Saturday, December 18, 2010

LSAT Score Cancel or Keep: From View After 1L Finals

Contrary to many people's misconception, I did not earn a perfect score on the December 2007 LSAT.  No, this isn't a confession, it's a clarification. I wanted to write this before the score cancel deadline for the most recent LSAT, but I had some exams of my own going on.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find the "don't disturb me while I'm trashing your hotel room or I'll tell the press we were running a crack ring from your brand-new hotel and that'll ruin your business" scene. While he ended up getting an A in Contracts, he obviously deserved an A+ in Contract Negotiation.

Anyway, this is the reality of the situation: Hart got a 93%, I missed two questions on the December 2007 LSAT, and I can positively identify a significant mistake that I made on each of my recently completed 1L exams. That's not counting all the mistakes I don't remember or didn't even know I made.

And here's the lesson I've tried to learn: it doesn't change one damn thing.

I've always been a perfectionist; it was a badge I wore with pride while growing up. You cannot be a perfectionist in law school. An 8-hour take-home exam with a 1300 word cap on each essay question is not a mode that tolerates perfectionists.

And neither does a 5.5 hour standardized test designed to be physically impossible for most people to complete in time tolerate perfectionists. The two questions I missed my second time around were not difficult questions: each was a simple logical reasoning task that for some reason tripped me up.  When I got my score report back--after a few days of sheer joy--I was like, "WTF? Why did I miss that one?" The distractor I chose was boneheadedly stupid.

It happened to me, and it's happened to more deserving people. And it's OK.

172 + 180 / 2 = 174 to 178, not 176.
LSAC tries its darnedest to explain that the scores it releases are part of a band; the number is not a hard value that indelibly quantifies your ability to achieve anything, not even on the LSAT. Almost everyone drops a few points from their practice tests to their first actual score; a few people go higher; a few go much higher or lower. Clearly there are factors at play that don't perfectly measure performance, let alone ability.

Am I trying to say that you should never cancel your LSAT score because you can't sweat the small stuff? Absolutely not.

Here are reasons to cancel your score:

1) You didn't finish at least one entire section of the test.

This one has multiple possible causes: walking out after freaking out, puking on your test materials and passing out, falling asleep, missing the start time, etc. This one is the easiest to spot, and you should cancel on the answer form itself (after cleaning it off, if necessary).

2) You didn't finish enough of the test for you to mathematically reach your lowest target score.

This one requires some calculation and speculation as to the curve, but you can use our LSAT statistics section to help with that. Basically, count the number of questions you didn't reach, and treat them as if you got them wrong. Then multiply your accuracy rate from your practice by the remaining questions. Take that product of your raw score and compare it to the scale score chart. If it's below an acceptable range for your purposes, then send in the fax to cancel.

3) You feel really, really bad about your performance. And you have a chance to retake for the same application cycle.

This one is your call, but I'd advise against cancelling because you can always retake and write a supplemental essay explaining why your second score is better. As one of our Zen students mentioned, it's a whole different ball game the second time around.

4) You feel really really crappy about your performance. And you don't have a chance to retake for the same application cycle.

Don't let this happen! The December is a makeup for the current application cycle. The February test dates are for the following application cycle. Anyone who tells you otherwise is actively trying to undermine your future. Probably.

Overall, I have learned that it's OK to make some mistakes because they, literally or figuratively, don't affect the eventual outcome. LSATs and law school exams are graded on a curve. They are not perfect measures of your ability, so don't expect perfection.