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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 blind-sided 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 formula’s 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

 

(source: LSAC.org)

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!

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

36 Comments

  1. How does the LSAC view Independent Study/Research grades? For example, I did about 5 credits of research and received an “A” for my research work. Will the LSAC not factor those in because they weren’t traditional courses or will they still look favorably upon them?

  2. Just want to clear up about the punitive and non punitive case. What if we failed a class one semester but we had a lot of family issues going on that point? Should we still try to make a case for our school to make it non punitive or just address the situation in the addendum?

    • That would under almost all circumstances be considered a punitive F. However, still talk to your school and check their policies. If it remains on your record (the likely outcome) you would definitely want to address that in an addendum.

  3. Hey! Thanks for this very informative article, and, of course, all of your articles, they’ve really been a huge help! I have a question: I took a semester off of my degree granting institution and went to another university. When I transferred back, only one of the four classes I took were credited by my degree granting institution, so will only that one grade be factored into my GPA? Thanks!

    • Taylor, this is one that I’m not exactly clear on, though my guess is the ones you did not get credit for will not count. The best thing to do would be to contact LSAC. Would you let me know what they say as I am curious on this as well.

  4. I transferred to a different school my sophomore year in college. Do my grades for my first college show up on my transcripts for my second college or do I send in both institutions’ transcripts?

  5. I was on probation status and disqualified through out the semester because of personal and family issues. First first two semester I got a medical emergency leave of absence. I graduated last year.

    • If these led to a few failing grades, contact your school and ask if they are considered punitive. Depending on your school’s policies, you may be able to ensure they are not viewed as punitive. Just having withdrawn from a semester should not affect you. It’s only F grades you need to worry about.

  6. Hey Evan,

    Thanks for the informative article! I am wondering how LSAC can know of my AP course or their grades. What appears in my unofficial transcripts are the names of the courses I would have taken had I not completed AP courses, though they do not have a grade. In order to find out my high school grades for those courses, they would have to get the information from my high school. I just can’t see LSAC doing that, but could you clarify for me if you know how that works?

    • If it’s not on your college transcript and you did not get college credit, then they won’t know about them and they won’t count. There is no need, so far as I’m aware, to submit these grades and LSAC certainly won’t go digging for them. If you want to make double sure, ask LSAC anonymously, but that is my understanding of the policy.

  7. I was unaware that CAS converted our grades on a different scale so thank you for writing this article. I am very concerned though because in high school I took a full semester of college courses. My teachers and staff at the college assured me that it would not count against my college GPA and I would receive the credits as long as I passed with a C or higher. So naturally they were not a priority and I ended them with all B’s and C’s. They show on my college transcript but do not count. Should I be concerned? What should I expect? Is this something I should address in my addendum?

  8. Thanks for this great article! I found a GPA calculator that does the 4.33 scale. I plugged in all of my grades and credits and got a 3.58! Originally I had a 3.41, so this is amazing news! But before I get too excited, I wanted to know if this GPA calculator is similar if not exactly like how LSAC computes GPA’s? Here is the website: http://gpacalculator.cc/?gclid=CL383sbns8ECFQIF7AodlXYA1Q

    Thank you so much for your help.

  9. I’ve already sent out applications, but am currently lobbying my UG university to remove several punitive withdrawls. If they were to do that, should I notify each of the schools I applied to? I’ll certainly update LSAC, but will making the instant notification make any difference? Thanks, guys.

  10. What if someone went to college during a challenging time in their life at the age of 20 and dropped out with multiple Fs on the transcript and then many years later started college again and earned an overall 3.85 GPA while majoring in a challenging subject like Finance at a reputable school. Would they actually count those old grades against the person? It would seem extremely unfair. Thanks.

  11. Hi, Thank you for writing these valuable articles! I have a question. I am foreign student and my primary school is based in Japan. Since I attended a year exchange program and studied abroad in US, I have both academic Summary report and JD Foreign CAS Evaluation as my transcripts. How do schools see these separate transcripts? will they combine those GPA? Foreign CAS Evaluation says I attended 3/4 year while academic summary report says 31 hours. I’m worrying about my low GPA on academic summary report. If schools focus on the GPA only because it’s US school’s even when I only attend 1/4 year of my undergraduate , that’s a big problem for me…

    • Hi I have a question about lsdas gpa conversition to ugpa. I graduated llb program in my country ı want to jd at top14 law school .fırst year İ took civil law but my grade was (FF) ,family law (FF),criminal law(FF) then ı entered University exam again and ı changed my law school . My school accepted all my fırst year and second year courses without civil law, family law,criminal law and in my transcript fırst year and second year courses writing (E) mean Exempt. but civil law,family law,criminal law courses grades were (FF) , I took these three courses again and my civil law grade(AA),family law grade (AA) , criminal law grade(AA), ı graduated from istanbul university. in istanbul university transcript these three courses grades were(AA) but In my previous university transcripts these three courses grade wriring(FF).If lsac accept my two transcripts of the three courses will be counted again.what can i do for this problem? or is this problem for my lsdas gpa calculation?Thnx a lot for your helping

  12. Lawschoolistudent on

    Hey Evan, thanks for these blogs they are very helpful.

    What if you took courses for credits and received a grade — but the program you were in was for a diploma, not a degree-granting program.

