Law schools consider LSAT scores among several factors in determining admission. A student’s academic record is always going to be an important factor. However, the LSAT tends to be more important than GPA because every law school applicant must take the LSAT and it is scored uniformly across all applicants, whereas a particular GPA at one college may not represent the same level of academic achievement as the same GPA at another college.
LSAT scores range from 120-180, with 120 being the lowest possible score and a 180 LSAT score being the highest. The “raw” LSAT score is based on the number of questions answered correctly. Each LSAT will typically have 100 to 103 questions, with each question being worth 1 point (all are multiple-choice). Accordingly, the raw LSAT score is between 0 and 100 to 103. LSAT raw scores are converted to an LSAT final score that ranges from 120 to 180. The LSAC also determines a percentile rank for each LSAT score, showing the percentage of test takers scoring below a test score. Only 4 of the 5 multiple-choice sections count toward the LSAT test score (the fifth is experimental). The essay section is not scored. There is no deduction for blank or incorrect answers. Each question in the various test sections is weighed equally.
A good LSAT score is a score that would likely be acceptable by the majority of law schools. The average LSAT score is 150 and puts the student in the 50th percentile. Generally a score of about 160 is acceptable to most law schools. However, for the top-tiered law schools, the LSAT score must be at least 171, or in the 98th percentile, for the student’s application to be competitive.
After taking the LSAT once, the student who does not feel his or her LSAT score was good enough may be tempted to retake the test to improve the score and ultimately improve his or her chances of being accepted into the desired law school. Students are permitted to take the LSAT up to three times in a two-year period. Before spending the time and money on preparing for and retaking the LSAT, it is important to note that according to the LSAC statistics, students who retake the exam typically do not enjoy a significantly improved performance. For example, for 2010-2011 LSAT re-takers who originally scored 145, 65.1% percent saw a score increase, but the increase was on average only 2.4 points, while 28.2% of these re-takers had a decrease in score. Furthermore, different schools take different approaches as to how they factor multiple test scores. Some schools will consider the average LSAT score, while others consider just the highest LSAT score.
Even for the most selective, top-tier law schools, there are cases where a relatively poor showing on the LSAT may be outweighed by an academic record that makes a clear case for the student’s ability to thrive in a rigorous academic environment. Law schools will also consider the applicant’s personal statement, recommendations and work experience. Each of these items, including the LSAT, is viewed in the context of the entire application package. For one applicant the LSAT may be heavily weighed, while for another student, the importance of the LSAT is decreased because of details provided in the personal statement in combination with stellar grades. That said, LSAT remains critical for the vast majority of applicants barring extraordinary extenuating circumstances.
Studying for the LSAT? Manhattan Prep offers a free LSAT practice exam, and free Manhattan LSAT trial classes running all the time near you, or online. Be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, LinkedIn, and follow us on Twitter!
The LSAT is offered four times a year—February, June, October, and December. October is by far the most popular administration, partly because it falls at the beginning of the admissions cycle and partly because it gives college students the chance to spend their summer studying.
However, if you’re willing to start studying a little earlier, I’d encourage you to consider the June LSAT. Here are a few reasons why the June test might be the right choice for you:
- The June LSAT is the only LSAT offered in the afternoon. This is BIG. If you’re like me and think the true purpose of mornings is to lie in bed drinking coffee while watching House of Cards, then the June LSAT is a great choice. By taking the LSAT when you are normally awake and alert, you’ll likely perform better and feel more refreshed throughout the test.
- You’ll be done sooner. That might not sound like such a compelling factor, but consider how busy the next few months will be for you. Essay writing, school visits, recommendation requests, endless application forms… do you really want to be doing all that while studying for the LSAT? Getting the test out of the way in June will reduce your stress and give you time to focus on your applications.
- Taking the June LSAT can improve your law school admissions chances since it allows you to apply at the start of the admissions cycle. Most law schools accept applicants on a rolling basis. This is important because—even if you’re a very strong candidate—you may not get in if you apply too late. This is especially important if you’re applying to a top law school.
- The June LSAT lines up better for students on the semester system. It might seem tempting to spend the summer studying, but if you take the October LSAT, that will likely fall in the middle of midterms. Not such a great plan.
