What is a good LSAT score?
While this question gets asked all the time, there is no objective answer. Yes, everyone wants to get a stellar score. A 99th percentile score on the LSAT is about a 172, meaning if you get a 172 then 99 percent of the test takers didn’t score as well as you. That’s obviously a really great score. However, despite that fact that most people put in a decent effort to prep for the exam, only 1% of test takers are going to hit that or above each year. Luckily, you don’t need that score to have great outcomes both in law school and your career afterwards. So what is a ‘good’ LSAT score?
A good LSAT score is one that can help get you into to a school that gives you good job prospects at an acceptable price.
Whether your LSAT score can help you get that should be the only consideration as to what makes a score ‘good’. The LSAT is just one of the factors that will determine your admissions chances at law schools, though for better or worse, the LSAT is the single most important part of your application. It’s roughly twice as important as the next most important factor, your undergraduate GPA. For an explanation as to why, see our post on why the LSAT matters so much.
The highest possible score on the LSAT is a 180 and the lowest possible score is a 120. Average is about a 153. These are ‘scaled scores’ that are determined from your ‘raw score’, which is that amount of correct responses you give. The LSAT contains from 100-103 questions. Getting an 153 would mean you got around half the questions right. A 170 or better usually requires getting all but 10-12 questions right. Contrary to popular belief, the test isn’t curved.
A 160 or better is a good score that is going to get you into a lot of law schools. Anything over a 168 or so, pared with a decent GPA, might give you a shot at going to the countries most elite schools, those that carry a strong national reputation such as Cornell, University of Chicago, Harvard, and the like. A 175 or better will be a very strong LSAT at any school, even at Yale (far and away the most difficult law school to get into). For more on all this, we have a full breakdown of what LSAT score you need for the top law schools.
Almost without exception, each law school generally has a range of LSAT scores that they are looking for applicants to have in order to gain admission. For example, Columbia’s 25th percentile score last year was 170, meaning that 75 percent of their incoming class got that score or better. Their 75th percentile LSAT score was 174 meaning 25 percent got that or better. Generally, to have a good shot at admission you want to get in this 25th-75th range or better.
Bear in mind however, that it is possible to get into Columbia with a 170 or lower. If you have great credentials a school might be inclined to look past a slightly lower LSAT score and admit you. So if you are applying to Columbia with a 168 LSAT but you have a 4.0 GPA and a strong history of leading volunteer work for your favorite cause, you may well get in. No law school will reject you outright solely on the basis that your LSAT score is lower than what they usually take.
If you are looking to get a scholarship, your chances improve substantially if your LSAT is on the high side for the school. For example, the median LSAT score for Columbia is a 172, so a good LSAT score to draw scholarship money is that or better (especially if your GPA is at or above their median as well).
Retaking The LSAT To Get A Better Score
Luckily, you can retake the LSAT (up to a total 3 times in any 2 consecutive years) to try to improve your score. However, be aware that for the typical test taker the improvement made is very small: for retakers in 2010-2011 the average increase was only 2.4 points. 28.2% percent of test takers did worse upon a retake. You can see the full LSAT repeater data here on LSAC’s site. However, 2-3 more points may be enough to get you into a better ranked school or net you a larger scholarship. What’s more, much of the downside of retaking is now gone as schools currently give little or no weight to a lower score if you have taken the LSAT multiple times. The decision whether to retake or not is a complicated one. We provide some guidance here.