The Performance of Repeat Test Takers On the Law School Admission Test: 1997–1998 Through 2003–2004 Testing Years (TR-04-02)
by Andrea E. Thornton, Deborah A. Suto, Jennifer R. Duffy, and Lynda M. Reese

Executive Summary

The purpose of this report is to provide an update of summary information about the percentage and performance of repeat test takers on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The percentage of repeat test takers and their LSAT performance (mean LSAT scores and mean score gains) are summarized for the 1997–1998 through 2003–2004 testing years. By compiling this summary information into a single report, trends regarding the percentage and performance of repeat test takers may be tracked and monitored.

Summary information is reported first across testing years to show general trends, then by individual test administrations (i.e., June, September/October, December, and February) to show finer distinctions and within-year trends. Lastly, the percentages and performance of repeat test takers are summarized by gender and race/ethnicity. The primary results covered in this report are summarized below.

Percentages of First-time and Repeat Test Takers from 1997–1998 to 2003–2004

Across testing years, the percentage of first-, second-, and third-time test takers has been fairly constant at about 80%, 17%, and 2%, respectively. Within testing years, the percentage of first-time and repeat test takers has followed a cyclic pattern. On average, the percentage of first-time test takers has been about 89% in June, 84% in September/October, and 73% in December and February.

In all years except 1997–1998, there were more female than male first-time test takers. In the most recent testing year, 2003–2004, the percentages of female and male first-time test takers were similar: 50.4% were female and 49.6% were male. There have been more female than male second- and third-time test takers for all of the testing years in this study.

Caucasian test takers make up the largest percentage of first-, second-, and third-time test takers, followed by African American, Asian American, Other, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, and Mexican American test takers. However, the percentage of Caucasian test takers decreases as the number of tests taken increases. The percentages of most of the other racial/ethnic groups increase as the number of tests taken increases.

Mean LSAT Scores

Across testing years, the mean LSAT scores were highest for first-time test takers (150.8), lower for second-time test takers (149.3), and lowest for third-time test takers (145.3). The same general trend holds within a testing year: first-time test takers usually have the highest mean LSAT score, and third-time test takers always have the lowest mean LSAT score (of first-, second-, and third-time test takers). The same trend has also held in almost all cases across gender and race/ethnicity.

Mean Score Gains

Test takers who repeated the LSAT gained an average of 2.7 points the second time they took the test and 1.8 points the third time they took the test (compared to the second time). Despite these mean score gains, their mean LSAT scores are still usually lower than the mean for first-time test takers, as indicated above and in more detail in the report. These trends have held both across testing years and within testing years. Mean score gains for male test takers have tended to be 0.2 points higher on average than mean score gains for female test takers (2.8 points vs. 2.6 points). Of the largest racial/ethnic groups, the mean score gains in descending order have been for Caucasian and Asian American (2.9 points), Mexican American (2.7 points), Puerto Rican and Hispanic (2.4 points), and African American (2.0 points) test takers.


In evaluating the results reported here, especially regarding gender and racial/ethnic results, the reader should bear in mind that the test takers were self-selected. That is, these test takers chose to take the LSAT themselves, possibly more than once; they were not randomly chosen to be assessed (or reassessed). Also, test takers voluntarily self-reported their gender and race/ethnicity. That is, individuals chose whether to respond to these classification questions and decided how they would respond (especially with regard to race/ethnicity). As a result, differences in LSAT performances across gender or racial/ethnic subgroups cannot be attributed to these subgroups in general, but merely to those who chose to take the LSAT and identify themselves as belonging to those groups.

Also note that summary statistics across gender or race/ethnicity describe subgroup differences, not individual differences. Thus, for example, a repeat test taker from one racial/ethnic group may outperform 90% of the repeat test takers from another racial/ethnic group, even though the subgroup mean differences might suggest otherwise.

The Performance of Repeat Test Takers On the Law School Admission Test: 1997–1998 Through 2003–2004 Testing Years (TR-04-02)

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