Whether you are planning to take the LSAT in the future, or you are currently holding your score report, the exam’s results are intimidating. Never have you taken a test that is so influential in your future.
In this guide, we will emphasize how important your LSAT score is for your admission to your dream Law School, while navigating ways to improve your score and developing realistic goals. These goals could be re-adjusting your Law School plans, or heightening your expectations for the next time you take the LSAT exam.
How Hard is the LSAT?
The LSAT is a difficult test. What is unique about it is that it doesn’t require too much benchmark knowledge of specific subjects. This is unlike other standardized tests like the ACT and SAT that have clear benchmarks to study. The questions require more abstract thinking than what a college student is used to.
Another aspect of the LSAT that is important to note is that there is not a guessing penalty. This means that if you are unsure of an answer and guess, if it is wrong, your raw score for that section will not be decreased. Therefore, making sure that you answer all questions, even if it’s a guess, is advantageous to your raw score on each section. This can be especially helpful if you are losing track or running out of time at the end of a section of the LSAT.
Studying will Make it Easier
For perspective, about 1000,000 LSAT tests are administered each year, with only about 30 people receiving a perfect score among the 100,000. Therefore, the test is extremely hard. Proper preparation, however, will significantly improve your chances of scoring well.
Preparation for the LSAT is a recommended 20 hours a week for a couple months. This may seem extreme at first, and honestly, not everyone will need this much preparation, especially if they are enrolled in a high-level undergraduate program that focuses on LSAT concepts in their instruction.
There are many classes and courses for students to take advantage of when preparing for the LSAT that will get them familiar with question types and reveal what sections students should invest the majority of their time studying.
The reasoning for this demanding study time is due to the unfamiliarity students have had up to this point with LSAT content and thinking. It’s not as straightforward as questions on other tests. Especially on analytical thinking and logical reasoning sections, the LSAT multiple-choice questions require more advanced thinking than what a student may be used to performing on a times exam.
Most students are used to thinking in this way, however, they aren’t often asked to do so in a timed environment. Thankfully, this skill comes with time and will make the LSAT a much more manageable exam.
What is a Good Score on the LSAT?
The average score on the LSAT is a 153. Typically, in and above that score is considered a “good” score for the LSAT. Your score will be from 120 to 180 points and is based on your performance in four sections of the test. Below explains how the LSAT is scored so you can better interpret your score:
The reading comprehension section of the LSAT is 35 minutes long and is between 26 and 28 multiple-choice questions. It will give you sections of reading that will be about 3 to 5 paragraphs in length and you must answer questions about the author’s goals, advanced vocabulary in context, and your overall comprehension of the piece. This section is comparable to the reading section of the ACT and SAT, but arguably more advanced.
Your raw score will be out of 26 or 28 points (depending on the length of the specific test’s section), and will be added to the rest of the raw section scores: analytical reasoning and both logical reading sections. The total of these sections is then translated to a score out of 180 depending on the range the sum falls in.
The analytical reasoning section of the LSAT is also 35 minutes long and is 23-24 multiple-choice questions long. You will be given information and be asked to draw conclusions from it and trace relationships. This section has been referred to as “mind games” due to their creative thinking requirements.
Your raw score will be out of 23 or 24 points (depending on the length of the specific test’s section), and will be added to the rest of the raw section scores: reading comprehension and both logical reading sections. The total of these sections is then translated to a score out of 180 depending on the range the sum falls in.
Logical Reasoning (two sections)
This section of the LSAT will typically present you with a situation that you will need to critically evaluate. You will be asked to infer information and offer solutions to help develop an argument. There are two 35 minute sections of logical reasoning on the LSAT and they are 24-26 sections each.
Your raw score will be out of 48 or 52 points (depending on the length of the specific test’s sections), and will be added to the rest of the raw section scores: analytical reasoning and reading comprehension sections. The total of these sections is then translated to a score out of 180 depending on the range the sum falls in.
Unscored Variable Section
There is a fifth 35 minute section that is known as the “variable section.” It will be out of 24 to 26 multiple-choice questions, similar to the rest. However, your score for this section will not influence your score out of 180.
