One of the more common inquires I receive from readers is about how LSAC will calculate GPA. Because the policies are a little obscure, I’m going to try and shed some light on the process so you might better know what to expect. Hopefully, you won’t be blindsided like I was with a substantially lower GPA than you anticipated having.

When you apply to law school, you have to submit your undergrad transcripts to the Credential Assembly Service (or CAS), a part of LSAC. Depending on your academic history, your LSAC GPA (the number law schools will use to review your application) might actually be somewhat higher or lower than your degree GPA.

Here is an easier to read summary of LSAC’s transcript summarization policies — the formulas by which LSAC determines your GPA for the purposes of law school applications.

Based on the following, you will be able to get an idea if your GPA will be significantly different after the calculation. Also, if you are in undergrad still, be aware of these polices to make sure there are no nasty surprises in store for you when you apply to law school.

LSAC GPA Calculation

LSAC will convert your individual grades to a number in the same way that your college or university calculates it: by multiplying each of your grades by the number of credits you received in it, adding it all up, then dividing by the total number of credits. Out comes a single number that represents the weighted average of all your grades. So if you earned a 3.5 for half your credits, and a 4.0 for the other half, you’d have a 3.75.

However, while the basic calculation may be the same, LSAC converts to a scale that may differ from your school’s and likely has different policies as to which grades are included/excluded. We’ll look at these in turn.

LSAC Grade Conversion

The first and perhaps the most unfair thing that LSAC does to your GPA is convert it to numerical scale so that everyone has a number for a GPA. Regardless of how your undergrad does it, LSAC will assign you a number on a 4.0 scale (well, actually a 4.33 scale). Here’s a look at their conversion table:

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 4.28.57 PM


The principal unfairness of this system is that because LSAC’s scale goes to a 4.33, you might be at a disadvantage if you attend a school that doesn’t give out A+ grades: the highest your GPA can go in that case is a 4.0. However, students who attend institutions that give A+ grades could have a GPA as high as 4.33, and any A+ grades they have on their transcript will better balance out lower grades.

Also perhaps unfairly, passing grades get rounded-up to the nearest whole number, so if you squeaked into the “highest passing grade” category at a school with such a system, you get a 4.o for that grade, even if in your professor’s mind it was closer to a 3.5.

Now let’s look at what grades LSAC does and doesn’t include when calculating GPA.

What LSAC Considers When Calculating GPA

The big kicker is that LSAC may consider things that your undergrad institution may omit from it’s own calculations. This may help or hurt you depending on the circumstances, but the tendency is for LSAC to take the strictest possible view of your academic record (i.e. their policies will tend to hurt your GPA than help it).

Here are the key policies that most often will lead to a difference between your degree GPA and your LSAC GPA.

  • Any grade received after you graduated will be left out. Thus you cannot boost your GPA after graduating by taking more undergraduate credits. At the moment of graduation, you GPA is set in stone forever.
  • Similarly, any college level class you took before graduating for which you received credit and a grade will count. This means transfer credits count. Any college level classes you took in high school  (such as AP credits) that you earned college credit for will count. Basically, LSAC will include anything you received a grade for and for which you got credit at your degree-granting institution.
  • Withdraw and Withdraw/Pass grades will be left out—so long as the school considers the grade non-punitive. If you successfully withdraw from a class, it will not count against you. However, many undergraduate institutions give punitive failing grades if you withdraw after a certain deadline. These may count against you depending on how LSAC interprets your school’s policy. Avoid having any punitive withdraw/fail grades at all costs. This is probably the number one source of nasty surprises when calculating your LSAC GPA.
  • Passing grades in pass/fail classes are left out. Here’s the bad part: while a passing grade does nothing to help you, a fail grade will count as an F. Likewise, in a pass/D/F class, if you get the D grade, that will count against you. Don’t take any P/F classes unless you plan to pass.
  • The original grade for a repeated course will not count IF the credits for the original grade do not appear on your transcript. This is probably the biggest source of confusion in LSAC’s policy. Basically, if you repeated a course BUT still got credit hours for the first take, LSAC is going to factor both the old grade and the repeat grades into their calculation. That can be pretty punishing if you got a D originally.
  • Study-abroad grades. Currently the LSAC’s transcript summarization policy is silent on the matter of study abroad credits. In the past, it was their practice not to factor foreign earned grades into your GPA so long as you did a year or less of study abroad and the foreign-earned credits were not “sponsored” by your degree granting institution (i.e. they weren’t basically considered by your college to be the same as taking classes at the home institution. I will make sure to check on the current policy, so ask me in the comments if you are concerned about this.

For more details, consult LSAC’s transcript summarization policy.

Here is the big thing to note: failing grades, in whatever form they come, are generally going to count against you if your institution considers them “punitive”, meaning you attempted the credit and did not pass. There may be some wiggle room within your institution as to what category a fail is in.

As such, before you submit your transcript to CAS, you may wish to make a case to your school to consider any withdraw/fail grades or the like as non-punitive (administrative fails for example, such as a withdraw/fail, may be considered non-punitive). Your school should be familiar with how LSAC interprets their transcripts and can at least tell you what to expect.

Do not attempt to hide grades from LSAC by, for example, not sending in a transcript from a school you transferred out of. It is at the very least likely to delay the processing of your application and at worst could become an issue on your character and fitness exam should they think the omission was intentional. Don’t do it!

Updating Your Transcript

Many people apply to law school while they are still in undergrad. While it is policy that you are supposed to update your transcript as you receive new grades by sending it to LSAC, in practice you do not have to do so. If your grades improve, you certainly should send LSAC an updated transcript. If your grades drop a little, it my be best to drag your feet. Just be aware that your law school will eventually require you to submit your full certified transcript, so they will see it one way or another if you fail some senior courses. While I doubt it would affect you if you are already admitted, it’s best not to risk it. Try not to fail any senior classes.

