The LSAT Scoring Scale
The LSAC presents your LSAT score in three ways: the LSAT raw score, the LSAT scaled score, and the LSAT percentile. The scaled score is the one that “matters,” in the sense that it’s the one the schools look at. The raw score is between 0 and 100 to 103 and is based on the number of questions answered correctly (each LSAT will typically have 100 to 103 multiple-choice questions, with each question being worth 1 point). The essay section is not scored. There is no deduction for blank or incorrect answers, so no matter what, leave no blanks! If you don’t have time to finish a section, fill in all of the bubbles anyway.
The LSAC then converts the LSAT raw score into an LSAT scaled score that ranges from 120 to 180 with 180 being a “perfect LSAT score.” To convert the raw score into the scaled score, the LSAC uses a process called “equating” that adjusts scores for minor differences in the level of difficulty across tests. For example, let’s say the February LSAT was more difficult than the October LSAT. If a raw score on both tests is 80, the scaled score for the February test would be 166 while the scaled score for the October test would be 165. The average LSAT scaled score is about 150 or 151 and over 50% of all scores are between 145 and 159. Students who receive an LSAT scaled score of 180 have a raw score of between 99 and 103.
The LSAT percentile reflects the percentage of scores below that student and is based on the distribution of scores for the three-year period immediately preceding the year in which the test is taken. Accordingly, a student’s percentile rank is the percentage of scores that are lower than that student’s score. For instance, if your LSAT scaled score is 162, you will have a percentile rank of 85.9%. That means that your score of 162 is better than 85.9% of the LSAT scores for the previous three years.
So what is a good LSAT score? A good LSAT score is a score that would likely be acceptable by the majority of law schools. Generally a score of about 160 is acceptable to most law schools. However, for the top-tiered law schools the LSAT score must be at least 171, or in the 98th percentile, for the student’s application to be competitive. What is really important is to determine the score that you likely will need to be admitted to the schools to which you intend to apply. There are several free online LSAT predictors or calculators that can give you the probability of acceptance to specific law schools based on your LSAT score and GPA. For example, LSAC.org has a tool called the Law School Admission Council’s Undergraduate GPA/LSAT Search that uses admissions data from the previous year to generate a range of probabilities of an applicant’s likelihood of admission based on LSAT score and GPA.