Test takers will not know which section is this variable ungraded section until they get their scores back. The purpose of this section is to help test writers develop future LSAT exams to see what the strengths and weaknesses are of the students. Although this aspect of the LSAT can be confusing, our piece of advice is to treat each multiple-choice section like it’s being scored. It can be easy to assure which section will not be scored due to the unfamiliar content and question number, however, the LSAT questions are always changing so you can never know for sure.
What Score Do You Need on LSAT to Get Into Law School?
Your LSAT score range is the most important component of your Law School application. Typically for Law School, you need to score above the average on the LSAT (153). From there, the ranges for each school varies depending on how competitive they are. Top Law Schools often require a score well-above 160. However, less competitive Law Schools will usually accept students who score within the 150s range and above.
Another way to analyze your score for Law School is to look at the LSAT percentiles. Percentiles are the amount of students who scored under a specific score. For example, if you get a 160 on the LSAT, then you are within the 82th percentile. This means that out of all the students who took the LSAT, 82% of them scored worse than you did. This is a great way to see how you measure up against other students who will be applying to Law School. Here is a list of LSAT percentiles.
Remember, that your LSAT score can be a little below a school’s ideal range if you have a strong GPA to back it up. Schools often consider both of these factors, then only look at your essays and recommendation letters if your GPA and LSAT score are adequate.
How Important is Your LSAT Score for Law School?
Your LSAT score is very important when applying to Law School. This is because the LSAT is a standard test and everyone is scored on the same level. Unlike your GPA, your LSAT score gives an accurate indication to where you compare to your competing students who are also trying to get into Law School.
Cumulative LSAT score
Your LSAT score out of 180 is the most important part of your Law School application. It is a standard number that is easy for Law Schools to compare to other students applying for the position. Furthermore, the distribution is standard, with the majority of students falling in the 140 to 160 score range. A smaller percentage of students will score above (160-180) or below (120-140) range. Therefore, scoring above the 150 range is impressive in the eyes of Law Schools and will make you stand out among the other applicants.
Improving just 10 points can be just getting 11 more questions correct. Jumping by 10 points could bring you from a 160, which is pretty average for a Law School application, to a 170 which the top schools will respect. Therefore, getting every point possible cna be extremely influential on your future in terms of Law School.
Unscored Writing Section
There is also a writing section of the LSAT. However, this portion of the test does not influence your overall score out of 180. In fact, it isn’t scored at all. Instead, your written piece will be sent to all of the Law Schools that you apply to in addition to your score out of 180. They will read this sample to understand your strengths of a writer, especially under pressure of a time limit (unlike your application essay prompts where you have unlimited time and resources to perfect).
Similar to the ACT, the writing section of the LSAT will ask you to develop an argument. You will have 35 minutes to write a persuasive piece using evidence and reasoning to support your perspective. Law Schools like to see clear and organized writing that uses sophisticated language to develop a claim. There is no “right” or “wrong” angle to take on this assignment. Instead, you will be judged on how well you convey your position.
It is important here to make your writing stand out from the rest. Making your argument unique in some way, that still makes sense, will help the admissions office see your quick-thinking and creativity, which is advantageous in a Law environment. Furthermore, presenting your argument in a format that makes sense and easy to follow is just about as important as the actual writing is in this section of the LSAT.
Is Your LSAT Score More Important than Your GPA?
When applying to Law School, your LSAT score is more important than your GPA. This is an odd concept to grasp since it means that a three and a half hour test trumps your four years of undergraduate study. Typically, Law Schools make their decisions 30% based on your GPA and 70% based on your LSAT score.
How does your Undergrad Influence your Law School Application?
The reasoning or the low emphasis of the GPA when applying to Law School is the vast differences between undergraduate universities. There are many majors and classes that students could take that vary in difficulty and an even wider range of colleges and universities where they could have completed their degree.
For example, in an extreme case, going to Harvard and majoring in political science while producing a 3.5 GPA is an impressive feat. Meanwhile, a competing student attends a community college, majors in psychology, but produces a 3.9 GPA. Not to take away from the success that the student at the community college had, but the Harvard student would have had to take more difficult classes to get that GPA. Therefore, this would be an unfair comparison to choose the community college student just because they had a higher GPA.
