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October 8, 2010

Should You Cancel Your LSAT Score?

LSAT Blog Should You Cancel Your LSAT ScoreHope the LSAT went well for you!

See LSAT Score Release Dates to find out when you'll likely get your score.

If the LSAT might not have gone so well, read the below post, but also check out:

How to Cancel Your LSAT Score
(Just so there's no confusion, pressing your finger against the picture of the red button will not actually cancel your LSAT score.)

Should You Retake the LSAT?

LSAT Study Schedules for Retakers (scroll down)

How to Study for a Retake

One bad reason to cancel your LSAT score is that the LSAT has become such a large part of your life that you just don't want to let it go. It's a slippery slope, my friends.

Seriously now, this post is for those who took the LSAT and are now deciding whether to cancel the score.

First of all, relax. Even if it didn't go great, this isn't the end of the world. Everything is going to be fine. Take a deep breath, have a glass of water, listen to these calming waves (mp3), and count backward slowly from 1,000.

Done?

Ok, good.


If you fall within one of the following groups, you should almost certainly NOT cancel your score:

-You just have a vague sense of impending doom (this is a common feeling).

-You just think you didn't do as well as you normally do, and maybe got a few more questions wrong than usual (also common). There have been plenty of people who thought it went horribly, but didn't cancel their scores, and and ended up scoring 170+.

-You just feel like this test was a bit harder than the LSAT PrepTests you did for practice (also common). It often seems more difficult when you know it's for real.



However, if you fall within one of the following groups, you should almost certainly cancel your score:

-You misbubbled several questions.

-You feel you could do a lot better if you gave yourself a few more months to study and/or feel you didn't really give yourself enough time to study before.

-You were coughing, sniffling, sneezing, nose-blowing, and/or vomiting so much that you didn't have enough time to adequately complete the number of questions per section that you normally do.

-You were coughing, sniffling, sneezing, nose-blowing, and/or vomiting so much that other test-takers voted you off the island, took away your test booklet, and repeatedly punched you in the face.

-The jerk sitting next to you was sick and prevented you from concentrating.

-You panicked. In your practice tests, you were always able to complete 4 games, 4 passages, and the entire LR section, but on Test Day, you got really nervous, forgot everything you knew, and know you didn't even come close to your normal performance.

-You couldn't concentrate because you've recently been going through some major life crisis.

-There was an earthquake, terrorist attack, or noisy sporting event / marching band / construction, and it negatively affected your performance, and LSAC isn't willing to do anything about it. If this happened, before you cancel, call LSAC at 215-968-1001 to inform them of what happened and see whether they're willing to do anything for you.

-The test-taker next to you morphed into a hyena and bit off your writing hand, so you were unable to diagram in the Logic Games section.

Basically, if something unusual happened that significantly impacted your score in a negative way, canceling may be the way to go.


Some other factors to consider:

Which section was the experimental section?

If you determine which section is the experimental section, this can help you decide whether to cancel.

(FYI, it's not the same for all test-takers and not all test-takers complete sections in the same order. In other words, there's more than one ordering in which test-takers complete the scored sections and experimental section.)

Not all test-takers have the same experimental section. Additionally, not all test-takers have the experimental section at the same point in the exam. Some might have it 1st, others might have it 2nd, and others might have it 3rd, 4th, or 5th. For many years, it was always one of the 1st 3 sections, which often made it easy to determine which one it was. However, that changed beginning with the October 2011 LSAT. Since then, test-takers have had the experimental section appearing 4th and 5th also.

If you know there's one section on which you did especially poorly, figuring out that that one was the experimental would suggest that you might want to lean toward keeping your score. On the other hand, finding out that you did much better on the experimental section than on the real one(s) of that type may suggest that you should lean toward canceling.

Often, the experimental section stands out as being abnormally difficult or abnormally easy. This is due to the fact that the questions in the experimental section are not necessarily intended to compose a full section on a future exam. Rather, they're simply a bunch of LSAT questions, some of which might appear as part of a future section.


Have you already taken the LSAT and gotten a decent score?

If so, you might want to lean toward canceling, since you wouldn't want to demonstrate a drop in scores.

