More than any other standardized test, the LSAT inspires a rash of cancellations every time it's given. Before you cancel your scores, here are a few things you should consider:
Why Do I Want to Cancel?
The obvious answer is "because I did poorly." But here's the thing: you may not have. And having a bad score on your record isn't nearly as bad as it used to be.
In the "Bad Old Days," virtually every law school under the sun would average LSAT scores if you took the test more than once. This happened for two reasons. Firstly, law schools were required by LSAC (the Law School Admission Council) to report the average scores for all their students when divulging information about their incoming classes. And secondly, LSAC had produced numerous studies showing that small variations in LSAT score were predictively meaningless (in other words, it's no surprise that a student who gets a 150 on one test can score a 153 on the next test, and that difference in scores isn't predictive of a better performance in law school).
But the first of these two reasons in no longer true.
LSAC changed its reporting requirements around a decade ago, and now only requires that schools report the highest LSAT score for each of their students. As a direct result, the policy of averaging multiple scores has been slowly changing over the course of the past few years, and many schools now take only the highest score.
Ok, but if I Know I Bombed, Should I Cancel?
Here's the question: how do you know you bombed?
I've had students feel bad about their tests and turn in the best scores of their lives. I've had students feel great and score much lower than they were on recent practice tests.
In short, you may not be the best judge of how well you've done.
If you "know" you've bombed because, say, you normally do four games and you only got through three, then, yeah, ok, it's probably best to cancel. Not every school takes the highest LSAT score, so canceling is a good idea if you're sure your score is lower than normal.
If you strongly suspect you've bombed and you're not in a time crunch (for example, you're taking the December test and you're not planning to apply until the next admissions cycle—so you have February, June, and October available for retests), you may want to cancel. As I've noted, you may be a poor judge of how you've done. But if you've planned ahead and have several more test dates available (and are confident that you'll have the time to do additional, high quality preparation), it might be a good idea to cancel.
If, on the other hand, you're taking the October test and want to apply in the current admissions cycle, canceling can become a riskier proposition. Most law schools work on rolling admissions (which means that they evaluate applications as they receive them). Generally speaking, getting in becomes slightly harder as rolling admissions season advances. So putting off your test until December essentially "costs" you a point or two to your LSAT score. Nothing huge, but still, another factor if you don't have solid evidence that you've done poorly.
Finally, remember that you are only allowed to take the LSAT three times in any two-year period. Canceling one score is, ultimately, probably not a big deal. Canceling more than once means you'll only have one score that counts during a two-year period. (It will look pretty bad to most law schools; something going bad one test day can happen to anyone. Something going bad two test days starts looking like a problem with the candidate).
The Bottom Line
In the final analysis, if you have strong reason to believe you've done poorly, and if you have time to take the test again (and to further your preparation), there's nothing wrong with canceling one LSAT score.
For each condition below that's not true, cancelling becomes an iffier proposition:
- If you've canceled before, don't do it again (at least within a given two-year period).
- If you don't have time for a retake with proper preparation, only cancel if you are a) absolutely certain you bombed and b) you don't mind putting off law school for a year or more so you will have time to retake with proper preparation.
- Don't forget that rolling admissions rewards earlier applications, so if you don't have strong reason to believe you've done poorly, and retaking will delay your applications, you probably shouldn't cancel.
- And don't forget that a whole lot of schools will consider only your highest LSAT score (contact schools directly for their current policies! There are lists all over the internet, but schools change these policies all the time) which makes having a single poor score on your record less of an issue than it was in the days that almost every school averaged LSAT scores.