June 2020 LSAT registration has officially closed, and we wanted to take a quick look at some registration volume. Why do we care? Because even with the introduction of the GRE to admissions, some 95% of applicants use the LSAT. It remains the most important indicator in assessing cycle volume.
First, here's a look at a comparison between 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 LSAT volume.
As we've discussed before the addition of more LSAT administration dates doesn't seen to have brought more people into the applicant pool – nor should it really, extra tests do not. create demand. Rather, it's spread volume out more over the cycle. More dates is still great for applicants- it lets them tailor their testing date to their plans more than in the past.
More testing dates also seems to have allowed more LSAT retakes than usual. 57.8% of LSAT applicants from June through February were first time test takers- which compares to 53.6% this year. There's been a steady downward trend in the ratio of first time test takers for years now. The unique July 2019 LSAT offer (free retake if you cancel) probably exacerbated this a bit, so it wouldn't be surprising to see a slight rebound next year.
Overall, we'll end this cycle with fewer LSAT registrations than last year despite more retakers. Nothing substantial; once FLEX is all said and done it'll probably be in the 3-4% decline range.
Which brings us to the first test of the new cycle: June 2020. As of registration closure there were 13,546 people signed up for the test. How does that compare historically?
That's a 25% plus decline from the 2019 June LSAT. Please also keep in mind that we're comparing initial volume for June 2020 to final volume for 2018 and 2019. Post-registration, people always cancel, or move their test day. It would be completely unsurprising if that 13,546 registrant number we see right now was 10,000 or so by test day. June 2020 has a chance to give February 2020 a run for its money as the smallest LSAT ever administered.
The downward trend in June volume isn't surprising; the reason we can only compare the last couple years is because of the addition of the July test date. Comparing registration volume pre-July offering and post-July offering would be misleading, since that test leeches many people who otherwise would have taken June. Volume's been going down ever since July was added. Still, the initial numbers for June 2020 are shockingly low.
Now the caveats. First, we're aware of a number of May FLEX registrants who have requested a switch to the June testing date, but not yet been processed. So it seems that our June number could see some upward revision as those folks get added, and May FLEX will be revised down.
Second, the elephant in the room: COVID-19. As it's doing in every other facet of our lives, the pandemic is undoubtedly having an impact on LSAT registration volume. The June 2020 test will be offered when many states could still be operating under significant stay at home orders, or onerous social distancing requirements. Applicants rightly wonder if the June test will even be administered in its traditional in-person format, or if it too will be switched to an online FLEX format, like March and April. Those applicants might be hesitant to sign up for June because of that. Alternatively, even if the test goes forward in person, many applicants could be reluctant to sign up for a large social gathering while COVID-19 is still prevalent. We're sure that LSAC would take every reasonable precaution to protect test-takers, but some might ask themselves: why not just wait until July, or August, and see if there's a better option?
So while the initial decline in June registrants is shocking on its face, we can't really use it to make any substantial inferences about the upcoming cycle, yet. If the situation starts to normalize a bit in the coming weeks, we might see another very large July administration as May and June would-have-been takers flock to that date; or perhaps that doesn't happen until August. Or, most shocking of all, maybe LSAT FLEX is the new normal, and test takers just have to accept that. We don't know. But we'll be very interested to see.