If not, you might want to lean toward keeping this one, since you'd otherwise have to retake. You have to hope that next time goes better and that nothing horrible will happen next time. See my post titled "Should You Retake the LSAT?" It brings up some points that may help you decide whether to take another shot at the LSAT.



Have you already taken the LSAT and canceled?

1 cancellation won't hurt at all, but 2 (or 3 or more) starts to look like you may not have it together. How much does that hurt you? Somewhat.

This sort of thing isn't really quantifiable due to incomplete data. However, it's something you want to avoid having too many of, like dead bodies in the basement. Sometimes it just isn't avoidable, and 1 doesn't smell too much, but start piling up more than a couple, and the neighbors may start to notice the smell [end creepy/weird analogy]. However, a cancellation is still better than a low score, and you can write an addendum explaining multiple cancellations.



"But I don't know whether I'd have a low score! You only get to find out what your score would've been if you keep it. "

That's precisely the problem. Incomplete information in decision-making is never fun, especially when the stakes are high. Instead of thinking about how Test Day went as a whole, try to break it down into manageable chunks, section-by-section.

Think about how many questions you were certain of on each section, how many you felt pretty good about, how many you blindly guessed on, and how many you guessed on when you were down to two choices, etc. This will help you calculate various potential scenarios for your score.

For example, in making your estimation, you might give yourself all but a few of the questions you were most certain of on each section, most of the ones you were pretty certain on, 1/5 of the ones you blindly guessed on, and 1/2 of the ones you were down to 2 on, etc.

Then, look at some of the most recent raw score conversions ("curves") to translate your raw score into a score out of 180. Are you happy with a fairly low-end estimate? What about a medium or a high one?



What scores do you need for your desired law schools?

If you haven't already, enter your GPA into LSAC's Official Guide UGPA/LSAT calculator (see upper-left area of that site) or LawSchoolPredictor along with various potential LSAT scores to see what kind of score you'd likely need.

See whether one of your reasonable possible score estimations would likely be good enough to get you into a school you'd be happy with. If so, you may want to keep the score.

***

I hope the answers to the above questions end up leading you to keep your score and that you're done with the LSAT for good. Again, if not, see some LSAT study schedules for retakers (scroll down). Even if you've used up every single LSAT PrepTest, there's still plenty to learn from them, so don't worry. You'll still be able to study just fine.

***

I also hope my thoughts in the above post are sufficient to help you make your decision.

Unfortunately, I can't give everyone personalized advice about whether to cancel, but if you leave a comment, maybe others who read this will give you some thoughts on what to do.

Wish you all the best.

Photo by mag3737



22 comments:

  1. Hey Steve!

    Now that the test is over, I wanted to tell you just how valuable this site has been throughout my prep. It was incredible how my instincts and habits took over (especially on LR and LG) and guided me through the questions in the same way they did on my last few PTs. I can't believe LSAC hasn't offered you a job yet!

    The only thing I wish I would have known beforehand was how hyped up and jittery I would be for the first section. I standardized/optimized my caffeine consumption during PTs, but test day nerves combined with my normal caffeine intake really put me over the edge during section 1. Outside of that, today felt like PT 61, instead of the biggest test of my life!

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  2. First off, beautiful post Steve. Thanks for the posting it.

    Anyways, this Saturday was the first time that I've taken it, and I'm considering canceling the score. Here are the pertinent details:

    -I need a minimum of 160 to get into my third favorite group of schools (Baylor, Southern Methodist University), and a minimum of 166 to get into my second preferred group (Texas, Cornell). For my first choices (Duke, Cornell), I need a 167 to even justify applying, but with a 3.75 and very strong tertiary considerations such as rec letters/personal statement, I have a fine shot.
    -Including the experimental section, I guessed on 21 of the questions. Excluding it, about 15-16 (thanks for the clarification, Steve)

    Since at least one of the places I'm into (UT) hasn't committed to whether or not they consider average v. high, I have a very strong hunch that I should cancel this as soon as possible.

    Thanks to anyone who responds. I'm not worried, but I know that I will do way better in December, so it's important to see if a CANCEL/166+ is better than a mediocre/166+

    -Cal

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  3. Scratch that. Meant to say just Texas for the second.

