We have some really interesting and jolting data updates for you. I know, I know—jolting LSAT updates? But this one really surprised us. According to LSAC, approximately half of July LSAT takers chose to cancel their score—which is far above even our most generous projections. LSAC has also indicated that the score cancellation ratio was about the same from digital to paper takers.
What does this mean? Well, final July test taker numbers are also available, and LSAC has reported that 22,737 individuals sat for the July examination. If approximately half of those cancelled their scores, we'd be left with 11,369 individuals with a July LSAT score. Functionally speaking, the 22,737 number isn't relevant when discussing July volume. Only the number of people with a score matters, because generally you need a score to apply. So when referring to July volume, we'll be using the second, post-cancellation number.
Many of those July test takers will undoubtedly use their free retake this cycle. However, this cancellation volume is a real sign that there hasn't been a sudden, huge surge in interest in law school. It confirms the hypothesis that many test-takers saw July as a risk-free opportunity to get some LSAT experience, maybe get lucky, and at worst use the free retake.
We also have a data update for the September test: 24,500 individuals are registered for September as of September 9th. That number is likely to continue to decrease due to cancellations, but it's what we'll use to make some comparisons. So the extrapolated September number is based on a very conservative assumption: no further registration cancellations, and a 5% "no show" rate. The final number will almost certainly actually be lower.
For ease of use, here's a chart showing where we are compared to last cycle:
That gives us a difference of almost 11,000 test takers over the first three administrations of the cycle compared to last year, about an 18% reduction.
Of course, this year is slightly different than last thanks to the addition of an October test. LSAC has reported that there are almost 20,000 individuals registered for October (registration has since closed). As with all LSAT administrations, the registration number will decline as we get closer to test day—right now it's useless to project October takers. Since there was no October test in 2018, we also have no baseline to compare. We'll need to see November numbers as well, so we can compare the fall test taking volume as a whole compared to the prior cycle.
Why does this all matter? Because LSAT takers comprise over 95% of total cycle applicants, and thus the competitiveness of a given cycle is largely determined by how many people take the LSAT. And right now, we're at a deficit of LSAT takers compared to last year. Of course, October and November could certainly combine to make up the difference—we're in uncharted territory with the new administrations. And a growing number of GRE applicants will pick up some of the LSAT slack. But as of right now, we're entering the cycle with a nice cushion against increased volume for applicants. As well as some indicators now that there may not be a surge of interest in law school at all. Schools, meanwhile, shouldn't assume that this cycle will look like the last.
We should have initial cycle volume sometime in the first few days of October—that information will be really helpful in clarifying where we stand, so as soon as we know something, we'll share!
Also, one final note, LSAC did not have to release those cancellation numbers. That was very admirable of them.