December vs. February LSAT | Admissions Pros and Cons

LSAT Blog December February LSAT Admissions Pros ConsThe short version:

If you haven't had the expected amount of time to study and are feeling that you won't be ready to take it in December, I recommend you bite the bullet, take the LSAT at a later date, and apply next cycle. A higher LSAT score means you'll get into better law schools and/or, potentially, more scholarship money. 1 year could be well worth the wait.

On the other hand, if you are feeling there's a decent chance you'll be ready by December, then take it in December as planned. The February exam's generally too late for it to be a good idea to take it and still apply this cycle.


Law schools consider applications on a rolling admissions basis. The earlier you apply in the admissions cycle, the easier it is to gain acceptance. The cycle begins in September.

For top law schools, it's especially important to apply relatively early in the cycle because admission to these schools is particularly competitive.

December, of course, isn't early in the cycle, but it's not too late either. A few points higher than you would've gotten if you'd taken it in June or October will make up for not being early. However, if you're thinking that you won't be ready for December, February's a bit too late for this cycle. Many top law schools (such as Columbia, Harvard, NYU, and Stanford) don't even accept February LSAT scores for that cycle.

(This means you can't take the LSAT in February 2011 and apply to start at those law schools in the fall of 2011. However, you can take the February 2011 LSAT and use that score to apply to start at those law schools in Fall 2012.)

Even some law schools that aren't typically considered "top law schools" have application deadlines that are before February LSAT scores are released. This means, of course, those schools don't take February LSAT scores (for that cycle), either.

Given enough prep time (and the right kind of prep), most people are capable of scoring decently on the LSAT. However, a month or two generally isn't enough time to adequately prepare.

If you're not feeling ready for the LSAT now, you'll likely do better on it if you prep more and wait. Taking it in February, June, or October and applying next cycle will give you enough time to work through some version of my LSAT study schedules. You've probably started working through some of the materials mentioned there for December's exam, but perhaps you haven't gotten past Logic Games - there's still Logical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and several recent full-length practice exams that you should complete before taking the exam. It simply can't all be done in a couple of weeks.

One thing you don't want to do is take it when you're not ready and have multiple scores on your record if you can avoid it.

Some top law schools (such as Columbia and NYU) consider the average of multiple scores, rather than only the highest. Fordham does not disclose whether it takes the average of multiple scores.

Even if the law schools you're considering explicitly state that they take the highest LSAT score (and most do only take the highest when computing your LSAT and GPA), they'll still see your other scores. Ideally, you'll only take the LSAT once and get it right the first time. Try not to take the LSAT until you're as certain as possible that you're fully prepared.

If you're only shooting for less competitive schools, it won't matter as much if you take the LSAT in February and still apply this cycle. However, there's some debate as to whether it's worth going to less competitive (i.e. 4th-tier) law schools at all. See Anna Ivey vs. Ann Levine on this issue.
Photo by lifeontheedge


  1. I'm really desperate to start law school this September (I'm 30, so feel like I don't have time to wait another year!), and have my heart set on Fordham. I've got a good academic record - I'm from the UK, but LSAC ranked my BA and MSc degrees as 'Superior', which I think is around a 4.0. I, stupidly, only studied for about a month for the LSAT, scoring between 165-174 in practice tests. I just took the December exam, and it was a disaster (I messed up with transferring to the answer sheet, and ended up guessing at least 15 questions). I doubt I'll get above a 160. I checked with Fordham, and it seems that they do accept February retakes, so I had planned to do that. However, reading your post has made me think that this isn't a good idea. Assuming I get a 160 in the December LSATs, do you think I would be better of applying to Fordham in January with a 160 (their median is 163, 75th is 165 and 25th is 162), or waiting until March and applying with LSATs that will probably (hopefully) be around the 170 mark? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Does the same advice apply to someone taking the January LSAT?