The LSAT, also know is as the Law School Admissions Test, is standardized exam used to assess student’s readiness and aptitude for law school. More than any other standardized test, the LSAT inspires a rash of cancellations every time it’s given. Before you cancel your scores, here are a few things you should consider.
Why Do Law Students Cancel Their LSAT Scores?
The obvious answer is “because they did poorly.” But here’s the thing: you may not have. And having a bad score on your record isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be.
In the “Bad Old Days,” virtually every law school under the sun would average LSAT scores if you took the test more than once. This happened for two reasons: First, law schools were required by LSAC (the Law School Admission Council) to report the average scores for all of their students when divulging information about their incoming classes, and they wanted those average scores to look good.
Second, LSAC had produced numerous studies showing that small variations in LSAT score were predictively meaningless (in other words, it’s no surprise that a student who got a 150 on one test could score a 153 on the next test, and that difference in scores was not predictive of a better performance in law school). But the first of these two reasons in no longer true.
What’s Considered a “Bad” LSAT Score?
The LSAT is scored on a scale from 120 to 180. A 160 is generally considered to be the average score for law school admission. You should be proud of yourself if you get this score or better.
But in terms of what constitutes a “bad” score, that’s more difficult to answer, because it depends on the person. For example, someone who is applying to law schools with a 3.0 GPA might need to score higher than someone with a 4.0 GPA. Also, if you’re applying to top-tier law schools, your LSAT score needs to be higher than someone who’s applying to less selective schools.
For example, here’s how the LSAT scores correspond with GPAs at different tiers of law schools:
- Tier 1 (Yale, Harvard) – GPA 3.7+; LSAT 170+
- Tier 2 (UCLA) – GPA 3.4-3.6; LSAT 160+
- Tier 3 (USC) – GPA 3.2-3.4; LSAT 150+
- Tier 4 (UC Berkeley) – GPA 2.9-3.1; LSAT 145+
Generally speaking, a “bad score” is any score below a 145. If you take the LSAT more than once, the best score you can get is your highest one. So if you got a 161 on your first test and then took it again and got a 165, only your 165 would count as your official record.
If you want to apply to law school, but only have one LSAT score to work with, then you’ll need to make sure that your one test was good enough for the schools you want to attend.
Can Law Schools See If You Cancel Your LSAT Score?
If you’re wondering if law schools see cancelled LSAT scores, the short answer is yes; your Law School Report will include that you cancelled your score, and law schools will be able to see this.
However; it’s worth nothing that the LSAC actually changed its reporting requirements around a decade ago, and now schools are only required to report the highest LSAT score for each of their students. As a direct result, the policy of averaging multiple scores has been slowly changing over the course of the past few years, and many schools are now only taking the highest score.
Ok, but if I know I bombed, should I cancel?
Here’s the question: how do you know that you bombed?
Many students feel bad about their tests, and then turn in the best scores of their lives. Many students feel great, only to score much lower than they had on recent practice tests.
In short, you may not be the best judge of how well you’ve done.
If you “know” that you’ve bombed because, say, you normally do four games and you only got through three, then, yeah, ok, it’s probably best to cancel. Not every school takes the highest LSAT score, so canceling is a good idea if you’re sure that your score is lower than normal.
If you strongly suspect that you’ve bombed, and you’re not in a time crunch (for example, you’re taking the December test and you’re not planning to apply until the next admissions cycle—so you have February, June, and October available for retests), you may want to cancel.
As we’ve noted, you may be a poor judge of how you’ve done. But if you’ve planned ahead and have several more test dates available (and are confident that you’ll have the time to do additional, high quality preparation), it might be a good idea to cancel.
If, on the other hand, you’re taking the October test and want to apply in the current admissions cycle, canceling can become a riskier proposition. Most law schools work on rolling admissions (which means that they evaluate applications as they receive them).
Generally speaking, getting in becomes slightly harder as rolling admissions season advances. So putting off your test until December essentially “costs” you a point or two to your LSAT score. Nothing huge, but still, another factor to consider if you don’t have solid evidence that you’ve done poorly.
Should You Actually Cancel Your LSAT Score?
In the final analysis, if you have strong reason to believe you’ve done poorly, and if you have time to take the test again (and to further your preparation), there’s nothing wrong with canceling one LSAT score (but only one).
For each condition below that’s not true, cancelling becomes an iffier proposition:
- If you’ve canceled before, don’t do it again.
- If you don’t have time for a retake with proper preparation, only cancel if a) you are absolutely certain you bombed and b) you don’t mind putting off law school for a year or more, giving yourself time to retake with proper preparation.
- If you don’t have strong reason to believe you’ve done poorly, and retaking will delay your applications, you probably shouldn’t cancel. Don’t forget that rolling admissions rewards earlier applications.
- And don’t forget that a whole lot of schools will consider only your highest LSAT score (contact schools directly for their current policies, as they change all the time) which makes having a single poor score on your record less of an issue than it was several years ago.
Does a Cancelled LSAT Score Look Bad?
Most people who cancel their LSAT score do not have face any negative consequences.
A cancelled LSAT score is a valid LSAT score. Many law schools accept cancelled scores and view them as valid. If you cancel your score, it will be reported to the ABA and LSDAS as a “no report” or NR. The LSAC states that between 30-40% of all test takers cancel their scores, which is why it’s important to know what happens when you cancel your LSAT score.
If you decide to cancel your score after you have taken the LSAT, you must call LSAC directly at 800-551-8378 no later than the following day (e.g., Tuesday at 5:00 pm ET). If you do not call by this deadline, your cancellation request will not be processed.
If you’re considering cancelling your LSAT score, you should first consider the above criteria before making your final decision. And if you’re in the process of retaking the LSAT, then it might be worth consulting with our team of experienced LSAT tutors who can help you increase your score and prevent the need for you to cancel.