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.
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