    The institution I went to differentiates between a diploma program and a degree program. Do you know if LSAC will consider the grades from a diploma-granting course? (fwiw, I never received the diploma).

  13. Evan,

    I received a No-Credit Earned (NCR) grade for a 0.5 credit wellness course. Assuming this was a punitive grade awarded by my university, how will this be factored into my gpa by cas?

    My second question is, how can I best mitigate the damage done and demonstrate that this is an extenuating mishap and not a trend in my academic career.

  14. I wanted to know more about study abroad. I’m taking a 5 week course that’s not sponsored by my school, but I believe the grade counts toward my gpa. Will it also be counted in LSAC?

    Also, how do I calculate my LSAC gpa on my own? I transferred from community college to a university, and I don’t understand the conversion tables! Can someone walk me through it? Thank you!

  15. I’m honestly screwed. I’ve repeated courses but they stay on my transcript as the original grade and units along with the new grade and units. I’ve had an up hill battle and my LSAC gpa is way lower than my UG GPA. I’m never going to get into a Law School and I’ve been working hard since I’ve repeated my first class 🙁

  16. My semester abroad grades are not reflected on my Academic Summary Report on LSAC. However, the grades from that semester are written on the transcript that my school sent in – they are just considered passes instead of the actual grades because they are written as transfer credits. Will schools go through and calculate what my GPA would have been if the grades counted towards my LSAC GPA or will they just take the GPA that the Academic Summary Report came up with?

  17. Hi Evan. I have a question about retake grades. I am thinking about retaking a course that I received at a different university that at I received a lower grade on at my home university. On my transcript the original grade will then have an X where that grade was and it will say that I retook and got a different grade, which they then will see from that other university. Will that X have any negative impact on my GPA or will they not take it in the GPA conversion since there is no actual grade posted there. I would appreciate any help.

  18. I received an NP in a class but I plan to retake that class in the fall. How will this be calculated into my GPA?

    • Any grade notation that signifies failure (such as No Credit, No Credit/Fail, Not Passing, Incomplete, Incomplete/Fail, Withdraw/Fail, Unsatisfactory, Fail, etc.) is converted to zero on the 4.0 scale and is included in the calculation of the GPA, even if the issuing school considers the grade to be nonpunitive.

      Therefore, your NP would be considered a 0 for the purposes of GPA calculation.

      All grades and credits earned for repeated courses will be included in the GPA calculation if the course units and grades appear on the transcript. A line drawn through course information or a grade does not eliminate the course from GPA calculation if the course units appear on the transcript.
      In calculating a GPA, LSAC uses the grades and credits for every course that can be converted to the 4.0 scale, although the institution issuing the transcript may exclude some of the courses from its own calculations. Courses excluded from the academic summary are not included in the GPA calculation.

      Essentially, LSAC needs 2 pieces of information in order for that course to be calculated in your LSAC GPA.
      1) Course Grade
      2) Credit Units

      IF the credit units AND grade appears on your transcript, in any form, then LSAC will calculate it into your GPA, regardless of how your school calculates GPA.
      IF either the course grade OR the course units does not appear on your transcript, they don’t have enough information to be able to use that item on your transcript, so it will be excluded.
      You’ll need to consult with the registrar at your university in order to find out exactly how it would show up on your transcript.

      Let’s imagine you’re at UCDavis. Taking a look at their repeat course policy here: https://registrar.ucdavis.edu/records/grades/repeating.cfm , we see that “Degree credit for a repeated course will be given only once, but the grade assigned at each enrollment shall be permanently recorded on the Official Transcript. Repeated course units excluded in a student’s GPA will be removed from the number of units attempted, as well as balance points so in computing the GPA, only the grade and corresponding grade points earned the second time a course is taken will be used” (emphasis added).

      We’re told that the GRADE will be on the transcript, regardless…
      We’re also told that the repeated course units excluded in a student’s GPA will be removed from the number of units attempted
      But what that language doesn’t make clear is whether the number of course units will still APPEAR on the transcript, even though the school doesn’t use them to calculate the total number of units attempted.

      So you’d want to contact the registrar and find out exactly how the repeated course will appear on the transcript. We know it will show the grade, but will it show the number of course units?
      If the grade and units are shown on the transcript, LSAC will use that NP in calculating your grade, regardless of how your school treats it.
      If either the grade or units are not shown on the transcript, LSAC will not use that NP in calculating your grade.

      • Here’s a weird question. What if the units attempted do NOT appear next to the failing grade? For example:
        Course: Math 101 Units: 0.00 Quality points: 0 Grade: F
        but the overall units attempted DO include the units for that class in the totals of the bottom of the transcript? Let’s say you also got a D in History 101 but because of academic renewal your school also omitted the units for that History class. Math and History are not the same amount of units. Would this create a situation in which LSAC would not know to which class to attribute those extra attempted units in the totals? Would they guess? Call the college to find out? I hope my ramblings made sense and I apologize if they did not. Essentially what I am wondering is how much work does LSAC put into figuring out these weird scenarios?

  19. 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 the grades from the first school were never transferred over.

    A few questions.

    Do the grades from the first school count towards my LSAC GPA?

    Should I send that transcript in from the first school in for inclusion?

    Does anything change if I am now applying to the law school at the first school?

    Thanks 🙂

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

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