With the June LSAT test date just about a month away and the May test change deadline rapidly approaching, now is the time to determine if you are ready to take this critical exam or might want to push off until October, which will in no way negatively affect your chances of admission in the fall.
Many students believe that if they have put a certain amount of time into their LSAT preparations, then they must be ready, but this is not always the case. Some students will be ready after three months of prep; others need five or 10 months to fulfill their potential.
For example, I studied for nine months before earning my 179, but one of our students recently scored a 176 after just two months of preparation. Regardless of how long you have been studying, answering the following three questions -- which I always ask my students at Stratus Prep -- can help you assess whether you should take the test now or continue studying.
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1. Where should you be scoring given your stretch and target schools? Although we would all love a 180, you have likely established an attainable target that will maximize your admissions odds at the schools that most interest you.
If you are consistently scoring 1-2 points above your target score on timed practice tests, then you will likely be ready for the June exam. If you are scoring 1-10 points below your goal, then you may or may not be ready in a month and should consider individualized tutoring to help reach your goal.
We had a student on the West Coast who was 7 points from her goal score a month before the December 2012 exam. With 20 hours of intense tutoring, we were able to help her exceed her goal by three points -- a 10-point improvement in just 30 days.
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If you are more than 10 points from your goal score, you should plan to take the October exam. Ideally, right now you are regularly reaching your target score so you can spend the next month fine-tuning your test-taking and timing skills and gaining confidence so you are calm on test day. If that is not the case and you still want to take the June exam, ask for help now.
2. Are you worried because you bombed a practice test after several good scores? Everyone has a bad test day now and then. Furthermore, the test is not without substantial variation -- about seven points -- from one particular exam to another.
If you have been scoring at or above your goal consistently and then attained one or two lower scores, you are still likely to perform well next month. I had a student at Stratus Prep who was scoring in the mid-to-high 170s, only to score in the mid-160s on a practice test just days before her exam date. She was panicked and worried, but following my advice, she did not push off her exam and scored a 177.
3. Are you struggling with timing? The hardest part of LSAT prep is understanding and accurately answering the questions. Once you can answer the questions correctly, the next step is to perfect your timing.
If you are having trouble finding a strategy to improve your timing, seek help from a tutor over the next several weeks so you can reach or exceed your goal and remember that you definitely have the potential to do so, if you dedicate yourself to working on timing for the next month.
Overall, think of the month before the LSAT as the final stretch in your preparation. If you have not reached your target score or you only attain it sporadically, you may not be ready for the June test.
If this is the case, ideally you should change your test date before the May deadline, but if you fail to do so, simply do not show up for the test. An absence will be recorded on your record, but schools are not concerned with absences. Do not just take the June test as a practice exam since schools will view a canceled or low score negatively even if you do well when you retake the exam.
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If you do not feel confident that you are ready to reach your goal in one month's time, then postpone your test date to October. There is no admissions disadvantage in taking the October LSAT, especially if you believe you can score significantly higher if you have more time to study, take an LSAT preparation class or enlist the help of a private tutor.