Your GPA Still Counts
Just because the LSAT score is weighted more heavily when you apply to Law School doesn’t mean that your GPA doesn’t matter. It is still an influential piece of information when applying to Law School and is often plugged into an index for the specific Law School. For instance, a Law School could have an equation like (LSAT-100) + (GPA x 15) to find an index score that makes the student’s qualifications comparable.
Your GPA obviously can vary depending on where you studied as an undergraduate, but if yours doesn’t fall within an appropriate range for Law School, do not be discouraged. As stated above, your LSAT score means significantly more in the school’s decision than your GPA. Furthermore, schools take where you completed your undergraduate degree into consideration and can gage their reputation and difficulty level when considering your application as well.
What if Your LSAT Scores are Low?
Didn’t score the way you wanted to on the LSAT? That’s ok because, thankfully, you can retake the LSAT as many times as you want to improve your score. Furthermore, retaking the test multiple times statistically improves your score due to your gained familiarity.
If you still aren’t satisfied with your LSAT score, raising your GPA is another option to make your application more appealing. However, this is difficult to do at the end of your college career when most people start thinking about Law School seriously. If you already have a respected GPA, be comforted that it will help make up for a few lost points on the LSAT.
Another, and most practical solution to save your low LSAT score is to study before retaking the test. There are a variety of books and classes you can buy that teach you techniques and strategies for taking the LSAT. There are also a plethora of online resources for free that include practice questions. Here you can find LSAT preparation resources for free.
Taking a full practice test before the actual LSAT is advantageous because it makes you familiar with the format and pacing of the test. It also can help you set realistic goals for test day and get a glimpse into what your strengths and weaknesses are on the different sections. This will illuminate the sections you should study more closely to improve your LSAT score the next time you take it.
Average LSAT Scores for the Top 25 Schools
The top 25 Law Schools are very competitive to be accepted to. Below are the ideal GPA ranges and LSAT scores by school for these prestigious institutions. If you don’t fall into these ranges, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty more respected law schools that are not as difficult to be accepted to as those included in this law school acceptance chart.
|Rank||School||Location||LSAT Score||GPA||Acceptance Rate|
|1||Yale University||New Haven, CT||173||3.93||8%|
|2||Stanford University||Stanford, CA||171||3.91||10%|
|3||Harvard University||Cambridge, MA||173||3.83||12%|
|4||Columbia University||New York City, NY||172||3.8||16%|
|5||University of Chicago||Chicago, IL||170||3.9||19%|
|6||New York University (NYU)||New York City, NY||170||3.8||22%|
|7||University of Pennsylvania||Pittsburg, PN||170||3.9||15%|
|8||University of Virginia||Charlottesville, VA||170||3.9||15%|
|9||Northwestern University||Evanston, IL||169||3.85||18%|
|10||University of California – Berkeley||Berkeley, CA||168||3.81||20%|
|11||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||169||3.81||17%|
|12||Duke University||Burham, NC||169||3.78||19%|
|13||Cornell University||Ithaca, NY||168||3.81||21%|
|14||Georgetown University||Washington D.C.||168||3.78||20%|
|15||University of California – Los Angeles||Los Angeles, CA||168||3.79||22%|
|16||University of Texas – Austin||Austin, TX||168||3.72||18%|
|17||University of Southern California||Los Angeles, CA||166||3.83||18%|
|19||Boston University||Boston, MA||166||3.78||23%|
|20||University of Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN||165||3.75||39%|
|21||University of Notre Dame||Notre Dame, IN||165||3.75||24%|
|22||George Washington University||Washington D.C.||166||3.7||31%|
|23||Washington University in St. Louis||St. Louis, MO||164||3.83||25%|
|24||Arizona State University||Tempe, AZ||164||3.8||29%|
|25||Fordham University||The Bronx, NY||164||3.64||28%|
Wrapping Things Up: LSAT Score Range
The LSAT is very influential in your chances to be admitted to a law School. Thankfully, you can take it multiple times to make your score appealing to your dream law school. Other factors also affect your admission including your GPA, letters of recommendation, and your written essays. However, your LSAT is more important than any of these other aspects of your application.
We hope that this guide helps you navigate your score and how it can impact your future in terms of law school.
Studying for the LSAT? Make sure to read our reviews to the best LSAT prep books here to help you out.
If you’re looking for the best self-study LSAT prep books, check out our post on that here.