Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Post-June: Should You Retake the LSAT in October?

It's that time of year.  It comes around in early March and July and again in late October and December.  Thousands of people around the world start asking themselves "Should I retake the LSAT?"

What people rarely realize, though, is that many thousands more are asking themselves another question, "What LSAT score do I need?"  And even fewer people realize that these questions are really two sides of the same coin. If you're still mystified by how your mistakes (the raw missed score) translated into the final three-digit score (the 120-180 scale score), we already explained the LSAT scale score conversion.

If statistics held true, at most 5 people scored a 180 on the June 2011 LSAT.  Everyone else has some room to be wondering if they could've done better if they had just spent more time studying those tricky logic games where there are only two rules and tons of deductions to make from there.

If you're wondering either question, we have some excellent information and tools for you to consider.  We spent a month going over the LSAT scale score statistics made available by LSAC's research arm and describing how our founder moved from a 172 to a 180--and in the process developed the system Zen of 180 is based upon.

You can read more about improving from 172 to 180 on the LSAT and exactly what the graph means.

We also asked some of our clients to describe their experience using the LSAT goal setting process we advocate, which can also help you see what scores you need for your list of law schools.  Once you know that information, you can tell if the three digit number that arrived in your e-mail will be high enough to start the law school application process.  If not, get your Zen on in time for the October 2011 LSAT!

How does the average re-taker's scores change the second, or third, time they take an LSAT? Some information from LSAC:
Data shows that scores for repeat test takers often rise slightly. Most people take the test only once; last year 70.2% of the total number of test takers took the LSAT just one time; 24.5% took the test twice; and approximately 5.3% took the LSAT more than twice.
While that information is somewhat helpful, it's really not an accurate glimpse of the whole picture. When we disaggregated the data into how each person performed on the retake by their initial scale score, some illuminating trends developed.

Please note that in this graph we have excluded the repeat test takers who made the same scale score or only marginal improvements. We chose each standard deviation's cut-off point as the definition for "significant gains" because of the stress caused by preparing for the LSAT: if someone decides to retake the test, they need to have a solid return on their investment.

For each scale score along the x-axis, if the blue "significant gains" bar is visible above the red "harmed" bar, then more people scored in a higher standard deviation than scored lower on the retake.
Conversely, if the blue bar is hidden by the red, then more people with that scale score actually lost points on the LSAT retake.

What this graph clearly shows is that people who initially score below the cutoff of one of the LSAT scale score's standard deviations at ~158 or ~170 have the most likelihood of benefiting from retaking the LSAT. While this could be an artifact of our definition of "significant gains" as moving into a new standard deviation bracket--that is, they only have to improve a few points to be counted--it could also be because those test takers knew how much they had to gain by improving their score only a few points. Regardless, the trend is striking and has held across modern LSATs.