Thanks for the question! Because of the way the LSAT is constructed, it's almost unavoidable that you have score variation. Two elements that cause this are what I call the casino effect as well as section difficulty balancing (links on articles about all this are below). These phenomena are a natural result of the fact that the test is made by humans, and although it's an awesomely good test, it's still not exact.
What it comes down to is that the LSAT isn't a perfect test (no exam is), and thus every time you take it there's an expectation that your score will move a bit. Anything within one standard deviation is considered a basically "identical" score from a statistical standpoint, and this is one reason that LSAC reports scores with a score band of several points plus and minus from your actual score (see http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/your-score/score-band
for more info). That band is to let law schools know that your "true" score could be anywhere in that range.
Now, what you've just experienced is a variation that's lower than you might expect. But, after a number of tests and also reaching your highest score yet, it's also not surprising that that would happen on occasion. And, in your scoring range, at times a single missed question can cost you one scaled score point. So, a very small variation in performance can have a severe impact, and that is happening because right now you are scoring at a really high level.
After posting a lower than expected score (the 163), you probably exerted undue pressure on yourself, and in a way probably made it more likely that you'd have a subpar performance.
For more info on score variation, I've included a bunch of links that discuss various aspect of how this all works. I find it fascinating, and you might too:
The last thing I want to talk about it your test mentality, and I'm going to be a bit blunt here. I'm doing this because I think you need to hear it, not because I'm trying to give you a hard time
After posting 168, you should be more confident about your abilities. One or two lower score (and not even a catastrophic one) shouldn't throw you off like this. Instead, it should re-focus your mind and make you even more determined to destroy this test. But I feel like it knocked you back a bit. The LSAT just threw a punch at you, and you have a choice now to stay down or get back up and kick its ass. And trust me, if you can score a 168, then you can kick some ass! So, the second set of info I want to reference for you involves test mentality and obtaining a stronger mental edge.
I've written quite a bit about positive thinking (and even did a seminar on it), and so I'm going to link to some of that here. I hope that you read and watch each one of these, and that you absorb it all and make it your own:
- Our Free Test Mentality Seminar, which can be found at http://www.powerscore.com/lsat/help/#free-lessons, it's about the 6th link down. That seminar is about how to mentally approach the test and how to be as aggressive as possible.
Blog: Tom Brady and the LSAT, at http://blog.powerscore.com/lsat/bid/326 ... d-the-LSAT. This is more info on test mentality, and probably my favorite blog I've ever written.
And, you might find this whole LSAT Discussion Forum thread interesting, as it is what generated the Tom Brady blog. Plus, you might see some similarities between yourself and Thomas, the student I was corresponding with: http://forum.powerscore.com/lsat/viewto ... f=2&t=4666. It's long, but really informative and he ended up with a 24 point increase
Blog: Andy Murray's Motivational Notes and the LSAT, at http://blog.powerscore.com/lsat/andy-mu ... d-the-lsat. Even the great ones need support and motivation.
Blog: How to Increase Your LSAT Score Simply By Using Your Nose, at http://blog.powerscore.com/lsat/how-to- ... -your-nose. Another great example of the power of your mind, and even more links to LSAT test mentality articles.
Last, I'll leave you with this quote from Michael Jordan, followed by a final thought I've pulled from another post I made on this topic:
Failure on practice LSATs is the best possible thing that can happen to you
- "I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." —Michael Jordan
. Why? Because each time you miss a question, you learn about what you need to get better at. Don't look at a low score on a practice test as a bad thing. Look at it for the opportunity that it is, and then capitalize on it.
Please let me know if that helps. Thanks!