The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is scored from a low of 120 to a high of 180, with an average score of 150. In very general terms, 160 is considered a “good” score, 165 is considered a “great” score, and 170+ is considered an “exceptional” score.
A score in the low 140s severely limits your options for admission to accredited law schools, although there are still about fifty schools (of 205) for which one would be competitive.
The importance of your LSAT score as it relates to your chances of admission cannot be overstated. All schools freely admit that the LSAT score accounts for at least 50% of their consideration. Some law schools openly divulge that a full 70% of their decision is based on this single 5-hour test.
It makes sense, though, that the LSAT is weighted so heavily. An applicant’s GPA (Grade Point Average) is inherently unstandardized. Some colleges are more stingy with their A’s; particular majors are notoriously more difficult than others; even the choice of professor for the same course at the same school could mean the difference between a D+ and a B+.
Letters of recommendation too are subject to unfair influence. Luck, connections, and even a parent’s network can influence the quality and caliber of recommendation a student is able to obtain.
The personal statement fares no better as an objective analysis–after all, there exist companies that are in the business of writing personal statements for students! Law schools know this and thus depend heavily on the one objective element they have to compare applicants: the LSAT.
So, understandably, your LSAT score is going to comprise the bulk of an admission committee’s consideration. Let’s take a look at a few schools to get a clearer idea of the average LSAT score of their student body:
|LAW SCHOOL||AVERAGE LSAT SCORE|
|New England Law||150|
The truth is that each test taker is going to have a different interpretation of what a good LSAT score means for them. For some, a good LSAT score is one that shows steady improvement from an initial diagnostic score.
In those students’ estimation, a good score means the score that represents what they consider their very best work after 3-4 months of solid test preparation. By that benchmark, a score increase of 5-8 points from one’s first ever practice test would be considered “good”; an increase of 9-12 points would be considered “great”; and an increase of 12 points or more would be truly impressive.
However, for the majority of students, since the ultimate goal is to attend law school, a good LSAT score is one that puts them in the running for admission to the law school of their dreams.
If you already have an idea of the law schools to which you’d like to apply, look up their 25%, 50%, and 75% LSAT statistics. You can find a great interactive chart here.
These numbers represent the LSAT scores of the school’s current class body. The 25% number is the LSAT score for which only 25% of their accepted students scored lower. The 50% number is the LSAT score that represents their average student. The 75% number is the LSAT score for which only 25% of their accepted students scored higher.
These numbers are going to help you tremendously in figuring out what LSAT score you need to achieve to have a decent chance at admission to any given school. They’ll also help you figure out whether you should classify a school as a “safety,” a “target,” or a “reach” school. Ideally, you should apply to at least 2 safety schools, at least 3 target schools, and at least 2 reach schools.
Let’s say your LSAT score (or the score you reasonably expect to achieve) is at a school’s 75% metric. This means that you scored higher than 75% of the students that school has recently admitted. You should consider this school a “safety” school. As long as your undergraduate GPA is decent and you write a reasonably good personal statement, you can expect to be admitted.
There is, however, a caveat: If you are applying to a top ten law school, even a 180 perfect LSAT score doesn’t guarantee admission. The top ten law schools combined have about 3,000 spots available each year. There are more than 3,000 people per year who score over 170. The top ten schools could not admit every 170+ student even if they wanted to. For top ten schools, undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and work experience remain incredibly pertinent regardless of LSAT score.
If your LSAT score falls at or near a school’s 50% metric, that school is a “target” school. Your other application components, understandably, become more important. Generally, though, you could consider yourself to have a 50-50 chance at admission.
If your LSAT score is at a school’s 25% metric, you can consider that school a “reach” school. Of course, there is a chance you could be admitted–after all, a quarter of the school’s admitted students scored lower! Still, your chances are not stellar. Your undergraduate GPA and your “softs” (your personal statement, letters of recommendation, and work experience) become tremendously important in influencing your chances at admission.
The bottom line is that an LSAT score of 165 will make you a competitive candidate at all but the top 10 law schools. Thus, a 165 is undeniably a great score.
However, a good score for you is whatever puts you closest to the 75% metric for the school you hope to attend.
Good luck and happy studies!