When should you take the LSAT? While there are some law schools that do not require the LSAT, it is best that you review the considerations and planning if you find yourself wondering, ‘when should I take the LSAT?’ and feel inclined to take the test. From understanding the LSAT calendar and application cycles to creating a personalized study plan, we provide essential insights.


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Article Contents
11 min read

When Should You Take the LSAT? Quick Introduction Understanding the LSAT Calendar Tackling the Different Sections of the LSAT When Should You Take the LSAT: The Sign That You Are Ready When To Start Preparing For The LSAT: Things To Consider Repeat Test Takers: When to Retake the LSAT When Should You Take the LSAT: Application Deadlines and Rolling Admission Conclusion FAQs

When Should You Take the LSAT? Quick Introduction

When it comes to gaining admission to law school, your LSAT score is more than just a number—it's a pivotal piece of your application puzzle. Whether this is good or not is debatable, but the fact is that the LSAT is viewed as a huge indicator of your potential in law school. It can open doors to prestigious institutions or serve as a key differentiator when competition is fierce. Recognizing this, you're likely pondering several crucial questions: How long is the LSAT? What are the LSAT sections? And, when should you take the LSAT?

…We have the answers you’re looking for. This blog will serve as your compass in navigating the intricate decision-making process of scheduling your LSAT, and discussing other need-to-knows in order to ensure you’re well prepared. We understand that determining the optimal time to sit for the exam isn't a one-size-fits-all answer—it's a decision that should be tailored to your unique circumstances, academic goals, and life commitments.

Now, let's dive into the factors that will guide you to select an LSAT test date that aligns with your personal journey to law school.

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Understanding the LSAT Calendar

As you embark on this journey, it's essential to acquaint yourself with the LSAT's annual schedule; this is important in order to determine how long you need to study for the LSAT. The test is offered multiple times throughout the year, providing a range of dates from which you can choose. Knowing the registration deadlines and score release dates for each of these test administrations is crucial. It's not just about picking a date; it's about strategic timing. You'll need to consider how your chosen date aligns with application deadlines and how it fits within your own academic and professional schedule.

With this said, you can choose a date that works best for you in terms of your study schedule and deadlines you must meet for your law school application. For example, it might be a challenge to study rigorously for your LSAT and write a really strong law school personal statement. You might want to avoid combining these two tasks. We’ll talk in more detail about how you can plan your study plans, but these are the kinds of considerations you should keep in mind when asking the question of when you should take the LSAT.

Missing a deadline could mean postponing your test—and your law school application—by months. So, mark your calendar, set reminders, and plan ahead to avoid any last-minute scrambles that could throw off your law school timeline.

Tackling the Different Sections of the LSAT

How hard is the LSAT? Well, to some, it isn’t difficult, but for most students, it’s quite a challenge. It’s difficult to definitively determine the level of challenge the LSAT presents to different people. It is a multiple choice exam, followed by a writing sample, and spans over the 3-hour mark… so it requires ample preparation and momentum! There may be sections you find you excel at, and others, you struggle and require exam practice.

The prompts and stimuli are what you’ll focus on, and that’s why it’s important to understand to understand what is on the LSAT and tackle preparation accordingly. To do so, it is crucial to get a grasp on its four LSAT sections: Logical Reasoning, Analytical Reasoning (LSAT Logic Games), LSAT Reading Comprehension, and the Writing Sample.

  1. Logical Reasoning: Practice identifying argument structures and flaws. Focus on understanding the stimulus before jumping to the questions.
  2. Analytical Reasoning: Develop a strong foundation in diagramming techniques. Consistent practice with different game types is key to increasing speed and accuracy.
  3. Reading Comprehension: Enhance your ability to quickly digest complex passages by reading diverse materials. Practice summarizing passages and predicting questions.
  4. Writing Sample: Although unscored, your LSAT writing sample is sent to law schools. Practice crafting coherent, persuasive arguments under time constraints.

When Should You Take the LSAT: The Sign That You Are Ready

The traditional timeline for law school applicants typically begins well before the application year. If you're still in your undergraduate studies, it's wise to start considering your LSAT date at least a year in advance. This foresight allows you to create an LSAT study schedule and begin reviewing materials, which can lead to a deeper and more retained understanding of the test material. One of the many challenges of the LSAT is the fact that it does not test your knowledge, but rather, your skills. Skills take time to acquire, so, starting your LSAT prep early is strongly advised. It’s better to be overprepared than underprepared – you can never start too early when prepping to achieve the score that can make or break your law school dreams! In most cases, 3 months minimum is the recommended amount of time required to study and prepare for the test. As you take practice tests, you should be scoring in the 90th percentile in 3 different tests in a row to be confident that you are ready to take the real LSAT. If you fall short of this benchmark, you might want to practice for a bit longer, and reschedule your test.

