Anna Ivey’s Take on Canceled Scores

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Have you heard of cancel culture? It essentially means when someone (or something) has become so irrelevant or problematic that it no longer becomes necessary to acknowledge their existence. And so, we “cancel” them. For example, Logan Paul? Canceled. Accepting less than what you deserve? Canceled. Licking ice cream you didn’t purchase? Double canceled. 

However, what about LSAT scores? Should we be so quick to cancel them the way we did Kanye at the 2009 VMAs? Usually, we’re making a blind decision to cancel, with the only factors being how hard we thought the test was and how we perceived our performance was. We’ll never really know how we did. The only exceptions are the lucky few that took the July 2019 LSAT, who were able to see their scores before choosing whether or not to cancel, and their retake is free!  It’s a tempting offer, but many are wondering how canceled scores affect their law school applications. 

We spoke with Anna Ivey, author, former dean of admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, and founder of Ivey Consulting to get answers to this and some of your other big questions. 

1. Do law schools look negatively on canceled scores?

Not really, as long as they’re not piling up.

2. How many canceled scores on a score report raise a red flag to admissions committees?

If you have one cancellation or two, it’s not a big deal (especially this cycle, with the weirdness of the July test). People have bad days, and sometimes life happens. More than two cancellations don’t look so great, though. Law school is full of high-stakes tests, and at the end, you have the mother of all high-stakes tests—the bar exam. So, you need to be the kind of person who doesn’t melt down during high-stakes tests over and over again. If anxiety is a recurring problem, get treated sooner rather than later. Law school will only amplify whatever problems you show up with.

3. Is it better to have multiple LSAT scores, regardless of how low they are, or multiple canceled scores and one high score?

Schools care most about the high score, so it doesn’t really make a meaningful difference one way or another. Since none of us has a crystal ball, it might be best to keep the scores so that you know how you’ve done and have a better sense of whether to retake or not. And if it’s a disclosed test, you’ll also be able to view your performance on that test and use that information to really zero in on what you need to improve for subsequent tests. If you cancel, you lose the benefit of that tactical information for your subsequent test prep. As long as there’s an upward trend in your scores, nobody will hold it against you that you kept trying and improved each time.

4. Since LSAC gave test-takers such a rare opportunity this July, do you believe law schools are expecting to see many canceled July scores?

I’m guessing they will, yes! A cancellation for the July test — which is such a weird, outlier test given the circumstances — will almost certainly be treated as a non-event.

5. What should students ask themselves when trying to decide if they should cancel their July 2019 score?

Since this is the one time you get to see your score before deciding whether to cancel (I hope LSAC follows the lead of other some other standardized tests and makes that a regular policy!), the first thing to ask yourself is whether the score is in range for your target schools. If yes, you can still retake if you want to, but maybe hang onto the July score since it’s a decent one, and then you still get the upside of a higher score if you end up with one. It’s also insurance if for some reason you don’t end up retaking.

Other questions to ask yourself: How badly do you want or need the score report in order to prep for a retake? How confident are you that you’d be able to make a score jump happen? How will your test prep change? What will you do differently? Do you have the time to devote to that? If it’s your only test so far, does your timeline leave room for a worst-case scenario where you have to postpone a retake because you happen to be sick [or whatever] on your intended retake day? And as meta advice, I’d also point out that there’s never going to be a “perfect” test day, or “perfect” test-taking conditions. So if you keep canceling hoping for that perfect day to arrive, you’ll never have a score and you’ll never apply to law school. 

Anna Ivey is the former dean of admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and author of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions. She founded Ivey Consulting to help college and law school applicants make smart decisions throughout the application process and is a longtime fan of Blueprint and Blueprint students.

 

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