If you want to be among the elite who've studied in a top law school, you need a good LSAT score.
The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is a mandatory exam required to get into most US law schools, but sitting for the LSAT is not enough. You also need a score that meets your desired law school's minimum requirements.
The LSAT exam consists of about one hundred multiple-choice questions. The exam tests your reading comprehension as well as critical and analytical reasoning competence —skills crucial to coping with the law-school curriculum.
You can score anywhere between 120 and 180 on the LSAT. The average LSAT score is 150, enough to get you into most American Bar Association-accredited law schools.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a remotely proctored version of the LSAT will be offered through June 2022. While there are some small differences in the format of the exam, the scores will be equivalent.
Is 150 a Good LSAT Score?
The correct answer to this question depends on your desired law school and career goals. If you aren't too picky about the quality of the law school, scholarships, or career opportunities after law school, then scoring 150 on the LSAT is enough.
If you want more, such as getting into one of the top-ten law schools in the US along with better career opportunities, then an LSAT score of around 165 should be your goal.
Before we dig further, let's take a look at how proctors score the LSAT and why LSAT scores are essential.
How Is the LSAT Scored?
As we said, the score range for any LSAT exam is 120 to 180, and the average score is about 150. However, the majority of the top-ten law schools require a candidate to have at least 165 on the LSAT.
Each LSAT exam consists of about a hundred questions with correctly answered questions amounting to about 1 point added to your raw score. Your raw score can range between 0 and 101. This raw score is then converted, with the help of an LSAT formula, into a score of 120 to 180.
Your LSAT score report contains more than just your score. It also contains your percentile rank. Knowing your percentile rank is equally vital in determining whether your LSAT score is good enough to get into your desired school.
What is the Percentile Rank?
Percentile rank refers to how your LSAT score compares to that of other law school aspirants who took the exam with you. Knowing how well you fared against the competition gauges how competitive your LSAT score is for different law schools
For example, if you rank in the 70th percentile for an LSAT exam, that means your score is higher than 70 percent of test-takers and lower than or equal to 30 percent. These are good odds compared to an applicant in the 25th percentile.
Those with higher-percentile scores often trump most other test-takers—meaning the higher you score, the better your chances of gaining admission. After all, it's not enough to just meet a school's accepted minimum LSAT score. Many schools have limited slots, and if you meet the minimum but fall at the bottom percentile of applicants, you could still be rejected.
If Yale considers applicants with LSAT scores of at least 170, you must score around 175 to increase your chances of being accepted for a Juris Doctor law-degree program—and scoring high on the LSAT is no cakewalk. Unlike other standardized tests, cramming for the LSAT is impossible. LSAT questions require reasoning skills, not regurgitating facts in response to questions.
If you want to score as high as possible on the LSAT, you need to practice a lot.
By practicing as many LSAT questions as you can lay your hands on, you become familiar with how the questions look and how to select the best answers. The more familiar you are with the logic games, reading comprehension, and the logical reasoning parts of the LSAT, the better your chances of acing it.
Why Are LSAT Scores So Important?
The primary determinants of whether you qualify for law-school admission are your LSAT score and undergrad GPA. Having a solid undergrad GPA is important, but a good LSAT score counts even more. Some law schools say an applicant's LSAT score makes up about 70 percent of their admission chances.
Why is the LSAT score more important?
In an ideal situation, both your GPA and LSAT should be high. Top ten-ranked law schools typically require at least a 3.50 GPA and a 170 LSAT score. If your GPA is lacking, don't stress too much. Often a high LSAT score can make up for it and get you into the school of your choice.
In fact, looking at recent law-school rankings and trends, you'll see that most programs grant admissions based on high LSAT scores rather than GPAs. What you major in as an undergrad doesn't have to be law-related either. Some applicants come into law school with no knowledge of the law.
It is because undergrad learning may not be directly related to your competence for law school that law schools place more value on your LSAT score. The LSAT gives a better assessment of your ability to cope with the law-school curriculum and legal practice. It is a consistent and accurate method of testing the likelihood of success in law school and verifies that you have the minimum reading, reasoning, and analytical skills to cope with the program.
Aside from testing your law-school competence, a good LSAT score improves your access to law-school scholarship opportunities. For a top-five law school, an LSAT score of 175 and above increases your chances of not just being admitted but also being awarded a full scholarship by the school.
Such a score puts you in the 99th percentile of LSAT takers, which makes you a rare and highly coveted law-school candidate.
