Upon completing the LSAT, many test-takers begin to consider the tempting option of cancelling their scores and forever sealing away the record of their performance.
For the most part, students should resist this temptation. There are several important factors to consider in determining whether or not cancellation is warranted.
1.) Negative Perception
Two or more cancellations will have negative consequences for your application. The LSAT, in comparison to an eight-hour law school exam or the three-day bar exam, is not the most grueling academic experience. If students feel, on multiple occasions, that they performed poorly enough to warrant cancellation, law schools will begin to question their ability to perform under pressure.
Furthermore, the process of thoroughly studying for the LSAT generally takes a few months. If students do not prepare well enough to perform adequately on two separate tests, than schools will begin to doubt their commitment. Thus, starting down the path of cancelling scores can create negative perceptions that will taint the entire application process.
2.) Higher Expectations
If you have a cancellation on your record, then schools will expect a stronger performance on subsequent exams. The actual LSAT is a more stressful and unpleasant experience than any practice test. If you have already gone through the process of taking the LSAT once, then schools will expect you to have an advantage over first time test-takers. As a result, they will look more harshly on a subpar score and be less impressed by a high score. Minimizing the number of times you take the LSAT, whether or not you decide to cancel your score, is therefore advantageous in the long run. If you’re thinking of taking the LSAT this fall, then you need to start prepping now and give yourself the best opportunity to succeed in one fell swoop.
These two factors become exponentially worse each time you take the LSAT. One cancellation will not be that serious. Law schools understand that everyone has bad days and that a lot can go wrong your first time taking the test. Keeping this in mind, it is important to know when to cancel and when not to cancel.
When to Cancel
If you prepared thoroughly for the LSAT, then you should have a fairly accurate sense of your performance. You should know whether or not you followed your methods and timing strategies. If you completely forgot your methods or ran out of time at the end of multiple sections, then you should consider cancellation, especially if it is your first time taking the LSAT. In a case like this, it is clear that your score would not be indicative of your ability. Furthermore, if any number of uncontrollable problems plague you on test day—you get sick, your test center is terrible, your watch breaks—then you should also consider cancellation.
When not to Cancel
Most things in the LSAT world come down to your preparation, and the decision of whether or not it is justifiable and wise to cancel your score is no different. Many students who follow their methods and adhere to their timing strategies still feel anxious after completing the LSAT. This is completely normal. If you cannot point to anything you actually did wrong on the test and your only reason for cancellation is some vague sense of dread, then you should not cancel. The LSAT is extremely important so it is natural to worry about your performance. However, if you prepare well and practice, you should be able to identify whether or not your concern is justified or unjustified. Additionally, If you’ve cancelled before, I would also advise against cancelling again for the reasons listed above.
The best-case scenario for an LSAT student is to succeed the first time around, and the best way to succeed the first time around is to study hard. Cancellation is a last resort—it is not a safety net that should be counted on, it is a kill-switch that should only be pressed in dire need with a complete understanding of the ramifications.
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