LSAT Scores: How low should you go?

When your LSAT score is not great, its time to decide whether to try again, give up or accept the offers that do come your way.

You want to be a lawyer, and nothing is going to stop you, except, maybe, you know, that little test called the LSAT.

So you buy the books, watch the online tutorials and trade your social life for test prep. Then the results come in, and your score is low. Really low. So low that just a handful of law schools would consider accepting you. You take the LSAT again and get similar results. Frustrated and exhausted, do you throw in the towel and pursue another career? Take the exam again? Or do you enroll in any school that is willing to take your score?

As with any question you will encounter in law school, the answer is: “It depends.”

“I understand the desire for a bright-line metric to simplify a decision to attend law school,” said Chris Chapman, president at AccessLex Institute. “Unfortunately, the decision requires a more complex analysis.”

The LSAT is the leading indicator of first-year academic success, and an applicant’s score is one of the major factors schools consider during the admissions process, Chapman said.  The lowest score, which is practically impossible to get because you would have to flop every question, is 120. The highest,  which is nearly impossible to get because of the test’s difficulty, is 180. The national median is 150.

The LSAT has between 98 and 104 questions, which measure your critical thinking and verbal reasoning. 

But, as Chapman notes, the LSAT — while a critical measuring stick — is but one piece of the puzzle when it comes to one’s law school potential. “This information is just a single data point in a dynamic, multi-variable analysis that any aspiring law student must conduct to effectively make a choice among law schools, or the choice to attend law school at all,” he said.

An LSAT in the mid-140s, while not great, may be accepted by a number of law schools, said Jeff Thomas, executive director for pre-law programs at Kaplan Test Prep. But even if you can get into one of these schools, enrolling may not be a good idea.

“Students who are struggling to get to that 150 to 155 mark on the LSAT, those are the students, historically speaking, who have the most trouble when it comes time to prepare for and pass the bar exam,” Thomas said.

Thomas advises applicants falling below the national median LSAT score to be cautious and examine the academic support services available at the law schools they are applying to. Applicants should also take a hard look at each school’s graduate employment rates and bar passage rates, he said.

“When looking at a law school, you want to ask yourself, ‘Do people from that law school pass the bar, and do they get jobs as lawyers?’” said Ann Levine, author and founder of Law School Expert.

Read the full story in the preLaw Fall 2017 issue.