- If you take the LSAT in June, you’ll be able to retake in October. Of course, we hope you won’t have to retake! But the LSAT can be a daunting undertaking, and test day is often fraught with shenanigans. Do yourself a favor and have a fallback plan ready. If you take the October LSAT, your only real retake option is the December LSAT, which pushes you to the very back of the admissions cycle. However, if you take the June LSAT, you have the option to retake in October—which still lets you apply relatively early.
We have several classes starting this spring that are designed to get you ready in time for the June LSAT. Take a look at what we have coming up:
WASHINGTON D.C. LSAT COURSE – Starts March 3rd
PHILADELPHIA LSAT COURSE – Starts March 3rd
BOSTON LSAT COURSE – Starts March 10th
BERKELEY LSAT COURSE – Starts March 9th
IRVINE LSAT COURSE – Starts March 10th
WESTWOOD LSAT COURSE – Starts March 10th
BOULDER LSAT COURSE – Starts March 11th
NEW YORK LSAT COURSE – Starts March 11th
SAN DIEGO LSAT COURSE – Starts March 13th
AUSTIN LSAT COURSE – Starts March 27th
Take $100 off on us with the code SPRINGSTUDY14
So you woke up early on Saturday morning, scrambled some eggs, stuffed your wallet, pencils, and passport-size photo into the Ziploc bag you remembered to buy at midnight the night before, and took yourself an LSAT. But it didn’t go as well as you hoped. You’re considering canceling your score, but you’re not sure if it’s the best idea. Here are the critical questions to consider.
1. Was this LSAT considerably different than your usual practice test experience?
Did you only complete 3 games or reading comp passages when you usually complete 4? Or did you become violently ill? If you know you bombed the LSAT, then you should cancel unless all your goal schools are firmly committed to only considering your best score. You can find out which schools focus solely on your highest score on their websites. For example, Harvard averages your scores (“and considers them,” which means your highest may still be what really counts); Northwestern takes your highest; most schools are even fuzzier than Harvard. But unless you know you’ll score higher next time and that that higher score will be what counts, don’t keep a score that youknow is too low for you.
2. Was this LSAT below your practice scores, but only your best ones, and/or only by 2-3 points?
If you were at the bottom of your score range or slightly below it, the question becomes: which is a more accurate reflection of how you’ll perform on the next “real” LSAT—how you were scoring on practice, or how you scored in a real test setting? This is a time to be very honest with yourself. Did you give yourself slightly more time during practice? Did you “count” questions right that you thought you should have gotten right? If either of these, or something similar, is true, then your “practice scores” weren’t accurate. It is also important to consider how anxiety plays a role in your life.
To say, “but I was anxious so it’s not a reflection of how I’ll score next time” only makes sense if you are going to work on your anxiety between now and then. I see many students who think that going in and bombing because they were nervous is something that’ll just solve itself on its own before the next administration—unfortunately, I havenever seen that happen. If you got a lower score than you think you should and think you may be able to do better, but you believe anxiety played a role in this last test-disaster, cancel your score only if you plan to work on your anxiety between now and June. Yoga, exercise, meditation, long practice exams with focused calming techniques, therapy—whatever your preference, be committed to trying whatever it takes.
3. Are you going to put in the work to do better next time?
Along the same lines, you can’t just sit on your laurels (that’s the first time I’ve ever used that word, and hopefully the last). Even if you were steadily scoring higher on practice, you’re going to have to maintain working in order to maintain your skills. More likely, you actually want to improve between now and the next test. Questions to ask yourself are: do you have time to devote to studying? Do you have energy? Do you have motivation? It’s fine to take a break, first, especially since you’ve probably been working your butt off in the last week or so before the test, but after that 1-2 week break, you’re going to have to dive back into LSAT-prep land. Are you willing and able?
4. What do you actually need to achieve your goals?
All of the above should be considered in light of what you actually need to score in order to feel comfortable applying to your goal school. If you’re in the school’s median LSAT range, and you didn’t bust, i.e. score WAY lower than you have been, and you don’t have a GPA in the crickets-zone, keep the dang score. Work on making your personal statement awesome. If you are below the 25th percentile, the questions above become relevant: how likely are you to do better next time?
If you determine that realistically, the odds of your doing better under your life circumstances are not worth the risk (and so you don’t cancel), and yet you anticipate you have scored below the 25th percentile of your target schools, I suggest revisiting your goals. Play around with the LSAT/GPA calculator that the LSAC helpfully provides while you wait for your score. Still apply to your goal schools if you want—I’m not saying you shouldn’t—but at least consider adding more schools that are within a safe range for your anticipated score.