But what about the last-minute test takers? Cramming for the LSAT is not recommended, as it often leads to unnecessary stress and burnout, which can negatively affect your performance. There's a reason we always advocate for months of preparation: it works. It gives you the time to familiarize yourself with the LSAT's intricacies and to practice extensively, and figure out information about your ideal LSAT score range in order to set goals. Remember, a well-planned LSAT timeline isn't just about the test; it's about setting yourself up for a successful law school application. While it is possible to prepare for the LSAT in less than 3 months, it is risky. If you choose to take the test with less prep time under your belt, the skills the LSAT tests you on must be already quite well developed. So, make sure to take as many practice tests as you can to see if you score in the 90th percentile at least 3 times in a row. If you can achieve this, you may be ready to take the test (even if you’ve studied for less than 3 months).

When To Start Preparing For The LSAT: Things To Consider

When it comes to the LSAT, your first step should be an honest assessment of your starting point. Take a diagnostic test (the LSAC website has this) to gauge your current knowledge and skills; your undergraduate program may play a role in your preparedness, too.

English majors, for instance, may have different writing skills than psychology majors (this is merely a generalization and example, but certain majors can carry specific strengths). This baseline will inform your study plan and help track your progress. Remember, the LSAT doesn't test your knowledge; it assesses your ability to apply analytical and comprehension skills in complex scenarios. Therefore, your study plan should include a comprehensive review of test structure, question types, and timing strategies.

The results of your LSAT diagnostic will help you realize your weak areas. For example, you might need some more time to practice with logic games, or, you may want to increase your reading comprehension by engaging with challenging texts. Use the results of your LSAT diagnostic to create your LSAT study schedule.

A study schedule is your roadmap to success. There are two main strategies: the long game and intensive prep. The long game involves spreading out your study sessions over several months (again, we recommend 3 at minimum), which can lead to a more thorough understanding of the material.

Intensive prep, on the other hand, entails focused study in a shorter time frame, which can be beneficial if you're on a tighter schedule. Regardless of the approach, consistency is key. One great strategy is to first practice answering questions untimed, then proceeding to timing yourself and striving toward efficiency with your practice. And, if you find yourself needing extra help, don't hesitate to invest in an LSAT tutor or an LSAT prep course. They can provide customized strategies and keep you accountable.

Let's not forget about LSAT practice questions and practice tests. They are a cornerstone of LSAT prep, simulating the test-day experience and providing invaluable insights into your strengths and weaknesses. Practice tests can also help you balance your study time effectively between different sections of the exam. Remember, you are not really studying any content for the LSAT, which means you really need to focus on the test’s structure and format. This is why consistent practice with realistic LSAT questions is key.

As you juggle academics, work, and LSAT prep, it's essential to find a study rhythm that works for you. Some people are morning larks, while others are night owls. Align your study sessions with the times when you're most alert and productive. By doing so, you'll be training yourself to perform at your peak when test day comes.

Repeat Test Takers: When to Retake the LSAT

If you decide to retake the LSAT, you are not alone. According to the latest statistics, about 25% of students retake the LSAT for the second time and 4% retake it for the third time. Furthermore, according to the LSAC data, on average, students who retake the LSAT in the same year for the second time increase their scores 2 to 3 points!

But deciding to retake the LSAT isn't a decision to be made lightly. You can retake it up to three times in one year, but the decision to do so can be a bit daunting. First, you should reflect on your score: did you meet your target? What is a good LSAT score according to your own goals, and the criteria of your future program? How does it compare to the median scores of your chosen law schools? If there's a considerable gap, a retake might be in order. But, it's not just about the willingness to sit for the exam again; it's also about the readiness to tackle the preparation process anew and decipher between what did and didn’t work for you (in terms of preparation) last time.

If you decide to retake the LSAT, consider the timing. LSAC policies allow you to retake the test, but there are limits on how many times you can do so, as noted above. You can attempt the LSAT a maximum of seven times in your life. Managing the gap between your initial test and the retake is crucial—use this time to address any areas of weakness and to refine your test-taking strategies.

The decision to retake the LSAT should also be informed by application deadlines and the potential impact of your new score. Keep in mind that while schools will see all your scores, many will consider only your highest score or your average score when making admissions decisions.

When Should You Take the LSAT: Application Deadlines and Rolling Admission

Understanding the ebb and flow of law school application deadlines is critical when scheduling your LSAT. Taking the test before you start working diligently on the rest of your application is better. Having your LSAT score ready for the opening of the admissions season can give you a competitive edge. Admissions committees have more seats available and may be more inclined to take a chance on borderline candidates early in the cycle than later. Law schools typically operate on a rolling admissions basis, which means they evaluate applications as they come in and make decisions throughout the admission cycle. To capitalize on this, aim to take the LSAT in a way that allows your score to be ready in the early stages of the admission cycle. This is especially pertinent if you're eyeing early decision programs, which come with their own set of earlier deadlines. If this is the case, we suggest you might want to consider taking your LSAT in the summer before your senior undergraduate year.

