In July 2020, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) announced a new “score preview” service. Beginning with the August 2020 test, first-time test takers are now allowed to see their scores before deciding whether to keep or cancel them. But there’s a catch: the score preview service costs an additional $45, if elected before test day (or before the first test day for online LSAT administrations), and $75 if elected after (the first) test day. Test-takers with an approved fee-waiver from LSAC will not be charged the additional fee for the service.
So the question is, is it worth the extra $45? On the one hand, considering all the money you’re going to pay for the application process (at a minimum: $200 LSAT + $195 CAS + $45/school + each school’s application fee), you might have a tendency to think, what’s another $45? And if you’re in a position where that $45 is no big deal, you’re right. You should probably go for it. The same is true for those of you with a fee waiver.
For those of you for whom that $45 is a much bigger chunk of your available funds, however, this is a more difficult question, and it is really about what you’re going to do with this information. (If you’re in this situation and haven’t applied for a fee waiver, APPLY! You might just end up saving yourself a lot more than $45.)
There are three basic scenarios:
- You cancel your score without seeing it,
- you cancel your score after seeing it, or
- you keep your score, either having seen it or not.
If you cancel your score without seeing it, you’ll never know for sure whether you were right about how you did, and you’re obligating yourself to take the LSAT again. Total cost: $200.
If you cancel your score after seeing it, it still means you’re obligating yourself to take the LSAT again. Total cost: $245 or $275.
If you keep your score – whether you see it beforehand or not—you retain the option of retaking the LSAT, but you’ll also retain the option of NOT taking it again. Total cost: $0 – $275, depending.
The retake decision remains the same, whether it’s with or without cancellation: do you have a realistic reason (i.e., not just wishing and hoping) to believe you’ll do better the next time around? Score preview does NOT offer you a glimpse of what your retake score will be. We discuss the retake decision in detail here.
Another consideration is whether the admission committees will view an application with a cancellation and a new score differently from one with two scores. Generally, no. The law schools will credit the high (or only) score in both situations, and they will not hold a cancellation against you. So, if you retake and you jump 3 points (or lose 3 points), the law schools will consider only your highest score. If you cancel and then retake, they will not draw any adverse inferences about your cancellation and will credit your score. So in terms of how the law school admission committees will make their decision about your application, it doesn’t really matter whether that first score is on your record or not. The only situation in which they will have questions is if your score jump is significant – 5 or more points. In those circumstances, the admissions committees will want to see an addendum providing the context for how that big jump happened. Obviously, they would need no such explanation if you cancelled the first score, because they would never see it.
So if it doesn’t really matter to the admissions committees, why pay for the score preview? This is really about reassuring yourself that you made a cancellation decision with the best information possible. If you have a sense that this test may not be your best work – either because of inadequate prep or because of a test-day mishap – then score preview provides the answer to “But what if I did better than I think I did?” and provides you the peace of mind that you’re not cancelling an unexpectedly good score (or that you are right to cancel the score because it really was that bad). It’s also helpful if you (like most people) have not been that good at assessing your performance on your practice tests, and just want to affirm that your score is solid before making it visible to law schools.
Is that peace of mind worth $45 or $75? That’s between you, your bank account, and your need to know. Bottom line: it won’t make a difference in terms of your ultimate admission chances, but may make a difference in terms of your frame of mind as you complete the rest of your application.
Questions? As always, if you’re a UMass Amherst student or alum, feel free to contact me.