Take a deep breath, and consider this as rationally as you can. It’ll be okay.
If you want to take it again…
If you are concerned you bombed it–or just didn’t do as well as you know you can–and therefore have decided to take it again, check out upcoming in-person and online classes at Manhattan LSAT.
If you are bidding X –> Y goodbye (for now)…
Now that you’re LSAT-free, it’s time to turn your attention to the rest of your law school applications. Check out the blog at jdMission for all kinds of tips and strategies on applying to law school, from writing your personal statement to getting letters of recommendation. You can also sign up there for a free consultation with an admissions consultant.
Regardless, I hope you are all proud of yourselves for showing up on Saturday and giving it your best. It’s not an easy test or a short day, so give yourselves a big pat on the back for taking on the challenge. Just think–now you have a hundred gallon-size Ziploc bags to last you through 2014!
This past week, some really interesting articles about the legal profession, its present and its future, made their way to me. I thought I’d share them here on the blog, since they will also probably interest all you future lawyers! Here they are, in no particular order:
And more on access to justice:
A futuristic infographic on what’s to come…by a paralegal:
Good news! Lawyers can still act human, and even be fun ones:
Last weekend I got to attend Columbia University’s mock trial tournament sponsored by Manhattan LSAT and had the privilege of watching some very talented students from colleges up and down the east coast flash their argumentation skills. At one point, I found myself talking to a senior who said that despite his love of mock trial, he didn’t want to go to law school.
“I’d much rather take the GMAT than the LSAT,” he said. “I opened an LSAT book and saw logic games and was like, ‘no thanks!’”
My immediate reactions:
“But you are missing out on something great for a bad reason!”
“If you knew the test, you’d feel differently.”
“You didn’t even give it a chance!”
In other words, I responded like the LSAT was my boyfriend, first novel, or mom.
What’s so lovable about the LSAT?
I’ve written on how it makes you smarter. But that was an appeal to research showing what I already believed to be true, because the LSAT had already made me smarter.
In high school and college, I got by on my strengths, which were not, though I didn’t realize it at the time, anything resembling logical thinking. I was an insightful thinker and could write in a way that flowed, and these were enough to push me over the threshold for most teachers and professors. I graduated with high GPAs.
When I first opened a book of practice LSATs, I was a college junior doing so out of curiosity. It wasn’t an intentional move to initiate a study plan–I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to law school. Much like the fellow I mentioned above, I just wanted to see what this LSAT thing was all about. I took a few questions–maybe a whole logical reasoning section, maybe just a few pages, I can’t remember. What I do remember is that I missed the vast majority of them. I answered 2-3 right and at least 10-12 wrong. I recall seeing X’s all over the dingy pages of the yellowing, used practice book I’d bought, and closing it, thinking, “From now on, I have to hide the fact that I’m just not good at logic.” I was convinced I wasn’t a logical thinker, and that any day, someone would discover it about me.
Two years later, I was sure I did want to apply to law school, and I went about approaching the LSAT yet again, intimidated tremendously by my earlier, brief encounter with it. I enrolled in a course, did all my homework, didn’t miss a class or a diagnostic test, and began the slow, arduous process of improving my study skills: I turned off the music. I put in ear plugs. I made myself focus for thirty-minute increments without getting up for a snack or to put some wacky clip in my hair. And over the weeks then months, I watched my score go up. As it did, I became aware that I was learning a certain mode of thinking, and so my confidence went up, as well. I started to believe in myself intellectually in a way I hadn’t before. By the time I actually took the text over six months after I’d begun studying, I had gone from answering only 13 questions (4-5 of which I got wrong) on a timed logic games section–that is, leaving the other 10-11 blank–to completing a perfect logic games section.
It seems everyone is ranking law schools these days. This year was the first that three institutions put their hats in the ring: Above the Law, Tipping the Scales, and to an extent although it prefers not to use the term “rankings” but Score Reports, Law School Transparency. Below is a look at the differences between them.
*HERE is more info on US News’ Quality Assessment
*Law School Transparency allows you to compare schools on a variety of metrics and makes clear that this list of employment scores shouldn’t actually be viewed as rankings: “Treating the Score Reports like rankings may produce bad decisions. For example, sorting schools by Employment Score on a state Score Report will not provide a quick answer as to the school with the best outcomes in that particular state.”
