The LSAT is offered each June, October, December, and February at colleges and law schools around the world.
Even though many schools advertise a winter application deadline, law schools generally rely on a rolling admission system and will begin extending offers months before the deadline, so you should try to have your testing in place as early as possible.
The June before you apply is an ideal testing date. You’ll get the LSAT out of the way before summer gets going (and if you’re currently in school, after classes and finals are over). Having your score over the summer will also allow you to do a reality check on your list of target schools. Does your LSAT score fall within range of scores generally accepted at these target schools? Should other schools be added to your list? If your score is strong, you’ll be able to use it for any early action/decision or scholarship applications. If it’s not as strong as you’d like, you can still retest in October without significantly delaying your applications.
Keep in mind, however, that preparing for the June LSAT means you may have to study while juggling other commitments, like finals and papers. The October testing date would allow you to use the summer to prep for the test, but it may interfere with your work, internship, or travel plans. If your score isn’t that great, you’ll have to retest in December and scramble to submit your applications.
Maybe you’re planning to attend law school in the future, but not immediately after college. Take the LSAT before you graduate anyway; your score will be valid for five years.
If you will be working full-time or traveling extensively, you may not have the chance to study adequately. During college, you’re in “study mode,” and the skills that have helped you succeed in college can help you succeed on the LSAT as well.
Whatever testing date you choose, there is no particular number of hours that you should expect to spend studying. Take an official practice test under realistic, timed conditions to gauge your starting point. Use this score to design a study plan that will inch you towards your target score, based on the requirements of the schools to which you wish to apply. Remember, real improvement takes practice, so set aside enough time to at least go through several recently administered tests. Your performance on these practice tests should be a good predictor of the LSAT score you can expect to get.