Finals and the LSAT: When is the Ideal Time To Take the Test?

Law School Admissions | LSAT Prep | prelaw

With just under five weeks to go until the June 2018 LSAT, many of you find yourselves either in the midst of Finals Week or having just finished your finals. With the extra stress and time constraints that accompany such a time, you have probably seen your best laid plans for consistent LSAT preparation wane at the very least over the past couple of weeks or have even seen it become nonexistent.Finals and the LSAT: When is the Ideal Time To Take the Test?

This is not an uncommon problem. Most (but certainly not all) LSAT takers are undergraduate students at the time they sit for their LSAT. And, most of these students are on a semester system in terms of scheduling. This places the June LSAT, which currently falls on the second Monday in June (June 11), about a month after most students complete finals. While this is certainly convenient for taking the LSAT, it can become a nightmare for preparation, especially for those who have attempted to get out to a good start two to three months in advance.

In many of my June classes that begin in March and April, I see lots of students do just that. They begin their preparation strongly, keeping up with homework and outside material throughout the first few lessons. But just about the time we hit mid- to late-April, and just as students are finally diving into their practice tests, Finals Week bears down: final exams require studying, end-of-semester papers and group projects need to be completed. This diverts much of students’ time and energy into their academic work and away from their LSAT preparation often until early to mid-May. All of a sudden, the test that was two months away is now less than five weeks off. This can add up to feelings of guilt and anxiety that further compound the already daunting task of getting ready for June.

The point to this tale is that this is all perfectly normal. This experience is common, and these feelings are natural, especially for the June LSAT. Not only that, but it’s also probably a good idea to let school divert your attention at least a little bit during this time. After all, the LSAT, while important, is not the only thing that matters in your application. Grades are still critical, and many students are currently finishing their junior year, which still leaves time to affect that GPA, both positively and negatively.

The key, however, is to be ready to go as soon as finals end. Fear not, for even though five weeks sounds intimidating, the end of school related obligations allows for more distraction-free preparation. For those who finished finals last week, don’t rest too long. Now is the time to catch up on any outstanding lessons and homework. For those who are still finishing up this week (first of all, good luck!), look to hit the ground running as soon as finals are over.

For those students in an In Person PowerScore course, focus on catching up through the first eight lessons especially. Much of the core material can be found in these lessons, and they are the critical lessons to complete prior to your assault on practice tests. There is a lot of pressure at this point to take those practice tests, but laying a firm groundwork of the key concepts first is essential to improving your score. And, even though we are down to less than five weeks before June, some of our thoughts from eight weeks out are still applicable.

Finally, it’s a good idea to keep some of the future test dates in mind, especially the potential academic impacts from their timing. As we’ve mentioned on this blog recently, there is very little downside these days to retaking the test to achieve a higher score. There are a lot of changes this year with both new test dates and adjustments to traditional dates. Below is a roundup of test dates for the 2018-2019 LSAT cycle to help you choose the ideal date around your school’s academic demands:

Monday, June 11, 2018 - 12:30 PM

            See above discussion.

Monday, July 23, 2018 - 12:30 PM

New for 2018, this should be an excellent test to work around school demands. Summer distractions may be a concern, but academic demands should not.

Saturday, September 8, 2018 - 8:30 AM

For the second year in a row, the date of the September LSAT has moved up in the calendar. For years, this test fell on the final Saturday in September or the first Saturday in October. Last year, the test was moved up to September 16. This year it moves up again to September 8.

This new date is ideal for students on a Quarter system as this date will precede the start of classes in Fall Quarter by at least a week or two. Even students on a semester schedule are only a couple of weeks into classes, so the academic distractions should be minimal. Also, the new date allows for the bulk of LSAT preparation to fall in the summer months when most students are out of school and have more free time.

Saturday, November 17, 2018 - 8:30 AM

Another beneficial move to this year’s LSAT calendar. The December test, typically falling on the first Saturday in December, was notorious for late distractions in the preparation process, academic and otherwise. For students on either a Quarter or Semester schedule, Finals Week would follow right on the heels of this date. (I know this pain firsthand. I personally bailed out on my planned LSAT in December of my senior year of college due to mounting Finals Week demands, only to take the test the following December after I had already graduated).

On top of that, family obligations for many American test takers (who represent the vast majority of LSAT takers) over the Thanksgiving holiday were a major distraction in the week or two immediately before the old December LSAT. This year’s new mid-November date precedes both of these major distractions.

Saturday, January 26, 2019 - 8:30 AM

This test is an adjustment to the February LSAT, which typically fell on the second Saturday of February. This too is a favorable adjustment, both because it moves the date up in the law school admissions calendar (the old February test ran up against numerous application deadlines) as well as the academic calendar. Similar to the new September date, this date is early in the Spring Semester/Winter Quarter and allows for preparation over the holiday season, when most students again have more free time.

Saturday, March 30, 2019 - 8:30 AM

Another new test date for this year’s LSAT cycle. Preparation may be complicated in the final few weeks for students on a Quarter system as their Winter Quarter Finals are likely to fall in the week or two preceding this date. Preparation is likely to be easier for those on a semester system.

So, once again, good luck this week on Finals (and for those who have already finished, good luck on those grades)! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below.