Deciding to Take October vs. December LSAT | Pros and Cons

LSAT Blog Decide October December Pros ConsIt's getting close to the October LSAT test date, and you've been planning on taking it then, but maybe you're not sure whether you'll be ready. The postponement deadline is a few weeks away. What do you do?

Should you push off to December and subject yourself to a few more months of studying?

Or do you go forward and assume you'll be ready by October?

Like most difficult decisions, each route has its pros and cons. It's a bit of a toss-up with no obvious answer.

However, some thoughts:

October Pros

1. You can be done with the LSAT sooner. If the October LSAT goes well, you can be done for good.

2. You have more chances to retake. If the October LSAT doesn't go well (or if you're sick, have a family issue, someone vomits on you during the test, etc.) and you have to retake, you can retake in December and still apply this cycle.

3. It's better for your law school admissions chances because it allows you to apply early in the admissions cycle. Applying early in the cycle is especially important for top law schools.

4. The weather likely won't be as cold as it will be in December (depending on where you live, of course). Less chance of noise/discomfort from heating pipes (or lack of heating). Relatedly, less chance of snow-related test day issues.

December Pros

1 ---> ??? More time to study. If you really need that time, and postponing will give it to you, this is priceless.

Re: October Pro #1
If you've been studying for a while, being done with it for good probably seems very appealing. However, don't take it JUST to get it over with. If you get a crappy score, you'll probably either end up retaking, going to a crappy law school, or not going to any law school at all.

Re: October Pro #2
Even if you're ready as you'll ever be, sometimes things outside your control can go terribly wrong. If you think you're capable of achieving a score you'd be happy with, it likely makes sense to take as soon as possible so you'll have another chance, just in case.

Re: October Pro #3
Again, if you feel you can get a score you'd be happy with, earlier is better. However, better to take in December and get a better score than to apply earlier with a worse score.

Re: October Pro #4
Not a huge issue (and Feb weather is even worse), but it's still a minor consideration.

Re: December Pros #1 -> ???
Of course, if you think you might not be ready for October, having more time to study is key.

However, having 3 more months doesn't guarantee you'll actually study a lot during that period.

If you're still in school, the December LSAT will likely come close to finals time, so you may want to give yourself a lighter courseload ASAP if you go this route.

If you're not in school and have been busy with work, life, or procrastination, and these factors did not allow you to adequately study, you may determine whether things will significantly change over those 2 extra months.


Now, to the specifics on whether you'll be ready:

If something came along like a busy period at work, a life crisis, a thesis/dissertation, this probably knocked you off schedule.

Depending on how much it impacted you, you might be able to get back on the horse for October, you might not. It all depends on your other obligations and how quickly you pick things up (in other words, your natural aptitude for this stuff).

About one month before each LSAT, people will start asking me, "I have one month left. Can I improve ___ (5/10/15/20) points with a lot of hard studying?"

All I can say is, "maybe, maybe not." Without knowing you, I can't begin to guess what you're capable of. However, the more you study (without overdoing it), the more likely it is that you'll make some kind of significant score improvement. With a month remaining, the game's far from over.

Keep in mind, though, that cramming isn't the most effective way to learn. For best results, postponing is generally the safest bet to allow yourself more time. Obviously, this consideration needs to be balanced with the fact that you'll want to take the LSAT at some point.

However, if you haven't given yourself adequate time to study, you won't achieve your fullest potential. It's just that simple. I'm of the opinion that praying is less effective than putting in hard time with the books. When it comes to logic, miracles are unlikely.

Ideally, you'll spread out your studying in the remaining time. 5 practice exams per week is too much. You don't want to burn out.

If the impending test date is giving you the willies, don't freak out just yet. Again, you still have time to decide whether to postpone your test date.

The best indication of your ability at that time would be something like the average of the 5 practice tests you've taken most recently. Make sure they're recently-administered ones (preferably from the past few years), so they adequately reflect the modern exam.

If you've put in at least a few months of prep, built a strong foundation in effective techniques, taken several practice exams, and improved significantly from your starting point, you have a good chance of being ready. However, if your practice test scores aren't at least at the median of the schools you want to attend, you may want to put in a few more months of prep or reconsider the schools to which you have a realistic shot at gaining acceptance.

Good luck!

(This post is based upon the assumption that you're taking the LSAT less than a year before you intend to apply to law school. If you're planning way ahead, this doesn't really apply to you.)

Photo by asmythie


  1. Hey, Steve. Thanks for posting this! I've been trying to debate whether to postpone the test. I studied for 3 and a half months, and I feel like I am just nailing the foundations down. But, just because I have the foundations doesn't mean that I have mastered the material. I went from a 157 my first test, to a 153 on the second, and finally to a 162 on my most recent test, the 5th test that I have taken.

