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 Dave Killoran
PowerScore Staff
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I received the following message this morning from one of our students:
Hi Dave,

User of your (excellent and incredibly helpful) books here.

I took the LSAT for the first time this past October. While I did a fair amount of self-directed prep for the test beginning in the summer, I probably was not where I needed to be on test day, and I was not adequately rested walking in that morning. I left the testing center feeling like I had underperformed, and lo and behold, after mostly PTing in the 168-174 range, I got a 165 on the exam.

I made a last minute call to register for the December exam, and my performance Saturday could not have represented a bigger departure. I contained the damage on RC to a few questions, I breezed through all the LGs except #4 where I maybe missed a question or two (I actually studied very similar matching problems my senior year in undergrad, so Game #3 did not throw me off in the least), and I seriously owned LR, truly understanding what the questions were asking and how to eliminate answer choices intended to throw you off. All-in-all, I'm expecting/hoping for mid-170s this time around.

As I now turn my attention to preparing applications, I'm wondering two things:

1) Would this type of score improvement over a relatively short time-frame raise any suspicion on the part of LSAC? I would hate to have my score withheld for some sort of investigation that extends into January.

2) Assuming my predicted score does pan out, is this worthy of including an explanatory note in my law school applications? "I was underprepared the first time around" sounds irresponsible, whereas "I didn't get enough rest because it was raining and my dog kept me up all night" just seems like a silly excuse.

Thanks for your help and for your great books!

These two questions are pretty common ones, and I wanted to share my response in the hopes that it might possibly help other applicants:

Thanks for the message, and congrats on the great performance this past Saturday! It's awesome to hear that things went well for you this time around. Also, thanks for the kind words about the books :-D They are really appreciated!

As for your two questions, here are some thoughts that I hope are helpful:

1. No, your higher score won't raise any suspicion at all. You are totally in the clear here, and unless there was some test center suspicion on the part of the proctors (which you'd know about already), they won't flag this. Double-digit score increases are not rare enough to be a concern, and moving from 165 into the 170s will represent less than a 10% improvement in percentile. So, it's not going to be an issue, and they won't hold your score back.

2. As for writing an addendum about the improvement, it depends. I generally think that they are unnecessary except in more extreme cases (and this wouldn't qualify). Among the range of admissions professionals I've spoken to, there seems to be a consensus that anything under 10 points is not notable enough to warrant an extra statement. At the 10-11 point range, it becomes viable, and at 12 or above it's reasonable enough that if you choose to write a statement, no one blinks an eye. So, the bottom line is that there's no right answer in this situation, but keep in mind that a higher score is something that's welcomed at all law schools, so in a sense you are trying to explain a positive. There's often no need for that.

One factor that I think plays a role here is why you increased your score. If there was something unusual in play (car wreck that morning, fire alarm during the test (which actually should be noted by LSAC in your file)), then you have a strong justification for telling the committee why there was a score change. I once had a student who went from 162 to 178 on two successive exams. Pretty nice score increase, and certainly eye-catching. What happened? While riding her bike to the test, she was bumped by a car and knocked off her bike (by her roommate, no less). She had a terrible headache during the exam and felt out of it, and later was diagnosed with a concussion. For some reason, she decided that keeping her score was a good decision. Consequently, she submitted a very short statement explaining that situation, and made it a kind of joke by stating that she was almost literally out of her mind during the first exam (and she offered to submit her medical report). That was an easy sell as far as the adcomms were concerned.

The more frequent case is that there isn't a compelling reason for the increase. By not compelling, I mean the usual explanations such as more preparation or being sick. You directly note this issue in your question, and in these cases i often feel that there no real value in submitting the statement. But, it doesn't hurt you to do so, and that's where it becomes a judgment call on your part. If you do decide to send in a score increase addendum in this situation, just realize that everyone who has this occur makes the same claims about sickness (a death in the family is the other one I hear a lot).

If there is no compelling reason, I also think that your decision is somewhat dependent on your GPA. If you have a lower GPA and there might be a question about your academic prowess, then write one. If you have a high GPA, then maybe skip it.

Please let me know what you think, and congrats again on the solid performance!

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