LSAT Kung Fu Blog / Should I Cancel My LSAT Score?

Should I Cancel My LSAT Score?

But are you really, really sure?

This morning, we’ll undertake an investigation into one of the most problematic issues facing America; one of the thorniest problems of our time - should I, uh, cancel my LSAT score?

To answer this murky, subjective, psychologically- and emotionally-charged question, we’ll make use of reason, thoughtfulness, and math. Sounds delicious.

OK; to begin with, before we can even start to think about whether or not to cancel our score, we have to set some ground rules - when should a person cancel her LSAT score? I mean, the answer is sort of like “When she didn’t do as well as she could’ve,” right? Right, but let’s firm that up a bit.

First, let’s establish our real baseline number. When I talk about this baseline goal, I’m not talking about the score that would make you ecstatic. I’m talking about the actual, real score that you could in fact go on with. It may help to think of it like this:

Imagine I’m Timothy Theophilis Tester (my parents hated me) and I’ve been scoring 166-167 on my most recent practice tests. My test-day goal is therefore 167-168. I want to do my absolute best. I know what I’m capable of, and I want to meet that, or maybe just exceed it.

However, that number’s not my baseline. In about three weeks, I’m going to get an email, the subject line of which is: “Your LSAT Score!!” and when I open that email, the second line of text will have a number. My question is this—what number will make me go, “Ah. Well, OK.”?

For me, that would be a 163. Now, that score doesn’t please me. It doesn’t knock my socks off. It doesn’t even really do more than just gently blow on my socks. I will have underperformed my abilities, and that always sucks. At the same time, though, I’ve done my homework, and I know that that score will make me competitive at most of the law schools I want to attend. It’s not as high as it should be, but it’s good enough that I can live with it. [And I really want to be clear here—this is the personal baseline for me, T. Theophilis Tester. I’m not suggesting that the right number for you is your real goal minus four. It’s just likely that there’s some number a little lower than your goal with which you could be satisfied, even though you’re not thrilled by it. Make sense?]

Now, with my baseline in hand, I can begin to think. To do this, I’ll need to make a clear-eyed assessment of my realistic performance range. First, I do a little digging through some score conversion charts, and I find that to earn 163, I’ll need to get about 80 questions right (sometimes it takes a couple more, sometimes you can earn that with a couple fewer, but all in all, it takes pretty much 80 questions to get 163 on most tests).

Now I assess my test day:

On the first LR section, I remember that I thought it was difficult, so I only got to 20 of the 26 questions. That means I guessed on 6 questions, which means I earned 0 or 1 points by guessing. Of the 20 that I answered, I did not feel perfectly confident - there were 3 or 4 questions that I struggled with. I probably didn’t miss every question that I struggled with, so realistically, I earned 17-20 points by answering questions.

The second LR section was better for me. I got to 23 of the 25 questions, and I think I pretty much laid the smack down. There were really only two questions I had major trouble with; even if I missed them both, I likely earned 21 points. I only guessed on two questions, so it’s not likely that I earned any points by guessing here.

The RC was standard; I did my normal, three-passages-well performance. I didn’t answer the last 7 questions, so I probably got 1 or 2 points by guessing on those. Of the 21 questions I answered, I know that I normally miss about 1 per passage, and since this felt like normal, I figure at the worst, I earned 17 points, and at best, 21.

I pwned the Games. I mean, they are my bitch. I didn’t guess, and I’m pretty certain I didn’t miss any. Of course, the careless error is always possible, but no more than that. I got 22 or 23 points in this section.

Now, when I add those numbers, I get a minimum likely raw score of 78, and a maximum likely raw score of 88. This means my test-day performance is likely to be between 161 and 168.

Finally, then, I will make my decision. That 161 at the low end is intriguing; I really won’t feel very OK about a 161 - it’s just too far below my expectations for myself. On the other hand, though, it would be so nice to be done with this fucking test...

Here’s my thinking; for almost everyone, if you can do 5 points or more better than your current score, you’d be wise to retake the test (if you can stomach doing it!). If you’ve been like Theo, and scoring 166-7, and you get a test-day 161, it’s pretty likely that you’ll hit your real capacity next time around, and far exceed that score. For most people, it’s probably worth the retake.

At the same time, there’s really something to be said for just being done, and I think it’s a totally legitimate option to decide to take the 161—even though you feel queasy—just to be finished. It’s a tough call (and I’m glad it’s not my call!), but maybe thinking in these terms will help you decide.

In any case, you give yourself the best chance to make a good decision by considering all the facts at your disposal, and combining those with the clearest-headed assessment you can mathematically manage. I hope this assessment helps you think!