Many factors impact your law school application, but your LSAT score matters a lot. Most schools require applicants to take the LSAT. In a perfect world, everyone could achieve a perfect score. But in reality, just about everyone falls short of that goal.
With that reality in mind, law school applicants frequently ask “What is a good LSAT score?”—followed by “What is the best way to study for the LSAT?” The answer to these questions is not so simple. In this blog post, we at Stratus offer some tips to help you prepare for the LSAT.
A Good LSAT Score
Many people say a “good” LSAT score is in the 170s. Although there is some truth to this, you need to consider what a good score is for you. This will depend on several factors.
Your Starting Point
Generally, it is a good idea to begin your LSAT preparation by taking a practice test under real LSAT conditions—or as close as possible. So, you should follow the official time constraints, with only the allotted breaks that the LSAT allows, and use no outside resources. Then, score yourself. This score will give you a solid ballpark of where you are starting. For example, if you get a 168 on the practice test, that likely means you only need to study a bit to get your score into the 170s.
However, if you start out with a low score or a score well below your target score, there is no reason to panic. Some people adapt to the material more easily than others, and hard work can overcome many comprehension problems.
It is also important to note that this practice test does not always capture your starting point perfectly. Some people do worse in the actual test setting because of the stress, while others do better in the test setting than a practice test because it is difficult to get “in the zone” at home.
In relation to your starting point, you should consider your capacity to study. If you only have a month or two to study part time, that could lower the ceiling on your potential score. If you do not have the time to study for hours every week due to personal obligations, then that also can impact how well you can do on the test. There is no shame in having other priorities; just recognize that they might change the definition of what is a good LSAT score for you.
Where You Want to Go to Law School
There is no perfect law school, but certain schools make more sense for different people. If you absolutely want to go to a T14 law school, particularly any of the top five ranked schools, then you will likely need a high LSAT score.
However, some applicants know they want to attend a law school that is not as highly ranked. Sometimes people need to attend a school in a specific geographic area or they just like particular schools because of their culture, and some people prefer a school that specializes in a certain area of law.
Therefore, before you take the LSAT, you should research the kinds of schools you want to attend. You do not have to stick to that list, but it will help guide you as you navigate the law school application process.
In terms of knowing what scores you need for each school, U.S. News & World Report provides the LSAT scores for the 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile of each school. If you are at the median for a particular school, you have a great shot—but it is good to try to reach the 75th percentile to be safely over the threshold. For some of the highest ranked schools, you will really want to get your score as high as possible because often a point or two really can make the difference.
Sometimes, even if you easily clear the threshold score for the school you want to attend, a higher LSAT score can get you scholarship money. Law schools like to give scholarships to entice students with higher scores to come to their school because having a higher average LSAT score can increase their rankings.
Some schools will dictate specific LSAT scores you need to cross to get a certain amount of scholarship money, while others will be more likely to give more money to students who have strong statistics in general.
Your Undergraduate GPA
Generally, your undergraduate GPA is as important as your LSAT score. But if your GPA is a bit below what you would likely need to attend a particular law school, a strong LSAT score can make up for that. For example, you are unlikely to get into Yale Law with, say, a 2.1 GPA and a 178 LSAT score. But if the median GPA for a law school is 3.5 and you have a 3.1 GPA, and the median LSAT score is 165 and you score a 170, it could make the difference.
There are no hard and fast rules. But generally, if your GPA is significantly below the median, you will want to score at least in the 75th percentile for the LSAT.
How to Study
As with determining a good LSAT score, there are many factors to consider regarding how to best study for the LSAT.
First, you should consider how much time you want to put into studying for the LSAT. You should give yourself at least three months to study. This allows you to treat the process like a marathon, not a sprint. Some people give themselves six months to a year. Having more time can be good, but you do not want to allow so much time that you get exhausted or bored of it.
You should also think about how much time you want to invest every week. If you are allowing yourself a year to study, you can start off slower. But if you are studying for three months or less, you will want to invest a significant number of hours every week. You should also aim to study at least a little every day so you keep the material fresh in your mind.
Studying for the LSAT is often a costly endeavor. Just purchasing an LSAT book and registering for the exam will cost a lot of money, but taking a prep class or hiring a tutor will cost a lot more. Although you may balk at taking on these extra costs, they could be worth it in the long run because achieving a higher LSAT score could help determine where you go to law school.
Everyone has different learning styles. Some people prefer to cram in a shorter period of time, and these folks might do better learning over just a few months. People often have strong feelings about studying on their own, taking an in-person prep class, taking an online prep class, and hiring a one-on-one tutor. You should choose whichever preparation method suits you best.
Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses
Although everyone will have areas of the exam where they are stronger and weaker, you should look to improve your score in all areas. In your areas of strength, be sure you are 100% focused. For example, if there is a type of question you find easy, do not be overconfident and make careless mistakes. For weaknesses, you should look to improve in those areas so they do not hold you back—and perhaps you can even get to the point where they are not weaknesses at all.
This is where having a tutor or at least an instructor can be particularly helpful. If you cannot get one, search on Google and Reddit to see if other people have had problems in your areas of weakness; others likely have.
Taking the Exam Multiple Times
For some standardized tests, such as the ACT, there is no penalty for taking the exam as many times as you want. The LSAT is not quite there. Schools do not look down on you taking the exam multiple times, as they might have in the past—but you still must send just about all of your scores, and the LSAT is only offered so many times a year. Consequently, you should not take the LSAT until you feel you are ready.
However, the LSAT does allow you to cancel one score, and you can only cancel it within six days of taking the exam. You will only be able to see your score if you purchase the LSAT Score Preview.
Either way, you should take your next exam when you feel you will be ready. For example, some people will register for the September LSAT, and if they do not do well, they will cancel their score and try again in October. Others will wait six months to a year before retaking the LSAT.
Beyond getting another shot at a higher LSAT score, the main advantage of taking the LSAT multiple times is to give yourself more practice in an actual test setting. Anyone’s LSAT prep will involve doing practice problems and taking practice tests—but as noted above, for some, taking the exam in a real-life setting can provide the experience they need to do better the next time they take it.
Law school applicants like to think there is one magic score or one set way to study for the LSAT. Instead, you need to figure out what works for you and balance that against the different factors involved with taking the LSAT and applying to law school.
If you would like our advice on what LSAT scores you should be targeting or have questions about other aspects of your law school applications, sign up for a free consultation!