Your Secret Standardized Test

August 12, 2013

A recent Q&A on Above the Law included the following nugget of wisdom: if you’re applying somewhere that has rolling admissions, apply early UNLESS you think you can get a better LSAT score if you retake the test; if that’s the case, take the test, and apply by December/early January.

This reminded me of advice I used to give to students I worked with for SAT and LSAT prep: don’t rush the application process; retake a test if you think you can do better. However, there’s a trick that Above the Law missed entirely: taking a secret standardized test. I call it secret because schools don’t have to find out about it. I think this works with all schools/standardized tests, but let’s refer to the LSAT for the sake of consistency. 

Imagine you took the LSAT in June and you scored a 168—it’s a great score, but you know you need to break 170 (out of a potential 180) to get into your dream school. If your applications are ready to go in September, shoot them off as soon as schools will accept them, and include your 168 score; hold off on releasing your letters of recommendation in, so your application remains incomplete. Retake the test in October, but don’t fill out the section that lets you automatically send your scores to schools your applying to. Check your score in November—if your score goes up, send it to the school and release the letters of recommendation.  If it doesn’t go up, only send in the letters of recommendation. That way, if your score went down, it won’t hurt you. 

This method of taking a secret standardized test can also help you get off the waitlist at a school. One of my old SAT prep students applied Early Decision to Duke, but was deferred to regular admissions. He retook the SAT in January, sent in a much improved score, and was accepted! Another friend was waitlisted at business school and retook the GMAT in the spring to get off the waitlist. In both cases, they didn’t have to send their scores if they went down—they could instead send in improved grades/resumes to help their case. Retaking a test after you’ve sent in your application can only help you.

Let us know if this worked for you!

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