if each score shows improved results; otherwise, it is spending money trying to yield different results. If you plan to retake the test, strategize and prepare adequately. Every applicant needs to decide when retaking the LSAT is no longer going to achieve greater results—at some point it won’t make a difference. But some law schools see things differently, so I recommend applicants check with individual law schools regarding multiple LSAT scores.

Addressing the average question

Back in 2006, the American Bar Association officially changed the rule on score reporting for accredited law schools. This is an important thing to note for prospective law students, because this rule made it so that retaking the LSAT could now make you more attractive to law school admissions teams.

Prior to this landmark rule change, ABA accredited schools viewed the average if a student took the LSAT multiple times within the 5 year active test score timeframe. Afterwards, the higher of your scores could now be reported. This ruling made it easier for students to decide to take the LSAT again if they didn’t get the score they wanted the first time.

Keep in mind that most experts in this area will advise taking more practice tests beforehand and only taking the LSAT once. The best advice is to study really hard, pinpoint and work on your problem areas and go into that first test as prepared as possible.

Should you take the LSAT multiple times?

Is it bad to take the LSAT more than once? Taking the LSAT for the first time typically requires 2-4 months of preparation, sometimes longer. Most students, on average, improve two to three points statistically from one test to the next.

Personally, I am in favor of an LSAT retake that could really help boost a score and improve your application. Students who believe they can increase beyond an otherwise good first score find retaking the LSAT a good and solid strategy. I do, too. The LSAT is a skills-based test, and just like anything that you do that is such, improvement happens over time rather than immediate — be fair to yourself and build your confidence over time. And, now in North America, all LSAT tests have gone digital, so if you are used to practicing with pencil and paper, be sure to take practice tests using a digital format. Being as routine as possible on test day will likely garner the best results.

I’ve known many students who’ve secured admissions to our law school, with scholarship, who’ve retaken the LSAT and increased their scholarship with an improved score. With such students, I urge retaking the test. In fact, it is possible for students to earn more money in scholarship with a strong LSAT score than they could by taking a year off to work between undergrad and law school. The LSAT can really make a huge difference for many in making law school affordable.

Reasons to not retake the LSAT again 

For the most part, I intended this post to shed light on why you shouldn’t be stressing out too much if you need to retake the LSAT again. Those important rule changes I discussed earlier were put in place in order to make this an easier decision. That being said, there are certain situations where I would tell someone not to retake LSAT and I wanted to include those here.

You’ll apply late if you retake the LSAT

Keep in mind that applying early to law school is highly recommended. Early applicants are given priority when it comes to scholarships, financial aid, etc. I do not recommend turning in an application late in order to retake the LSAT. If you’re set on retaking the LSAT, you may want to apply for a later admissions cycle rather than putting in a late application.

You’re first score was good enough to get into the law school you want

You should already have a good idea of the average LSAT scores for students at your school(s) of choice. While you may be thinking about retaking the LSAT to get a score that would place you above the 75th percentile, this isn’t strictly necessary. If the score you got falls within the 25th to 75th percentile, then I wouldn’t recommend retaking the LSAT.

You already scored a 170 or higher

This is an amazing score (putting you within the top 3% of test takers), but some students want to strive for perfection. That is certainly admirable, but not highly recommended. You already have a score that would give you a competitive advantage at any law school in the country. At this point, the work needed to retake the LSAT isn’t going to be worth the gain. There’s also a chance you may not do as well the second or third time around.

You already out 120% into the first test

This can be a tough one to come to terms with, but I need you to ask yourself this question before choosing to retake the LSAT, “Did you put your all into that first test?” If you already put a ton of effort into studying, actually went through every practice test and beat your practice test average in the first LSAT, retaking the test may not yield much of a benefit.

How many practice tests should you take?

Depending on the LSAT prep course you enroll in (or don’t), you may get different recommendations when it comes to practice tests. I recommend that you invest as much time as you can taking practice tests before taking your first LSAT. These are extremely beneficial, because it forces students to work through actual questions under the timed conditions they will face on test day. In my opinion, it is also the best way to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Investing time taking these practice tests will yield the most impactful insights for increasing your score.

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Topics: Law School Insider Tips