If you aspire to become a lawyer, you will need to attend law school. One of the first steps to getting into law school is securing a decent score on the law school admissions test, or LSAT. This standardized test is administered by the Law School Admission Council and measures a student’s knowledge and problem-solving skills. The test also measures how a student compares to other people who take the test.
The LSAT scores that you must achieve in order to be accepted vary by school. In general, the better you score on the test, the better your chances of getting into a top law school.
When you take the test, you will be given a raw score that measures how many questions you got right on the test. You can use an LSAT score calculator to translate that into a score on the LSAT scale, where 120 is the lowest possible score and 180 is the highest. Then, looking at an LSAT score chart for 2017 or the most recent year can help you understand your LSAT score percentiles.
LSAT score percentiles measure how you compare to other test takers in recent years.
Understanding LSAT Score Percentiles
When you take the LSAT, you are awarded points for each question that you answer correctly. Unlike other tests, the LSAT does not deduct points for questions that are answered incorrectly. Therefore, there is no harm in guessing, and you can actually improve your score by guessing on questions about which you are unsure.
The raw score that you achieve is translated into an overall score using an LSAT score calculator for the most recent year that is available. Your LSAT score will range between 120 (the lowest possible score) and 180 (the highest).
To understand how you compare to other people who are applying to law school, you need to consider your LSAT score percentiles. Percentiles show you how your score compared to the score of other applicants. For example, if you scored in the 74th percentile, you did better than 74 percent of test takers.
Knowing Your Score Band
In addition to receiving your score for the LSAT, you will also receive a score band. This is meant to measure the range in which your skills actually fall. For example, if you took the test a second time, you would be unlikely to have the exact same result, but you would likely achieve a score within a similar range. This range is covered by the score band.
According to the Law School Admission Council, this gives the likely range of repeat scores with 68 percent accuracy. That means that two out of three people would achieve a score within their score band if they took the test again without additional prep work or studying.
Calculating a Score Band
Your score band will usually cover seven points. For example, if your score was 165, your score band would be 162 to 168.
The Law School Admission Council calculates the score band by considering the standard error of measurement for the LSAT. The standard error of measurement calculates how a test-taker’s score actually aligns with his skills and abilities.
For the LSAT, the standard error of measurement is 2.6. This is added to and deducted from a person’s score in order to calculate the score band. With rounding, the score band is about seven points.
Understanding Your LSAT Score Report
When you take the LSAT, you will receive your score report three weeks after the test date. The score report has multiple ways to help you understand how you scored on the test. These measures combined give you an accurate representation of your skills measured against those of the people who are also applying to law school.
In your score report, you will have access to the following information:
- Your current score: This is the score for the test you have taken most recently. It will be on a scale from 120 to 180 and reflects only the most recent LSAT exam for which you sat.
- Previous scores: Score from up to 12 previous LSAT tests taken after June 2013 will also be included in the report. This will help you to understand how your score has changed over time.
- Average score: This is the average score, ranging from 120 to 180, of your most recent LSAT exams and all previous attempts at the test.
- Your score band: This tells you the score range into which your skills fall.
- Your percentile: This tells you how you did compared to other people who took the test over the past three years.
What Is a Good LSAT Score?
A perfect score on the LSAT is 180. If you have a raw score of 99 or 100, you will achieve a 180. This is very rare since it would mean answering all test questions correctly except for one. Most people make a mistake or don’t have time to answer all the questions on the test.
However, to score in the top of the LSAT score percentiles, you don’t need a perfect score. In fact, the LSAT score chart for 2017 showed that anyone with an LSAT score of 173 or above would be in the 99th percentile of test takers. This means that a test taker scored better than 99 out of 100 people who took the test. This makes you a very desirable applicant for law schools.
What LSAT Score Do I Need?
To get into the most competitive schools, like Harvard Law School, you will need a score about this high. The average LSAT score for a person in Harvard Law School’s class of 2021 is 173. Although this would put you in the top 99 percent of test takers nationally, it would only put you in the 50th percentile of people accepted to Harvard Law School.