    I do feel bad that I haven't achieved what I wanted in 3 months, even though that is the amount of time that people study. But, your blog convinced me that I need more time to achieve my "fullest potential." So, I think I am going to lean toward the December decision.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Interesting timing. I just moved my test date last night to December to make sure that I really had enough time. One thing to mention though, there is a small fee to change the date not that this should matter but it's good to know about.

  3. They are charging $68.00 to change your test date--talk about highway robbery! Oh well, what can you do--LSAC is a monopoly.

    Anyhow, I changed my date to December last week. It's best to wait until to December if you don't feel ready...but do take it in October if you are scoring in the 160's or higher.

  4. Thanks Steve, I've actually been thinking long and hard about taking in October vs. December.

    I just started my post-grad job in late August after graduating undergrad in May (I plan to apply in '12 or '13 cycle, but thought I'd be as ready as I'll ever be to take the LSAT this October after a whole summer off of just studying). I studied for the LSAT hard all summer (June to late August) and have been PT-ing since early August. This past week, I worked some long hours and my manager said those hours will be pretty much standard for the rest of September. So I had a dilemma- do I take the test in October even with my crammed work load all September, or do I postpose until December?

    I'm pretty positive I'm going to stay on track to take it in October, though. My last 5 PTs I've gotten 172, 169, 174, 174, and 170- with a goal of 170 I'm already to around where I want to be. I also think I should still be able to fit in 2 full PTs a week and at least 1-2 hours of studying on non-PT days. Plus, there's the risk that I push it back to December and don't pick up studying again until November anyway, or I continue to be swamped until December and wish I would have just gotten it done with.

  5. Thanks for this post. I foolishly let my summer slip by without doing any prep at all, really, and last night registered for October. It's very reassuring to see that you lay out a very similar argument to what I ran down in my head. It may be a serious challenge to do my prep over the course of just one month, rather than three, but I think I can do it without embarrassing myself score-wise. (I have a strong testing history and I'm a editing/writing professional.) And if the results are really that bad, I do have the December backup date. I decided I would more productively use that time to research schools and programs and get my applications really solid than spend an extra two months practicing for the test and then rush the school selection and apps. Anyway, thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
    Amy in Brooklyn

  6. Thanks Steve,

    I really appreciate it. I think I should reschedule just because I am not feeling confident enough. I feel like the extra 2 months of review would really be priceless and although it means stretching out my hibernation, I truly think it would be best. Do you suggest that we still being our applications like resume, essay and etc. Last thing we want to do is put everything to the last minute. The way I see it, taking the LSAT in October just to apply early with lower scores then I need is almost as stupid as oversleeping. I don't want to mess up so bad that I end up not even getting in anywhere * shutters*. Yea, I'll give it two more days to think over and then I will decide from there. Thanks a million!

    Please answer when you can.


    P.S. October LSAT for me goes into Mid-terms which at my university are arguably harder than finals.

  7. Hi - I just want to know if it makes sense to attempt the October LSAT if I want to apply for Fall 2011. If I take it in December, I won't get scores until January...and because I'm applying for JD/MBA programs this really messes up my timeline to apply to both and hear from both at the same time (so that I can make a decision).

    What are your suggestions? Is it impossible to do well in 4 weeks of study?

  8. Steve, if the median is the median, then some students obviously fall below it and still get accepted to a law school. How far below would be acceptable to still have a chance? For example, most of the schools I wish to attend have a median of 160 however despite doing all the work (using PowerScore and practice tests) I just cannot get there. My highest mark to date is 155. As well, I'm applying as a mature student with a very strong background in legal services. Do I still go ahead?

  9. Hi Steve! This blog is second to my Bible,that's huge, thank you! I took the October test I'm not feeling confident. I know what my issue was, it was timing. If I decide to retake in December (if as you said "When it comes to logic, miracles are unlikely.") is the next several weeks enough to correct that? Other than PT after timed PT do you have any other recommendations? I can devote 2-3 hours a day if needed. I'm also going to submit my application upon receiving my score in Oct. regardless of what it is indicating a retake if necessary.

  10. Hi Steve - I have a question related to early admissions. So I got back my score yesterday - I knew I scored much lower than my PTs because I panicked and didnt get thru 7 questions which were scored. I was averaging around 164-167 in PTs and my lowest was 158. On the actual test, I scored 153. Abysmal. Will be retaking in Dec, but now my predicament is: should I send in my application for early admission (deadline is nov 1 and indicate I will be retaking?) or should I just hold off and not send in my application? Have been planning all year long to make it for early admission; have all parts of my application done, except for this s*&(# score. I know I can do better for Dec. Should I go ahead and submit my app for early admission or not?

  11. I'm in the same position as sunny and would like a reply to this as well. Thank you!

  12. Can law schools tell that you postponed your test date?

  13. Hi, I am wondering how much does taking the December LSAT put you at a disadvantage if you are aiming for top schools such as Yale, Harvard, and Stanford even if you do score in the 170-176 range and have a g.p.a. in the 3.6-3.7 range. would it be better to just wait until next cycle and not take the risk