Year-over-year LSAT test-takers up a little, or down a little, or up somewhat

The Law School Admissions Council ("LSAC") is in the business of, among other things, administering the Law School Admissions Test ("LSAT"). Shortly after each administration, which it offers four times a year, it offers a total of LSAT test-takers for that administration. This is a pretty easy number to understand. But it conceals a lot of data.

Baseball stat geeks are acutely aware of this phenomenon in other contexts. "Batting average," for instance, is a popular way of measuring a batter's productivity, which measures the number of hits a batter has over his at-bats. But the measure conceals a lot of information about the batter's productivity. It equates singles and home runs, the latter being far more valuable. It ignores walks, a positive outcome for a batter. There are, perhaps, more valuable or useful metrics to evaluate a batter's quality, if only one can look inside the data.

Reading that top line, you see that overall LSAT takers are up 6.6% over last year. But there are other numbers to look at, too, which LSAT distributes via PDF to law schools but does not include in its top-line data on its website.

For instance, LSAT administrations at U.S. regional test centers are up 7.9% June-over-June, but down 7.7% at Canadian test centers. (A handful of other international test centers exist, too.) That's probably slightly better news for law schools--the overwhelming number of matriculants to United States law schools take the LSAT in the United States.

Even within that 7.9% number, salient distinctions exist. For instance, first-time test-takers at U.S. regional test centers are up 8.0% June-over-June, whereas repeaters are up 7.7%. Perhaps not an overwhelming difference, but a difference to emphasize that first-time test-takers, probably the more important measure to evaluate new levels of interest in law schools, are slightly higher than the repeaters.

How these statistics correlate to the more meaningful measure, law school applicants, is another matter entirely. Last year, overall LSAT test-takers declined 9.1% June-over-June, including a 9.9% decline at U.S. regional centers and an 11.7% decline among first-time takers are U.S. regional centers. By year's end, LSAT test-takers increased year-over-year, and applicants declined just 1.8% year-over-year.

More granular data might indicate a more meaningful narrative about applicants this admissions cycle for the incoming Class of 2019. But, as is often the case, it's wait and see until the next data point arrives.