When you are using an LSAT score calculator, remember that how impressive your score looks depends on the pool against which you are competing. LSAT scores vary greatly by school.
What Is the Average LSAT Score?
The average score on the LSAT is 151. Scoring in that range means that you did better than half of test takers and worse than half, according to data from the LSAT score chart for 2017.
Rather than focusing on the overall average score for all test takers, it may be helpful to look up the median (average) score percentiles for the schools to which you are applying. This will give you a better idea of the score that you need to achieve in order to gain admission.
Is 160 a Good LSAT Score?
A score of 160 is a decent LSAT score. It is better than the national average, which is just over 150. However, how good of a score this is depends on the schools to which you are applying.
For many top-tier or Ivy League law schools, the average LSAT score is well into the 170s. If you are trying to get into one of these schools, a score of 160 is not likely to be sufficient to gain acceptance. However, for less-competitive schools, a score of 160 is adequate.
In order to best understand the score that you need to get into the school of your choice, check the school’s website for information on the median LSAT scores for recently accepted applicants.
Studying for the LSAT
One of the best ways to get a good score on the LSAT is to study extensively. By the time you take the exam, you should be familiar with the format of the test and have sat through multiple timed practice tests in order to give you an idea of how best to budget your time.
Studying for the LSAT should start long before you take the test. In most cases, you should begin studying three to four months before you will take the exam. On this schedule, you will need to dedicate four to six hours a week for preparing for the test. If you don’t have that time available, you should begin studying even further in advance of the LSAT.
If you are able to dedicate more time to studying, you may be able to take the test sooner. However, the LSAT is said to be a test for which it is difficult to cram, so you are unlikely to improve your score much by studying at the last minute.
How to Prepare for the LSAT
If you chose to prepare for the LSAT on your own, there is plenty of study material available. It is easy to purchase copies of previous LSAT exams online. Taking these tests and understanding the formatting of questions will help you succeed on the LSAT when it really counts.
Many people also opt to take a formal LSAT prep course. However, these courses are expensive, often costing $1,500 or more. If you are unable to afford that, having a well-planned study schedule and following it closely will help you achieve a good score on the LSAT.
Know the Format of the Test
Understanding how your LSAT will be scored is important. However, it is even more critical to understand how the test is laid out.
When you take the LSAT, you will complete five test sections, four of which will be scored. The other unscored section is for the Law School Admission Council to try out new questions. Overall, the LSAT takes about three-and-a-half hours to complete on test day, which includes a scheduled 15-minute break.
The scored sections will include:
- 1 reading comprehension section
- 1 analytical reasoning section
- 2 logical reasoning sections
Does the LSAT Have an Essay?
The exam also includes an essay section, but as of 2019, this is completed at home at your own pace and not in a timed test setting. The essay is not scored but is sent to the law schools to which you apply so that they have a sample of your writing.
Should I Answer All Questions on the LSAT?
The LSAT contains 99 to 102 questions. Because each section is only allotted 35 minutes of test time, most test takers will not be able to answer every question. If you are not able to answer all the questions on the LSAT, do not worry. That is perfectly normal.
Taking practice tests ahead of time will help you learn how to budget your time. It will also give you a good idea of what to expect on test day and how many questions you should be able to answer.
Although most test takers will run out of time, you will not be penalized for wrong answers on the LSAT. Unlike some other standardized tests, the LSAT allows test takers to guess on questions about which they are unsure, and this may even contribute to a higher score. Because of this, some people advocate filling in an answer for every question even if you are unsure about the answer.
- Law School Admission Council: LSAT Scoring
- Law School Admission Council: Score Distribution - Law School Admission Test
- Law School Admission Council: Computing Your Score
- Harvard Law School: HLS Profile and Facts
- Law School Admission Council: LSAT Score Bands
- UMass Amherst Pre-Law Advising Office: How Should I Prepare For The LSAT?
- The Princeton Review: About The LSAT
Kelly Burch is a freelance journalist living in New Hampshire. Her educational work has appeared in The Washington Post, Parents magazine and more.