Ideally, every person who takes the LSAT goes into the testing center, takes the test, and leaves feeling confident that great results will follow. However, it’s inevitable that some test takers will succumb to the pressure of Test Day and walk away feeling anxious and uncertain.
The LSAC offers test takers the opportunity to cancel their LSAT scores. Before making that decision, one should know a few facts about canceled scores:
1.) If you choose to cancel a score, nobody will ever know your actual results on that test – not law schools, not the LSAC, not even you. It will be as if you never took it.
2.) You’re only allowed to take the LSAT three times in any two-year period. Even though you won’t get a score if you cancel, it still counts as an exam taken. So, you will only be allowed to take the exam twice over the next two years (unless you contact a law school that is willing to send a written approval to the LSAC on your behalf).
3.) While law school admissions officers won’t see your score, they will still see a note in your file indicating that you took the exam and canceled the score. In some cases, schools will request that you provide an addendum to your application explaining the canceled score.
Knowing all of that, how do you decide whether or not to cancel? Cancellation should typically be an obvious decision. If something drastic happens on test day (e.g., severe illness), cancellation is a clear option. When it’s not as obvious, the decision can get a little harder. However, a good general rule is that the more uncertain you are about canceling your score, the less likely it is that you should choose that option.
The anxiety of LSAT Test Day tends to skew people’s assessment of their performance. Often times, people will feel as if they performed inadequately when, in reality, they performed just as well – if not better – than they originally expected. It’s true that the stress of Test Day leads many test takers to receive slightly lower scores than they achieved on their final practice exams. However, that’s hardly a universal occurrence and one that is very hard to predict with certainty.
What’s more important to consider, should you decide to retake the exam, is how a relatively lower score differs from a canceled score in the eyes of admissions officers. Also, do the admissions officers consider your highest score or do they average your scores? The answers to these questions vary from school to school. Your best course of action is to contact the admissions officers of the schools to which you’re applying and ask these questions. That information will be most helpful in making your final decision.
After all, let’s say a school considers the higher of two scores (which is reportedly the case with most, but not all, law schools). In that case, if there’s even a chance you’ll get the score you wanted, then it’s not worth canceling. If you get the score you wanted, you’ve taken the test once and you’re done. If you don’t get the score you wanted, you can take the next few months to study again and go into the next test confident that you’re going to get an even higher score, which is what the school will be considering.
One last thing to consider: if you choose not to cancel your score and you took the test under standard conditions, your test results will come with a copy of the exam along with your response sheet and a list of the credited responses. By not canceling your score, you’ll be able to review the test and see what mistakes you made. This way, if you do decide to take the exam a second time, you’ll be able to analyze what you could do better and how you can achieve the highest score possible the next time around.