How to Address a Low LSAT Score in Law School Applications
Many law school applicants find the LSAT to be the most frustrating hurdle on the path to their dream school.
Not only is the test difficult, but test day can be unpredictable. From nosy proctors and inclement Wi-Fi to sudden illness and family emergencies, there’s simply no way to ensure all your hard work will yield the same results as your practice tests.
This is one reason why law schools in recent years have opened the door to alternate pathways to law school, like direct admission programs and acceptance of other tests like the GRE.
For now, however, LSAT scores join grades as the two most important factors in law admissions. If you feel like your LSAT score is holding you back, consider these three tips:
- Retake the test.
- Consider an addendum.
- Emphasize other strengths.
Retake the Test
The best way to make up for a low LSAT score is to simply retake the test until you achieve a score that is in line with your practice test results. You can take the test up to three times in one testing year, five times over the current and past five years, and seven times total.
Law schools will see each time you take the test in your score report, but since admissions officers put the most emphasis on an applicant’s highest LSAT score, there is no real penalty for retaking the test. And with the LSAT now offered nine times annually in a remotely proctored online format, retaking the test is easier than ever.
Moreover, the Law School Admission Council, which administers the LSAT, recently announced that all test-takers will be able to view their score before deciding whether to keep or cancel it. They can do this by purchasing an option called Score Preview, which was formerly available only to first-time test-takers. It costs as little as $45 but is free if you have an approved LSAT fee waiver.
If you retake the LSAT, don’t use the same approach to studying. Consider practicing in a more methodical and focused way. Access new books, online resources or personal tutors for new perspectives on particular trouble spots.
And if you have a cognitive or physical impairment, be sure to request accommodation. There will be no indication in your score report of any accommodation received.
Consider an Addendum
If your score goes up by more than 10 points, you should write an addendum explaining the score increase. But don’t worry – this is a good thing.
You could write an LSAT addendum to explain underperformance on the test. However, this sort of LSAT addendum will likely be viewed more skeptically by admissions officers than an addendum explaining anomalies on your transcript.
Since applicants can take the LSAT multiple times, any reluctance to retake the test or to plan ahead for such a contingency may reflect poorly on your ability to handle law school. Good lawyers are cautious and prudent.
That said, if there is a specific reason for your underperformance on the LSAT and inability to retake it, write an addendum to explain your situation. For example, you might mention factors like unresolved personal hardships, persistent emergencies or a documented history of underperformance on standardized tests.
Emphasize Other Strengths
Ultimately, the LSAT is just one piece of evidence for your academic potential as a law student. High grades can help offset a low LSAT score, as can strong recommendation letters from professors, professional experience and a well-structured personal statement.
Use other elements of your application like your resume to bring out skills tested by the LSAT, like logical reasoning and close reading. Underscore any academic, extracurricular or professional work that required careful analysis and argumentation under time pressure.
Above all, keep perspective. The LSAT has little relevance outside of law school admissions. Before a low score prompts you to devote hundreds of hours to further practice or change your life plans, think about better ways to invest that time and energy. Finding ways to volunteer in your community will not only help restore your confidence and impress law admissions officers, it may pay lifelong dividends.