Above the Law

Today’s LSAT advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep. Blueprint offers live LSAT prep classes throughout the country and online LSAT classes for those who want to study from home (or at the library in the middle of the night).

To gain entry into an ABA-accredited law school in the United States or Canada, you must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Unfortunately, you can’t just drop in any time you like and take the LSAT. It’s only offered four times per year: December, February, June, and September/October. So if you’re planning on going to law school, you have a decision to make: When is the best time to take the LSAT?

There is No Easy LSAT.

While you may have taken a particular undergraduate class because it would provide a GPA-boosting easier A (Intro to Shakespeare rather than Astrophysics, for example), there is no similar recourse on the LSAT. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), which makes the test, ensures parity between LSATs through several procedures that include placebos, test groups, and hamsters.

Perhaps not hamsters, though we hear they make great study buddies.

Suffice it to say, your chances of attaining any given score are based on your level of preparation, not finding the “easy” test. There are differences in terms of the application timeline, however, and knowing about these will help inform your decision about when to take the test.

The June LSAT

The June LSAT is a great choice, for a number of reasons. For one, it’s in the afternoon. The other three LSATs are administered around 8 a.m. So if you would rather lick road kill off the freeway than wake up early for a test, the June LSAT may be for you. Counseling might be in order, as well, but that’s the topic of a different article.

June is also an attractive choice because you’ll receive your score early in the application timeline. Law schools don’t start accepting applications until September or October, so June test takers have plenty of time to take the LSAT, get the rest of their application together, and still apply very early in the process. Most law schools operate on rolling admissions, and this generally means that the earlier you apply, the better your chances are of getting in. If for some reason the June LSAT went poorly, you can also retake it in October, and still apply fairly early.

The disadvantage to June is that it occurs shortly after final exams, which can make studying for it difficult if you’re a full-time student with a heavy course load.

The September/October LSAT

The October LSAT (which is given some years in late September; hence the pretentious hyphenation) has historically been the most popular administration of the test. If you take the October LSAT you usually get your score back by early November, allowing you to apply before the glut of applications arrive at law schools—typically in late December.

The October LSAT also allows you to study over the summer, which is especially advantageous if you’re a student. The main downside is that if you end up not being ready, or wind up doing poorly on the test, you have to retake in December. Unfortunately, this causes you to lose any advantage you might have gained by applying early.

The December LSAT

The December LSAT no longer allows you to apply early in the admissions cycle. If you take the December LSAT, you’ll receive your score in early January, and you should apply to law schools immediately after it arrives. If you take the December LSAT, you should make sure to send in the other parts of your application (personal statement, letters of recommendation, etc.) before your score is released. This will allow you to apply as early as possible.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, the importance of the LSAT in law school applications. It’s typically weighted so much that if by waiting to take the December LSAT you can raise your LSAT score even by three points, that consideration outweighs applying later in the process.

The February LSAT

The February LSAT is a special case. For one, it’s the only test that is non-disclosed. This doesn’t have many practical consequences, but it means you can’t review your mistakes to satisfy your curiosity after you get your score. But what makes the February LSAT especially unique is where it falls in the application timeline. If you’re taking the February LSAT to apply the following fall, for admission in the following year, that’s great. For example, taking the February 2013 LSAT for admission in Fall 2014 is a fantastic option. It allows you to have plenty of time to put your applications together, and if you’re a student it also lets you study over winter break.

But if you take the February LSAT to apply in the current cycle, then it’s much more problematic. Many schools won’t accept a February LSAT for admission in that same year, and for those that do, it constitutes a very, very late application. So taking the February LSAT for admission in the same year should be a last resort only.

Conclusion

While there are differences to these four options, the most important factor in deciding when to take the test is how prepared you will be. The best time to take the LSAT is when you have the most time to study for it. With that in mind, look at your timetable, pick a date, and start studying! The LSAT is an incredibly difficult test, but with hard work and a hamster friend, it can definitely be mastered.