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  4. thanks for this steve! I am simply debating whether i should go for this 2nd cancellation or not. I already have one cancellation for June and I dont know how I did today but guessing lowest 160 and highest 170 as my possible score. I've been aiming for 173 + so I am gonna re-take it definitely. do you think i should still get my score, risking 160 on my record to avoid two cancellations, or do you think I should avoid having possibly a low score that could be more than 10 points lower than what I want to have in my next test? Thanks! (btw i've been consistently scoring 168-170, i panicked at one of the sections and ended up guessing 5 questions..)

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  5. steve, do you think it is worth canceling a second score if it may be significantly lower than the first? when law schools say that they look at the higher score, do they weigh whether the higher score is earlier or later? thanks!

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  6. Glad you all enjoyed this post and the blog overall!



    @5:34PM Eastern

    Not able to give everyone personalized advice and don't have enough info on your situation anyway. Sorry.


    @10:29PM Eastern

    It'd be worth canceling a second score if you were virtually certain it'd be lower than the first.

    Yes, it's much better to have a lower score followed by a higher one than vice-versa.

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  7. steve, how big of a deal is it to submit an addendum as to why one score is significantly lower than another? i took it this past saturday for the first time and feel like i fall into the category of someone who just completely panicked. I am just having a hard time selling to myself a justification for why i should cancel. But if having a significantly lower score is detrimental then it would leave me no choice.

    thanks!

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  8. Suppose it would depend upon the reason for the lower score, as well as the difference in scores.

    Sorry, I just can't tell you what to do here.

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  9. I got the following sequence:

    LG-LR-RC-LR-RC.

    A lot of people told me that the LG can't be the experimental section. Most likely, it is RC as it appeared twice. Is that so? I hope the LG was the experimental as I don't think I did well at all on it. Do let me know as soon as you can, Steve; I don't think there is much time before cancelling the score, if I wanted to.

    Thanks and best regards,
    Jaimin

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  10. Hi Jaimin:

    LG certainly can be the experimental section but in your case it apparently was not. It was the 3rd section of your test reading comp. There can only be one scored RC section and since the last two sections of the test can be assumed to be scored the first RC section was almost definitely the experimental. Sorry it wasn't the LG, hope you did well anyway!

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  11. Okay, fingers crossed.

    Thanks, Benito. Wish you good luck too!

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  12. I'm delighted that I didn't cancel. I only got 3 wrong on that troublesome game and 2 wrong on RC to end up with a 177. I'm thrilled not only with the score but also with the fact that I don't have to retake!

    Thanks for all your help.

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  13. I took this exam last year and ended up with a 150. I took it again today to see if I could get a higher score and I feel like I did horribly. I did answer every question but I know that I guessed on 2 games in a section, and on few reading passages (there were 2 sections). Is it worth canceling? My confidence is shattered.

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  14. give yourself a few days to unwind and then make a decision. It was a bit tough today. I guessed in some areas too. I honestly have no idea what the outcome will be. I'm just hoping for the best possible.

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  15. Steve:

    I did poorly yesterday. Couldn't sleep since 3 am. So had some caffeine to wake me up. Since I usually don't take caffeine drink, it made my heart almost jump out of my chest. During my first section (a scoring LR), the two proctors kept chatting at the table right next to me, I totally couldn't think at all and ended up guess a lot. I did OK on the scoring RC and another LR. But LG was a disaster. Most of time I can get LG all correct, but my brain just didn't function yesterday. So I guessed most out of two games.
    I am debating whether I should cancel the score. I typically score 163+/-3. This time, it will be way below 160 unless I am really lucky. This is my first test. I will retake in June. Is it better to have cancellation than a poor score? And my undergraduate school is from a foreign country, they don't count my GPA (though I have a MS from a US graduate school with 3.85 GPA), so my LSAT score is going to be my bet. Besides, I am 38, a mother of two. I worried if I delay applying for a year, will my age affect my chance?
    Thanks so much!

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  16. Hi Steve, what would you do in my situation?