A few things interested me about these comparisons. First, why does Tipping the Scales rank Stanford over Yale?
Studying for the LSAT can be a trying time for most students. The questions test your ability to reason and synthesize, making them substantially different than most college exams we’re all used to. To top it off, test takers are told that you have to do well to get into the school of your choice. That is way too simplistic to be useful, so here’s the scoop on how the LSAT actually affects your choices.
First, know this is not the SATs. You are not being tested on whether you have the background knowledge necessary to take the basic courses of the school. Nor are you being tested on what level of classes you can take. The LSAT is designed to be a predictor of how well you are likely to do in your first year of law school. If you’re scoring particularly low, it indicates that you’re likely not analyzing arguments the way you need to as a lawyer.
That said, the immediate concern for most test takers is not how they’ll do in the first year of law school, but just making it to that first year of law school. Your LSAT score is the single most important factor in acceptance (no pressure). An average LSAT score is 150, meaning that a 150 is generally in the 50th percentile. At ManhattanLSAT, average is not the goal. It’s time to put a number on “good.”
A good LSAT score is one that is likely to be accepted by the majority of law schools. Note; that’s not the same thing as you getting accepted to the majority of the law schools. Those schools will look at your GPA, essay, and a variety of other factors, but a good LSAT score means your application is at least in the running. The number value on a good score? Right around 160. If you’re scoring in the 160’s, you’re doing well. Read more
We’re excited to announce a helpful new resource for those on the road to law school. Ann Levine, president and chief consultant at Law School Expert, has joined our forums and will be answering your law school applications and admissions questions!
In addition to founding Law School Expert, Ann is the author of the bestselling law school guide The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert. She is the former director of admissions at two ABA-approved law schools and the nation’s leading law school admission consultant. Ann has personally guided over 2,000 law school applicants through the law school admission process.
Have a question for Ann? Head over to our forums and ask her now!
Last week, Obama surprised everyone a little by explicitly agreeing with those who have argued for years now that law school should be two years instead of three. The President and Harvard Law grad is in good company, including Samuel Estreicher at NYU Law, who has been a vocal advocate for the expendable third year. Law School Transparency’s suggested new models for legal education reform draw heavily on the same idea of trimming length to save costs.
Indeed, criticism of Obama for making the controversial (or not?) statement seemed to come from one direction: not from people who disagreed with him that law school should be shorter, but from those who thought he didn’t go far enough: instead of “talking” about changing the structure of legal education he should actually “do something.” And why not go further and make law school one year like the Brits? It all left me wondering–is stripping the third year so widely accepted now that it’s not controversial at all? Is there anyone arguing in favor of it?
I went in search of third year supporters. And guess who is one. Martha Nussbaum–University of Chicago Law professor and one of the most renowned legal scholars on the planet. Nussbaum and Charles Wolf, also from Chicago, argue essentially that such reforms risk making bad lawyers:
Electives typically are taken in the second and third years. Given the general courses that an accredited legal education must include, dropping the third year offers no time for interdisciplinary electives. The new wisdom is that this would be no loss … But lawyers who join firms also need to understand how society works if they aspire to be independent thoughtful leaders of their chosen profession, rather than passive followers of custom. In the life of the firm, a deferential model of lawyering (doing it because that is how it has been done) will further erode professional standards.
I’m not persuaded. The argument assumes that somehow the third year of law school is where one learns to become “independent” and “thoughtful” rather than “passive.” To me, these are the kinds of qualities that are instilled over time through interactions with teachers who teach these qualities through and in spite of whatever substantive material is being transmitted; there’s no reason one cannot learn from a torts professor to be an independent thinker but could from a professor in an environmental law clinic.
I’m curious what those of you who will soon be entering law school think.
Manhattan Prep is offering special full tuition scholarships for up to 4 individuals per year (1 per quarter) who will be selected as part of Manhattan Prep’s LSAT Social Venture Scholars program. This program provides the selected scholars with free admission into one of Manhattan Prep’s LSAT live online Complete Courses (an $1190 value).
These competitive scholarships are offered to individuals who (1) currently work full-time in an organization that promotes positive social change, (2) plan to use their law degree to work in a public, not-for-profit, or other venture with a social-change oriented mission, and (3) demonstrate clear financial need. The Social Venture Scholars can enroll in any live online preparation course taught by one of Manhattan Prep’s expert instructors within one year of winning the scholarship.
The deadline our next application period is 9/6.