Let’s review a typical scenario. For the sake of example, we’ll say you want to attend Law School next September. That means you’ll probably want to write your LSAT approximately one year prior.

If the target LSAT date is in September, you should ideally begin to prepare in May, ensuring a disciplined yet manageable study plan and allowing for 3 months minimum of study time. This also accounts for the possibility of a retake if the initial score doesn't meet expectations. Giving yourself a bit of wiggle room is always advised, if possible!

It's also important to consider how law schools view multiple LSAT scores. While schools may see all your scores, most schools state that they focus on the highest score when making admissions decisions. However, significant discrepancies between scores could raise questions, so be prepared to address those in your application if necessary, whether it’s in law school optional essays or your law school interview questions.

Students preparing for the LSAT can find potential LSAT test dates and corresponding registration deadlines, LSAT Writing opening dates, and score release dates through the Law School Admission Council's (LSAC) official website. The LSAC provides a comprehensive list of upcoming LSAT dates and deadlines, which is essential for planning your test-taking strategy. You can view this crucial information and register for the LSAT on LSAC's website: LSAT Dates, Deadlines, and Score Release Dates​​. Moreover, LSAC's LawHub™ offers a suite of preparation tools designed to help you maximize your study efforts. From official prep books to digital practice tests that mimic the actual testing interface, these resources are tailored to give you an edge in your LSAT preparation.

In harnessing these tools, you're not just preparing for a test; you're laying the groundwork for your future in law.

Simply put: give yourself ample time, and take the LSAT as soon as you score in the 90th percentile 3 times in a row on different practice tests.

Conclusion

To wrap up, deciding when to take the LSAT is a decision that should be approached with careful consideration of your personal circumstances, academic schedule, and law school goals.

Preparing for your LSAT, and deciding when you should take the LSAT is a balancing act of strategic planning, diligent preparation, and self-awareness. By understanding the LSAT calendar, creating a study plan that works for you, seeking help with the material if required, and considering the broader context of application cycles, you'll be well on your way to LSAT success.

Remember, the best time to take the LSAT is when you are most prepared—not just in terms of scoring well on your practice tests, but also in terms of confidence and the ability to perform under test conditions. We strongly recommend against waiting until the last possibly opportunity to take the test, and remember, you can always reschedule if you do not feel ready. Make your decision with an eye toward presenting the strongest application possible to your chosen law schools. And if that means rescheduling your test because you know you will not do well, then take this necessary step.

With your LSAT score as a key component of your law school application, timing your test thoughtfully can set the stage for a promising start to a career in law.

FAQs

1. When should I take the LSAT?

We strongly recommend taking the LSAT as soon as you can in the 90th percentile consistently, i.e., in 3 practice tests in a row. This is usually an indicator that you’re ready for the real thing!

2. When should I start preparing for the LSAT?

Start preparing for the LSAT at least 3-4 months before your intended test date to allow adequate time for thorough study and practice.

3. How many times can I take the LSAT?

LSAC allows you to take the LSAT three times in a single testing year, five times within the current and five past testing years, and a total of seven times in a lifetime.

4. Can I take the LSAT if I'm still in college?

Yes, many students take the LSAT during their junior or early senior year of college, which allows them to apply for law school immediately after graduation.

5. Do law schools prefer scores from certain LSAT test dates?

No, law schools do not prefer LSAT scores from specific test dates; they are more concerned with the scores themselves, regardless of when the test was taken.

6. What's the best way to study for the LSAT Analytical Reasoning section?

Practice with a variety of logic games and focus on developing efficient diagramming techniques to improve speed and accuracy.

7. Is the Writing Sample on the LSAT important?

While the Writing Sample is not scored, it is sent to law schools and should demonstrate clear, organized, and persuasive writing.

8. How do I know if I should retake the LSAT?

Consider retaking the LSAT if your score is significantly below the median scores of your target law schools or if you believe you can significantly improve on a subsequent attempt.

9. What materials should I use to study for the LSAT?

Utilize official LSAC prep materials, which include practice tests that mirror the actual exam's format and difficulty.

10. Can I apply to law school before getting my LSAT results?

Yes, you can apply to law schools before receiving your LSAT results, but your application will not be complete until your scores are reported.

11. Where can I find the dates for upcoming LSAT exams?

Upcoming LSAT dates and deadlines can be found on the LSAC website, which provides a full list of test administrations for planning purposes.

To your success,

Your friends at

BeMo Academic Consulting


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