Good LSAT Scores for Top Law Schools
Each law school has a unique set of policies regarding LSAT scores. Some accept applicants with the best scores only, and some are a bit more lenient. As long as you have a score that surpasses a school's minimum requirements, you have a chance of being accepted.
So, what do you need to score to get into the law school of your choice?
To determine what counts as a good LSAT score for the school of your choice, you need to identify what a specific school wants.
For example, if you are applying to a school like the University of Pittsburgh or Vermont Law School, an LSAT score of 160 is plenty. While if you apply to a top ten law school like Columbia University, Harvard, or the University of Chicago, 160 won't get you anywhere.
A good LSAT score isn't enough for those schools. What you need is an almost perfect LSAT score.
To be in the 75th percentile for Harvard, you need to score at least 175. Scoring 170 puts you in the 25th percentile of Harvard applicants. Harvard is exceptionally competitive. Even if your score is very high, there is still a high chance they won't admit you. This brings us to an important point: a high score is not a guarantee you'll get into the school you want. It helps, yes, but it's only one factor of the review process.
Here is a breakdown of what counts as a good enough score for law schools based on the school's rank:
- Top five law schools — 170 to 180. Schools like Harvard and Yale, which are the top two, rarely accept applicants with less than 172 on the LSAT.
- Law schools ranked between 5 and 10 — 165 to 170
- Law schools ranked between 10 and 50 — 155 to 165
- Law schools ranked between 50 and 100 — 150 to 162
- Other schools — 135 to 150
These are the minimum required LSAT scores. Naturally, scoring higher than the minimum increases your chances of admission to the school.
Is a 170 Good Enough?
With an LSAT score of 170, your chances of getting into any school you want are good. That includes some law schools in the top ten. Nearly half of the students in the best US law schools got in with a score of less than 170. Meaning with 170, you are still in a good position.
Again, does this mean if you score 170 on the LSAT, getting into the law school of your choice is 100 percent guaranteed? No, even if you get the highest possible score, 180, your admission into the law school of your choice is still not 100 percent guaranteed.
As mentioned, there's more to getting into a law school than just the LSAT. Sure, the LSAT is the primary determining factor, but other factors influence your eligibility for admission. These factors include your GPA, personal statement, resume, and recommendation letters.
Law schools have limited slots. Even if they wanted to, they can't take in every candidate who scores above 170. Yes, your LSAT score is more important than your GPA, but admission chances sink if your GPA falls below minimum requirements. Prospects fall if your resume doesn't show valuable work experience, or your personal statement doesn't inspire, or recommendation letters are unenthusiastic—there's a lot more to it than one test score.
It's mostly about how much competition you are facing. If 170 on the LSAT is among the highest scores during the admission window, you'll likely get in even though the rest of your application is lacking. On the other hand, if several other applicants scored 170, and other parts of their applications outshine yours, chances are the law school will pick the other applicants over you.
What Is a Good LSAT Score?
By now, you likely understand that what qualifies as a good score is fairly variable. By achieving a good LSAT score, you confirm to law schools that you can read and reason at high levels, which is what they want from students.
The guidelines given above are a good rough estimate, but it also pays to find out the minimum required LSAT score of your desired law school in particular and begin working toward scoring higher than that. For example, if Harvard accepts candidates with a minimum LSAT score of 170, work toward scoring 175.
If you do score 175, your chances of getting in are greatly improved. Scoring the minimum, on the other hand, means facing stiff competition to get in, which means the rest of your application (resume, GPA, and so on) will be the real deciding factors.
You can use law-school admission predictors or calculators to predict chances of getting into specific law schools based on your undergraduate GPA and LSAT score. And here's a tip from the experts — the earlier you submit your application to the preferred law school, the better. Early submission is especially helpful if your LSAT score or any other part of your application is less than perfect.
In the early stages of the admission season, law schools evaluate applications against less competition, which increases your chances of being favorably considered. Once more applications start pouring in, especially toward the end of the admission deadline, the evaluation of applications becomes stricter to whittle down the number of admissible applicants.
How to Score Well on the LSAT
Long story short, LSAT scores aren't necessarily everything, but they are a very important factor in the admission process. However, you won't score well just trying to memorize facts—the LSAT is not your typical test.
Instead, focus on exercising your reasoning, logic, and comprehension skills. A good way to do this is to take a variety of LSAT practice tests, but avoid taking the same test over and over. That way, you know what to expect, and you're utilizing the skills necessary to pass. You may also find brain teasers a fun pastime to bulk up your score. Good luck!