We were lucky enough to get some great data on upcoming LSAT administration numbers, and we want to share it with you. We've got some analysis for you, a little bit of a teaser for next cycle, and great input from Dave Killoran of Powerscore, who aside from his obvious LSAT expertise has been closely tracking the shift to a digital LSAT.
Without further ado: final June 2019 LSAT registrations are slightly below 24,000. Last year, 22,489 applicants took the June LSAT.
As we currently only have registration numbers, this is an indication that final test taker numbers will be down year over year. Why? Registrants will cancel as test day gets closer, and usually between five and ten percent of people still registered on test day end up not taking the exam. So based on the initially reported 24,000 number, we feel comfortable predicting that June test takers will be down compared to last year. How far down remains to be seen. We're also waiting on data showing the ratio of first time test takers to retakers.
Some initial July 2019 LSAT administration numbers are also out. Currently there are about 11,000 people registered for the July LSAT. For context, 11,589 people took the July LSAT last year, and we still have almost a month to go before July registration closes. These initial numbers are an indication of strong applicant demand for the July administration.
July numbers are going to be interesting. As you may already know, the July test is 50/50 digital and traditional paper. Registrants will not know their testing format until they arrive at the test center. July is also the last opportunity to ever take the LSAT in paper format—after July, all tests will be digital. One important note is that all July LSAT takers will have the opportunity to preview their score and then decide if they'd like to cancel it, which means it won't show up on their report and no law schools will see it. If they do cancel, LSAC is giving them a retake free of charge. Dave Killoran offered some thoughts on the transition to a digital exam and how it might be impacting registrant numbers:
This is actually running counter to the historical transitions we’ve seen with other tests (for example the SAT and GMAT). When there are major changes to a test, the last exam of the old format often sees very high enrollment and then the first test of the new format is typically under-enrolled due to fear of the change. In the case of July, I think LSAC has done a great job of making this exam as attractive as it possibly could be. As you note, the score preview and free retake is so enticing that students are willing to risk the chance of getting the tablet test. The worst thing that happens is they cancel, right? And even then the retake is free. There’s also a certain optimism at work too, and I’ve spoken to many students who are gambling on getting the paper test, which then turns it into a “normal” LSAT (but with all those benefits). If they get the tablet, they’ll try it but feel like the safety net is there if they aren’t comfortable.
Our initial feelings are that these numbers are potentially good news for applicants next cycle. June is considered to be the beginning of the new cycle. Since the 2010-2011 application cycle, June LSAT registrant volume “direction” (i.e. up or down versus the previous year) has been the same as the overall applicant volume for the cycle six of eight times (we are not considering the 2018-2019 cycle, as the addition of a July test would be an unfair comparison).
It's also possible we see increased retaker volume in June, which would eat into our potential applicant pool. The trend of increased retakers has continued unabated this cycle, and could easily continue with upcoming tests.
Now, some caveats. Historically, the September LSAT is a better predictor of cycle volume than June. The expanded LSAT testing schedule and switch to a digital format also makes forecasting off prior year data less reliable. June numbers, while we do expect them to be down compared to last year, are not likely to be dramatically so. And of course, we're waiting on final July numbers. No one should draw any conclusions about what next cycle will look like based on these numbers. Spivey Consulting will be posting our annual cycle prediction in the coming weeks, in which we'll examine these numbers and other factors to try and forecast the 2019-2020 cycle on a broader scale. Stay tuned!
Written by Justin Kane and Mike Spivey