What is a Good LSAT Score?

Certification: Admission Tests LSAT - Law School Admission Test


One of the most important things that determine where you go to law school is your LSAT score.  While SAT scores are falling out of favor in the US and Canada, the LSAT still holds a lot of weight.  Basically, the higher your score, the better school you can get into.

LSAT scores range from 120 to 180 (with 120 being the lowest possible score and 180 being the highest.  Scores are based solely on the number of question you answer correctly.  All the questions are weighted the same, and you do not lose points for incorrect answers.  In other words, you start with 120 points and gain them when you answer questions correctly instead of starting with 180 points and losing them for answering incorrectly.  Only 4 of the 5 multiple choice sections are scored (one is experimental), and the writing portion is not scored. 

The LSAT is scored on a curve, but the relationship between the questions answered correctly (also known as the "raw score") and the scaled score (based on the curve) is determined before you take the test.  Only the adjusted scores, then, resemble the bell curve, whereas the actual scores might not. The LSAC supports this scoring system so that the severity of those grading the tests is averaged out across the board and everyone is graded along the same standard.  It also means that the difference between different scores will vary.  The difference between a 177 and 180 might be 3 questions, while the difference between a 158 and 161 might be seven.  This is fairly confusing, but the good news is that your score will be a direct reflection to how you did compared to everyone else who took it.

The average score (50th percentile) is a 151, which is the typical entrance level score for ABA-accredited schools.  This means that if you score a 151, you’ve scored better than 50% of the people who’ve taken the test.  It also means you did worse than 50% of the people who took the test.  Generally, a score of 156 will probably get you into one of the top 100 schools, a 164 will probably get you admitted to one of the top 50, a 168 will probably get you into one of the top 15, and a 170 will probably get you into one of the top 10.  A 178 or better would put you in the top 99.9th percentile. Note:This is only a general idea of scores and the schools you can get into.  Always check the details of the individual schools you are applying to in order to see what score you will need.

The top 15 schools in the US range from a score of at least 164 and higher (see the table for a list of scores from the top five schools).


University

25th percentile

75th percentile

Average

Yale

170

177

173.5

Harvard

171

176

173.5

Stanford

167

172

169.5

Columbia

170

175

172.5

New York University (NYU)

170

174

172


You will generally get your score via email about three to four weeks after sitting the exam.  If you don’t get the score you wanted, you can retake the test up to three times within two years.  According to the LSAC, though, students who retake the test don’t generally improve their scores in a significant way.  In 2010 – 2011, 65.1% of those who originally scored a 145 and retook the exam increased their scores, but only by an average of 2.4 points (to a score of 147 or 148).  Over a quarter of test re-takers (28.2%) decreased their scores.  For most people, then, spending the extra time studying and the extra money on sitting the exam again was not really worth it. 

If you are considering retaking the test, always check with your desired schools to see how they will look at multiple scores, because some will take the average, while other will only look at the highest score.  If your school takes the average, it may be better to stick with your original score.  Otherwise, you risk decreasing your chances of getting into your desired program.

You also have the option to cancel your scores within six calendar days of taking the test (before you receive your scores).  You may opt to cancel your scores if you feel particularly poorly about how you did, and you don’t need your scores to tell you so.  This might be a good idea if you’re looking at a school that takes the average of multiple test scores instead of your highest one.  The LSAC will still report that you sat the exam, but it will not release the score.

Alternatively, if you think there has been a mistake in your scoring, you can formally appeal through the LSAC.  This is fairly rare, though, and you should only appeal if you feel there has been a serious mistake.

If you still have questions about your score or want to see what the LSAC says about it, you can find information on their website (http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/your-score).

But remember, your LSAT score isn’t the only thing a school looks at to determine your admission.  Your undergraduate GPA, your work experience, your personal statement, and your recommendation letters will all factor into their decision.  You can have the best LSAT score in the world, but if your GPA is low or your recommendations are poor, you won’t get admitted.  Similarly, you can have a fairly low LSAT score, but your GPA, recommendations, and personal statement might make up for it.

In the end, all you can do is study hard, take the test and hope for the best.  Good luck!


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