    I have been studying since June. Was absent for the October test because I didn't feel ready. I not only studied all of the bibles, I took the powerscore full course because I still didn't feel confident. Even after completing the course, I was doing horribly on practice tests (boy I must be dumb, saying I completed all my homework). So I wrote the test on Dec 11th and did horribly. Finished only one game, but I did guess for the rest of them. I didn't complete any logical reasoning section, got up to questions 19/20 guessed the rest. (My experimental was lg too)...and I completed 2 reading comp paragraphs and questions, which I'm confident in the answers and I guessed for the other two. SO I'm guessing my score is somewhere between 130-140 ugh. The ONLY reason I don't want to cancel is because I've already applied so I need an lsat score. I applied to the 6 Ontario school in Canada. Some of them have a more holistic judging process, and my grade point average is 92%. My application is really good and so are my references. So do you think I still have a possible chance at acceptance?

    Thanks! You're awesome

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  17. If you're only scoring in 130-140 range, I don't think law school is for you. If the lsat isn't somewhat decent, I don't think law schools will care enough about the rest of your application.

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  18. You could always re write. If you do well the second time around who cares about your first low score if the highest is only taken into consideration.

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  19. To whoever said, law school isn't for me. I beg to differ, just because I can't do well on this test doesn't mean it's not for me. Saying all my professors have told me I write at a graduate level. Maybe where you come from they only look at your lsat marks, but in Ontario most schools judge EVERYTHING on your application and your lsat + grades equally. Adding to the fact that I have a learning disability that I wrote about in my application so maybe you shouldn't judge people you know nothing about.

    Thx to the second anonymous comment. I would take it again, but as I said earlier, I doubt I'll do much better. I can't seem to go past the 140s. That's why I'm just wondering if someone has a low lsat mark, but excellent application + gpa...what the chances of acceptance are...I guess I'll just play the waiting game and see :(

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  20. Hi Steve. In your opinion, which of the following two scenarios would look worse on a law school application: writing the LSAT three times (with hopeful significant improvement from the first to the third test), or writing once and getting a bad score, writing a second time and canceling, and then writing a third time (again with a hopefully very good score)?

    Thanks.

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  21. In response to Amber: You are completely correct in your assertion that an LSAT score is in no way indicative of your ability to competently practice law. Anyone with half a brain knows that standardized testing inevitably favors individuals with specific skill-sets,(i.e. superior "testers"). Just because you have had difficulty with the LSAT (hell, it's hard!),does not mean that you are any less well-suited for law school than those who excel at the test. The 130-140 range is not optimal, but from what you said, you more than make up for it with your writing ability, GPA, and stellar resume. Follow your dreams, girl! Screw anyone who ever tells you that you can't do something. They know nothing of what you're capable of, and judging from your comments on here, I'm guessing that you are capable of amazing things!

    in response to the ever-so-brave "Anonymous" person who told Amber that she wasn't suited for law school based solely upon an LSAT score: I would argue that in fact, you are ill-suited for the legal field. Anyone who fully exercised adequate logic and bothered to do a thorough examination of all the evidence available would never be so foolish and presumptuous so as to presume that one standardized test score can accurately predict the capability of an individual to successfully function as an attorney. Your abrupt and snide dismissal of a total stranger is not only infuriating, but also outrageously ignorant. How dare you tell this woman that just because her LSAT score is ten or so points below average, she is not cut-out to be an attorney? Your rudeness, arrogance, and absurdly superior attitude is revolting to me. Your comments are unwarranted, unnecessary, and absolutely misinformed. Instead of attempting to crush the dreams of strangers, kicking puppies, bragging about your LSAT score, or whatever else it is that you do for fun, maybe you should learn how to encourage others and offer constructive advice instead of criticism. You have much to learn, "Anonymous," and my guess is that Amber could probably teach you a thing or two...

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  22. i just wrote the LSAT today for the first time...i need this lsat score for the law schools i want to apply to since majority don't accept the February LSAT. I Just need some advise if I should cancel...

    My sequence was LR LG LR RC LR ....
    I finished all of my logical reasoning questions (i usually range from 19-23 on logical reasoning). However, I had to guess completely on one of the games (got the other 3 though and quite confident about my answers), as well had to guess on pretty much 8 questions on reading comp. If you were me would you cancel your score? I never had a problem of finishing when i would do practice tests, and I did over 30..I guess that nerves got to my...or time went faster then usual haha

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