The LSAT is an extremely important exam for anyone with hopes of enrolling in law school. The top considerations for a law school’s decision to accept your application are your LSAT score and undergraduate GPA.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, your undergraduate score is not necessarily the best predictor of success in law school because of varying degrees of academic rigor in different institutions. The LSAT provides a uniform score of every students potential in law school, and this is why law schools tend to more heavily rely on LSAT scores.
So we know that the LSAT score is important for admissions but how well does it actually predict your performance in law school?
The truth is that your LSAT score does serve as the best predictor for your performance.
LSAC regularly performs studies on the predictive validity of the LSAT, most recently in 2014. The data showed that the LSAT continues to be the best individual predictor of 1L law school grades. Interestingly, a combination of LSAT score and GPA is an even better predictor than the LSAT alone.
The University of Colorado also performed a longitudinal study in 2016 on what predicts success in law school. The study found that a 6 point gap in LSAT score between two candidates predicts a 0.1 law school GPA gap. This is a significant difference, but the study also criticized the importance that law schools place on LSAT scores, concluding that there are other important factors.
The Colorado study found that undergrad GPA is also an effective predictor, and several years of work experience was also extremely correlative.
There are a number of other studies showing the LSAT’s predictive impact on law school grades, but they tend to vary considerably in how significant the correlation is.
There are a few huge caveats to the LSAT’s predictive ability that you should be aware of
Law schools are extremely LSAT centric.
Law students frequently choose law schools by their mean LSAT score, and law schools are ranked in US News by LSAT scores. Law schools tend to be acutely aware of their median LSAT score, and compete amongst each other to raise it. What this means is that at any given law school, most of the students enrolled in the school will have approximately the same score (give or take a few).
Students with LSAT scores too far above a school’s range tend to enroll in a higher ranked school, whereas students with LSAT scores that are too low are denied.
What this means is that pretty much every student begins law school at the same starting line. Sure, there are a few outliers with below mean or above mean LSAT scores, but most are going to be very close to the school’s mean.
The LSAT measures a limited number of skills
Remember that the LSAT is not the end-all, be-all of law school exams, trust me. It tests your reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analysis skills, but not much else. There are more skills involved in performing well in law school, particularly with essay writing.
Most students at my law school received around the same mean LSAT score. My Contracts professor gave us a wake-up call one day when he explained that writing quality essay answers was more of a learned skill, and some students would simply pick it up faster than others during the first semester.
There are other important predictors
Several years of work experience has been shown time and time again to be an effective predictor of law school performance, undergrad GPA is also helpful.
Does your LSAT score predict bar passage?
Whether LSAT scores are strongly correlated with bar passage rates is a little more controversial. This became more of an issue after 2010 when law school admissions tanked, and to survive more law schools began admitting students with LSAT scores below the mid-140s.
There is some clear correlation between high ranking law schools (T14) with median LSAT scores in the upper 160s and 170s, and really low ranking law schools with median LSAT scores in the 140s. Many of these median 140s law schools average out first-time bar passage rates in the 55-65% range. T14 law schools on the other hand average above 90%.
- David M. Killoran (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 2006 Pages - 09/27/2021 (Publication Date) - PowerScore Publishing (Publisher)
Forget about LSAT correlations
What you have learned in this article is that yes LSAT scores do have some predictive effect on your performance in law school, but you have also learned that the strength of that correlation is questionable and there are plenty of other factors.
So what does this information mean for you? Absolutely nothing, the LSAT is only predictive, and what really matters in law school is the effort that you put in. Don’t ever feel limited by your LSAT score, it just isn’t worth it.
My experience in law school has shown me that there are common attributes among students that perform well on exams. The students who perform well on exams tend to be exceptionally driven, they complete all of their assigned readings, avoid shortcuts, and start studying early and hard. So if your goal is to perform well in law school, forget about your LSAT score and put the effort in to go above and beyond your peers!