Focus on Scoring Your Best on the LSAT

Shawn P. O'Connor

Welcome to another installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a monthly feature in the Law Admissions Lowdown that provides admissions advice to readers who send in questions and profiles. If you have a question about law school, E-mail me for a chance to be featured next month.

Dear Shawn: I came across your blog this afternoon while doing research regarding low LSAT scores and law school admission. Subsequently, I was wondering if you could shed some light on my situation.

I took the LSAT for the first time last month (after taking a prep course) and scored extremely low on the test. I scored in the high 130s but graduated college with a good undergraduate GPA (3.5) in under four years.

I know that I am capable of scoring at or above my targeted score. I plan to retake the test in February and am aiming for at least a 152, if not higher. At this point, I just want to get into a decent law school and then take the test again during my first year in law school so that after the completion of my first year in law school, I can transfer to a better top 50 law school.

Please can you spare me some advice at your convenience? Thank you in advance. -Low Scorer

[Explore the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings.]

Dear Low Scorer: First, I very strongly recommend that you invest in one-on-one tutoring to prepare for the February LSAT. Since it seems that the class you took did not prove very useful, you may benefit more from personalized tutoring, which can be modified to fit your learning style and needs. Look for a tutor with a high LSAT score (173+) and at least a few years of prior teaching experience.

Also, consider virtual tutoring options as, depending on your location, these can be preferable to just going with whichever tutors are available locally. For example, I put my 10 years of experience tutoring students nationwide (and even internationally) using digital whiteboard technology and video conferencing.

Transferring law schools is a great goal, but remember that your first year grades will be much more important than your LSAT score when it comes to transferring. During your first year, you should concentrate your time on your classes, not studying for the LSAT again. You will be much more successful with your transfer applications if you are in the top of your class, regardless of your LSAT score. -Shawn

[Read more about transferring law schools.]

Dear Shawn: I am currently a senior at a university in New York, and I am a first generation college student. During my time in college, I have worked hard, as exemplified by my high GPA. I have interned at a top corporate law firm, a local politician's office, and the District Attorney's Office. I am also a part of my school's honor society and the recipient of other awards and honors.

I have not always been a great standardized test taker--my SAT scores were not that high. I am currently scoring in the low 150s on my LSAT practice exams. I believe the highest I will get on the day of the exam is a 150. I know that there is the option of taking the LSAT in June or October 2013, but I honestly do not want to take a year off. I am looking at schools like Penn, Stanford, Fordham, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, Columbia, NYU, Emory, and Yale.

If you were in my shoes, would you take a year off to prep for the test? Or should I just continue with what I am doing--take the test in February and apply for law school now? -Wondering When to Apply

Dear Wondering When to Apply: Given your high GPA and impressive extracurricular experience as well as your academic awards, your most significant obstacle to law school admission is your LSAT score. You should take the time to attain your highest possible score so that you are able to take full advantage of all of your hard work throughout college. Law school is a substantial investment, and you should go to the best law school you possibly can to ensure you attain a substantial return on your investment after graduation.

[Get tips on LSAT preparation.]

Taking a year off before law school will not harm you at all in your applications, and it may even help you, as long as you keep busy by volunteering, working, or interning. I actually took four years off before enrolling at Harvard Law School. In addition to giving you more time to study for the LSAT, a year off can also give you more perspective on your career goals, which will give your essays greater depth.

You could also consider an LSAT course or tutoring to get expert help on the LSAT. -Shawn