Ask Questions

Hopefully this made it a little more clear how your transcripts will be interpreted. I know there will be questions I have not anticipated, so let me know in the comments if you are wondering about your particular situation. I’m happy to contact LSAC and figure out how a policy would affect you!


University of Chicago, J.D., 2012 Ready to Kickstart your LSAT Prep? Join the LSAT Mastermind Study Group


  1. So what if you withdrew due to bad advising this would count against you? There was a problem with advising my entire freshman year. I ended up enrolled in lower level courses, withdrew and then subsequently earned good grades in the higher level courses for the same credits. For example I was in pre-calc, withdrew and earned a B in calculus because pre-calc was not actually required for me but the advisor had it incorrect the first time. So I withdrew from the math credit but ended up earning a B in the credit for both math for my gen Ed’s and math for my degree in chemistry.

  2. I have classes from a few graduate institutions that did not result in a degree being granted. Are those transcripts still required to be sent to LSAC? How will they be counted in the application process?

    • Yes. You are required to report transcripts from schools, even graduate schools. However, grades from graduate and professional schoolwork that is taken after your bachelor’s degree conferral date will not be calculated as part of your LSAC GPA. Still, you are required to request transcripts from any graduate, law, medical, or professional institutions where you have completed coursework.

  3. I’m wondering about the current policy on study abroad grades. If my university did not “sponsor” my study abroad trip, will I need to request the transcripts from the university that I studied abroad at? Thanks

    • You only need to request these transcripts if you were directly enrolled at one or more institutions outside of the United States AND the total amount of work you completed at all of these institutions combined is the equivalent of ONE YEAR OR MORE of study in the United States. You can find more information on this page of LSAC’s website.

  4. Thanks for this helpful article! I got a D in a class, so I retook it and replaced the grade on my transcript. The original grade has an “x” next to it on my transcript, and the credit hours do not count towards graduating. Will that grade be factored in?

  5. Hello,

    Thank you for all the information. I am doing a semester abroad through my university at another university in Spain. As a part of my international business degree, I have to study abroad. My school has partnerships with 76 school around the world and we are placed at one of them for a semester. My grade does not get calculated into my gap at my home university. I was wondering how this impacts my LSAC gpa.

  6. Hello Evan!
    What about International students, how does LSAC evaluate the grades from students who graduated in a foreign institution?

  7. “In the past, it was their practice not to factor foreign earned grades into your GPA so long as you did a year or less of study abroad and the foreign-earned credits were not “sponsored” by your degree granting institution (i.e. they weren’t basically considered by your college to be the same as taking classes at the home institution. I will make sure to check on the current policy, so ask me in the comments if you are concerned about this.”

    I graduated from UC Berkeley (3.7+ gpa). I transferred to UC Berkely from a CC (3.7+ gpa), however, while I was at my CC, I did a study abroad program called Semester at Sea (3.0 gpa), which, at that time, was “sponsored” by University of Virginia. Would my grades from all three schools be calculated into my LSAC GPA?

  8. Hi,

    I want to study JD Law in USA, but my GPA is very low , so are there any chances to improve it, please be helpful and give me your information provided for my situation to do what I must have. Hear from you. Thank you.



  9. After lsac did my Academic Summary Report. I ended up with a 2.45 gpa. That is horrible and dont think i can get into any of my local law schools. One of the community colleges i attended have multiple campuses but it is considered 1 school. They are separating gpa’s for each campus i attended at this 1 school and making it look like they are 3 separate schools, which is not the case. Do you think i have a chance to get into law school, im taking lsat in a few days, but believe im not ready and might get low score. Cant afford to wait to go to put off law school any longer i am in my 30’s now.

  10. Concerned splitter. on

    I was worried about applying to law school because of my poor undergrad gpa. I had a 2.97. Even though it’s basically a 3, the fact that it starts with a 2 has me super worried even a great LSAT score in the 170s which I’m hoping to get and think is reasonable with my test skills. However, this article cheered me up. I don’t know my exact grades and have to get this figured out, but i’m pretty sure my undergrad counter B- as a 2.7, B as 3, and B+ as 3.3… while this would mean B+ students would be looking at a downgrade of their gpa, I happened to get a lot of those B-‘s which might bring my gpa back over 3.0 when this is accounted for. I’m really hoping NW, UVA, or Georgetown with around a 3 and a high LSAT score in the low 170s. Thanks for the article. I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the worst, but this gives me a bit of hope. Any insight on how much major affects how they look at gpa. Is a 3 in mechanical engineering comparable to a 3.3 in gender studies if they’re both below 25%?

    • Concerned splitter. on

      sorry, accidentally deleted part of my post while editing. I meant to say, “… reasonable with my test skills won’t be enough to overcome it.” is reference to my gpa

    • Concerned splitter. on

      NVM just realized this is exactly what they do. I’m an idiot and don’t desevre a good school if i can’t even read an article facepalm. it’s late here.

  11. Our son is interested in a summer abroad program in Oxford. He will earn 6 credit hours at his university for the two courses he takes at Oxford. He is also interested in a semester in Washington, in which he will earn 15 credit hours from his university. Would the grades earned through these programs be factored into his LSAC GPA? Would it be unwise for him to participate in these programs?

  12. Hello Evan,

    I started at one school where I stayed for two years and then left on an academic suspension. Because of financial problems I could not finish paying off the bills for that first school so when I applied to a second school I did so as a freshman and th