July LSAT Update- some huge numbers

We have breaking and what amounts to record-setting news, although it's not the kind of "record-setting news" that applicants generally want to hear. But, we will put that in context (because it is a bit misleading) after the news, which is as follows: July 2019 LSAT registrants have reached 20,000.

For context, on May 7th we reported July registrant numbers of 11,500. These new numbers represent an almost 75 percent increase in registrants since then; and there are still a few days left to sign up (registration closes June 4th). So expect that number to grow.

Here's a look at how July test takers would compare to last year if the test was today, assuming a conservative 4% “no show" rate, and not factoring in cancellations (more on that later):

As you can see we are well ahead of 2018 numbers- in our above scenario there would be about a 66% increase in test takers. However, there are good reasons not to make a strict comparison between the two, and they are primarily due to the unique nature of the July 2019 LSAT.

Firstly, this July LSAT administration will be the last opportunity to take the LSAT in traditional paper format. LSAC has invested a great deal in its move to a digital-only test for US takers. For July, as the transitional exam, half of test centers will be digital, half paper. This may be leading to applicants signing up for the July test as a last effort to take a paper test. While LSAC has expanded digital test practice opportunities the fact remains that most LSAT prep is still aimed at a paper format. Fear of the change, and a desire to get a last LSAT in before paper is gone for good, may be driving heavy volume in July.

Secondly, LSAC has made a one time offer to allow July takers to take the test, see their score, and if they choose, to cancel and retake for free anytime until April 2020. This makes the test incredibly appealing to anyone thinking about applying in the 2019-2020 cycle. As our friend Dave Killoran over at PowerScore put it,

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.

A free cancellation and retake if you do poorly in July? That's an absurdly good deal. We've spoken to many applicants who are taking the July test fully anticipating that they'll retake at a latter date, but couldn't pass up this kind of opportunity to get two bites at the LSAT apple. This factor could easily be driving volume. In fact, the July test might accelerate the trend we've seen of an increase in the average number of LSAT's administered per applicant in a cycle (a rough proxy for how often people re-take the test).

‌Don't be too alarmed by these high numbers if you're an applicant, July is just too different for meaningful comparisons to prior cycles. We'll have a much better sense of how cycle LSAT volume should look in early September. At that point we should have finalized July test taker numbers that include the likely heavy cancellation volume for that test; as well as the September registration numbers. However, it's likely that these strong July numbers will help buoy early cycle application volume. Schools, especially with higher LSAT averages, would be wise to prepare for strong early cycle volume driven by the July test. Of course, this is subject to change if half the July test takers end up cancelling...

Written by Justin Kane and Mike Spivey