Understanding the LSAT Scores

September 27, 2009

People keep asking me what score I hope to get. And when I tell them, they ask what that means. So let me help you (whomever you are) out.

The LSAT scores range from 120 to 180, with a 180 being a perfect or near-perfect score. According to Wikipedia, the median score (50th percentile) is 151. Someone wrote to me once:

I had a 174 on my LSAT…got in everywhere I wanted.  Had friends with 4.0 GPAs and recommendations from Senators and had LSAT scores of 150 or so and only got into third tier schools. 
But, if the LSAT is not high, but is above 160, a great personal narrative might get you ahead of other 160 candidates with similar GPA.

Now that is anecdotal evidence to be sure, but it gave me an idea of where I wanted to score. That, and I looked at ABA Law School Data on the median LSAT scores for some law schools’ admissions (CU-163, DU-159, and for the heck of it, Harvard-173). Based on what I could find, I was shooting for a score in the 160s at least. That would guarantee (theoretically speaking) a spot at DU and a pretty good shot at CU.

Wikipedia has some more information:

Adjusted scores resemble a bell curve, tapering off at the extremes and congregating near the median. For example, an examinee who scores a 175 may have missed only 3–5 questions more than an examinee with a 180. However, the number of uncredited responses that separates a 155 from a 160 could be 9 or more. Although the exact percentile of a given score will vary slightly between examinations, there tends to be little variance. The 50th percentile is typically a score of about 151; the 90th percentile is around 163 and the 99th is about 172. A 178 or better usually places the examinee in the 99.9th percentile.

So if I get anywhere around a 163, I have every right to be proud of myself. My prep-tests ranged anywhere from 152 to 166, averaging around 157. However, I do think I did quite well on the real thing compared to the prep-tests, and I feel confident of at least a 160. I would be thrilled with anything more than that; I would be over the moon with anything approaching 170. It’s not likely, but not outside the realm of possibility. I told myself if I score a 170 I will apply to Harvard just for the heck of it.

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