How is the LSAT scored?
The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120-180. The average score is about 150, but if you’re looking to get into one of the top 25 law schools, your score should be well over 160. There are about 101 questions in each test and each question answered correctly accounts for one point of your raw score. This raw score (0 – 101) is converted into a score ranging from 120 (the minimum) to 180 (the maximum) using a formula that is designed for that particular LSAT. For example, a raw score of 99 out of 101 would usually translate into a 180.
The LSAT has no passing or failing scores. You should contact the law schools you want to apply to (or go to their website) to find out the average score of accepted students.
How Law Schools Use Your LSAT Score
Law schools have different policies for weighing applicants’ LSAT score and GPA. Many law schools will weigh your LSAT score more than your GPA. Some schools might weigh your LSAT score 70% versus 30% for your GPA, meaning that this 3 1/2 hour test is worth more than 4 years undergraduate work! Research the law schools you are applying to for this information because the value of the LSAT varies tremendously from school to school. Some schools publicly release the calculations they use to combine applicants’ LSAT and GPA. For example, a school might use (LSAT score -120) + (GPA x 20) as an index to evaluate each candidate. For example, if you have an LSAT score of 160 and a GPA of 3.5, your index would be:
(160 – 120) + (3.5 × 20) = 110
Why Is The LSAT Critical In Admissions?
It probably sounds absurd that your LSAT score could be more important than your four-year GPA. Why would something as important as law school admissions be determined by a multiple-choice standardized test that is only a mediocre predictor of law school performance? To explain this, consider the weaknesses of other admissions factors:
- Undergraduate GPA can be unreliable because it is difficult to compare grades from different programs and different schools. Even individual classes within majors vary tremendously in difficulty. Also, classes that tend to be difficult, such as engineering, may not be reflective of the abilities needed in law school. Medical schools, for example, have it much easier because their pool of applicants must all take a set of required courses, such as organic chemistry, and those courses can serve as a reasonable yardstick. Law school admissions officers, however, don’t have that luxury and are comparing students from hundreds of different schools, with hundreds of majors, taking tens of thousands of different classes.
- References may not be objective. It is difficult to differentiate hundreds of applicants whose professors claim all their students are “excellent.” Professors are often encouraged by school administrators to do anything they can to help their students get into top schools.
- The application essays are not necessarily reflective of academic ability or even personality. Many admissions consulting programs will help students write their essays. In addition, admissions departments do not have enough staff to read all the application essays. If your LSAT score and GPA are far below the norm, your application essay may never even be read.
Given these factors, it is no surprise that law school admissions officers tend to over-rely on using simple LSAT scores for admissions. The good news is that the LSAT is a beatable test and you can raise your score by 20 or 30 percentile points if you learn the ideal strategies and devote the time.