To the LSAT-taking community, this week brings more LSAT news that might affect your study plans. And it’s good news for those of you who would like to take the LSAT as many times as you can to finally earn your target score.
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) changed its policy on retaking the LSAT.
Previously, it limited the number of times you could take the LSAT to 3 times in one LSAT-year (which, for some reason, extends from June of one calendar year to May of the following year), 5 times in 5 LSAT-years, and 7 times in your natural lifetime.
As of the August 2023 exam, LSAC will remove that 3-LSATs-in-one-LSAT-year cap.Now the only limits on retaking the LSAT are the 5-LSATs-in-5-years cap and the 7-LSATs-on-this-mortal-coil cap. You will probably realize that this policy change, for all intents and purposes, does not remove the yearly limit so much as increase it. You can’t take the LSAT more than 5 times in a year without hitting the 5-LSATs-in-5-years cap. So, you’re now cut off at 5 LSATs in a year rather than 3. Not that anyone would want to take the LSAT more times than that.
There are a few exceptions and caveats and addenda. So, the following paragraph will get a little complicated. So, let’s get into our concentration zones and try to reconcile all of the following notes.
LSAC’s retake policy is forward-looking, not retroactive. So, LSATs taken before September 2019 will not count against these limits. Also, if you took one of the three-section “LSAT-Flex” exams held between May and August 2020, those won’t count toward these limits either. But, all other LSATs administered between September 2019 and August 2023 will count towards these limits. And that includes any LSAT on which you canceled your score, with or without the Score Preview option. Oh, and if you’ve scored a 180 since June 2017, you absolutely can’t take the LSAT again. (Not that you’d be reading this if you already earned a perfect score).
Got it? Great. We’ve done our due diligence in updating you on this policy. Now here’s what we really think about retaking the LSAT.
You can always retake the LSAT if you need to. And many law school applicants — including the most successful ones who gain admittance to their dream schools with bountiful scholarships — take the LSAT more than once.
But sitting for an LSAT exam takes energy, time, and money, so most people hope to take the LSAT only once or twice. We think that’s a reasonable goal. And a basic change to your study plan can make that an easily accomplishable goal.
As we discussed in this blog post, there’s no need to pick an LSAT date before you begin your study process. You can either choose your LSAT date or your LSAT score, but seldom both. It’s hard to predict how long the study process will take you. If you sign up for an LSAT before you’re ready to actually take the LSAT and earn a score that will leave you satisfied, you may end up rushing that process and sacrificing your LSAT score as a result.
Many students who sign up to take the LSAT too early end up earning a score far below what they’d earn had they simply waited until they were ready to take the test.* If someone actually took the LSAT 5 times in a year, they certainly weren’t ready to take at least 3 of those tests.
*This, by the way, is a major downside of in-person and live-online LSAT courses. These are scheduled courses designed to funnel their students into specific LSAT administrations. Some even prevent their students from accessing study materials after a specific LSAT date without paying an additional fee. These courses push their students to take specific LSAT administrations irrespective of whether their students are ready to take the LSAT at that time. A study-at-your-own-pace online course like LSATMax's allows students to study until they’re ready to take the LSAT.
So, rather than sign up to take the LSAT before you’re ready and risk retaking the LSAT more times than you’d like, simply wait to sign up. Wait until you’ve already started earning your target score on practice exams, or at least until you’re reasonably confident that you can start earning your target score in the 6 weeks between the registration deadline and test day. That way, you can limit the number of times you have to retake the exam.
Plus, limiting the number of retakes will make your eventual law school applications look better. Now, to be clear, law schools mostly just care about your highest LSAT score. That’s the only LSAT score they have to report to the ABA if they admit you. Law schools will, however, still see all of your LSAT scores and canceled scores from the last five years when you apply. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather apply with a 160 and 170 on my score report rather than a 2 or 3 160s and a 170. The former looks like I’m someone who improved their LSAT-related skills dramatically. The latter might look like I’m a 160-level LSAT-taker who got quite lucky on 1 exam.
So, even with the increased yearly limit, we think it’s best to plan on taking the LSAT only once or twice. Which, of course, makes the increased yearly limit largely immaterial to your test plans. Perhaps, this increased yearly limit will slightly reduce the pressure you feel while taking any individual LSAT. If so, that’s a good thing. But the best policy is to focus on studying diligently and waiting until you’re ready, so you only have to take this exam, in the immortal words of one Ms. Stevie Nicks, maybe once, maybe twice.