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Understanding your LSAT Score

For Applicants
Tags: LSAT, taking the test, applicants
Apr 2, 2023

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Why does the distinction between test taker LSAT percentiles and applicant LSAT percentiles matter?
  3. What do applicant LSAT percentiles look like?
  4. What do applicant LSAT percentiles look like?
  5. 12 interesting stats about the 2022 LSAT score percentiles and applicants
  6. The biggest three takeaways from applicant LSAT Percentiles
  7. What else should I know about LSAT scores as an applicant?
  8. What should I do with all of this information about LSAT scores?
  9. Related Articles
  10. Data

Introduction

This article is for people who want to understand LSAT scores from the perspective of people applying to ABA accredited law schools. If you are interested in general information about the LSAT scores or percentiles, check out our article: What is a good LSAT score?

 

This article uses percentiles of LSAT scores based on the highest score that applicants had when they applied, and consists of a combination of US and Canadian applicants who applied to start law school in the 2021 or 2022 school years. For full tables of US and Canadian applicants’ LSAT percentiles scroll to the bottom of the page to see detailed LSAT applicant percentile tables. 

 

This article analyzes the highest LSAT score that applicants had when they applied, not the LSAT percentile of all test takers, which is what LSAC shares in score reports. This method of considering applicants’ highest LSAT scores provides a better comparison across applicants. 

 

About 100,000 people take the LSAT every year, but only about 70,000 people actually apply to law school. In general, people take the LSAT more than once and score better subsequent times. Additionally, people who take the test and score very low often don’t apply. This combination of facts means that when we look at LSAT score percentiles for applicants they are significantly higher than the LSAT score percentiles for test takers.  

Why does the distinction between test taker LSAT percentiles and applicant LSAT percentiles matter?

When you are a law school applicant the distinction between test taker LSAT percentiles and applicant LSAT percentiles is important. A US applicant who scored a 153 on the LSAT in 2022 would be in the ~50th percentile of LSAT takers over the past three years. However, that same applicant would need a top LSAT score of ~156 to be in the 50th percentile of US applicants. 

 

The effect is even worse at higher LSAT scores. A US applicant who scored a 172 on the LSAT in 2022 would be in the ~99th percentile of LSAT takers over the past three years. However, that same applicant would need an LSAT score of ~177 to be in the 99th percentile of applicants. Five points in this score range is a huge difference, and really shows the importance of constant preparation and improvement if you are applying to a top-tier law school.

What do applicant LSAT percentiles look like?

To see a full list, scroll down to the bottom of this article.

Below we can see a truncated table of the top 50%. 

Highest LSAT Score

Percentile

156

52.55%

157

56.42%

158

60.42%

159

64.15%

160

67.84%

161

71.36%

162

74.53%

163

77.65%

164

80.61%

165

83.17%

166

85.71%

167

87.95%

168

89.98%

169

91.77%

170

93.45%

171

94.96%

172

96.17%

173

97.17%

174

97.91%

175

98.55%

176

98.98%

177

99.37%

178

99.63%

179

99.81%

180

100.00%

Table combines US and Canadian applicants who applied for the 2021 and 2022 school years

12 interesting stats about the 2022 LSAT score percentiles and applicants:

  1. There were 5,379 US and Canadian applicants with a top score of 170 or better who applied for the 2022 school year. 
  2. There were 4693 students in the 1L class of all the T14 schools combined in 2022. 
  3. You would need to a top score across all LSAT attempts of a 177 to be in the top 1% of US and Canadian applicants
  4. An applicant needs a top score of 169 to be in the top 10% of applicants
  5. More people had a top score of 153 than any other LSAT score
  6. 71 people applied to law school for the 2022 year with a top LSAT score of 120 
  7. 124 people applied to law school for the 2022 year with a top LSAT score of 180 
  8. The average US applicant for the 2022 year had a score of 155.6
  9. The average Canadian applicant for the 2022 year had a score of 156.7
  10. 6.83% of US applicants for the 2022 year had a top score 170
  11. 3.45% of Canadian applicants for the 2022 year had a top score 170
  12. 7,350 Canadian applicants applied to ABA schools for the 2022 year 

 

The biggest three takeaways from applicant LSAT Percentiles

There is a lot of information wrapped up in these numbers, and it can be overwhelming. Overall, you have no control over anything except for how hard you prepare for the LSAT and your own performance, so please don’t let these numbers discourage you if they feel discouraging. On to the takeaways:

  1. Students are focusing more and more on the LSAT when applying to a US Law School over the past few years. This makes sense as the outcome after graduating from a top-tier law school is substantially different than after graduating from a bottom-tier law school 
  2. Very few applicants get above a 177 on their first try at the LSAT, but many students work up to it after their first try. We know this is true because a higher percentage of students apply to law school with a 177 than score a 177.  
  3. There are more applicants with a top score of 170 or better than there are spots at T14 law schools. This means two things: First, students with great LSAT scores don’t only go to T14 schools (T14 is not the only thing that matters). Second, the LSAT is not the only thing that matters (if you don’t do amazing on the LSAT you can still get into a T14 school).

What else should I know about LSAT scores as an applicant?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things. But I can outline a few things that people often overlook. 

Law schools report percentiles not averages to the USNews

Many of you probably know this, but might not be thinking about what it really means. Let’s assume a school has an accepted student profile that equates to an entering class 25th percentile LSAT score of 170. In front of the admissions committee are two candidates, one with a top LSAT score of 120 and one with a top LSAT score of 169. It is easy to think that there is absolutely no way that the school would accept the student with a 120 because it would lower the school’s LSAT profile. However, this isn’t true at all. Neither of these students would have any effect on the school’s LSAT profile. 

So what does this mean?

As we often say it is impossible to know exactly how Admissions Committees think, and It most likely does not mean that a student with a 120 will get into a T14. BUT it does mean that the decision not to admit the student with a 120 has nothing to do with building their reportable class profile or US News rankings. So, while acknowledging that applying to schools is expensive, and takes time. There is always a chance that you will get into a school even if your LSAT score is low. 

The LSAT is not curved, instead it is scaled by the LSAC

In order to keep a consistent distribution of scores across years, the LSAC controls how hard the test is. They have been doing this for many years and they are very good at it. While I have no connections at LSAC, it stands to reason that as more and more people apply to school with a top score, that the LSAT will get harder over time. If the current trend of students preparing more and more continues, and more and more students apply with a 180, then there is less value to schools in the test as there is less differentiation between applicants. 

Making the test harder (or adding questions, or shortening the time, or whatever) is the only way that the LSAC can push the score distribution back down so that 1% of all applicants don’t have a 177 to 180. 

GPA matters a lot to law schools too

If you have a GPA above a law school’s 75th percentile then your LSAT score will matter less. If you have an LSAT score above a school’s 75th percentile then your GPA will matter less. However, the exact extent of both of these ideas is only known by admissions committee members who review your file. 

What should I do with all of this information about LSAT scores?

Our website is called Law School Data, so I think it is important to share interesting data about law school. But there isn’t anything that you can do with any of this information except work as hard as possible to prepare for the LSAT. Find someone to keep you accountable and study. If you have the financial means, then consider using a prep service like PowerScore

One thing to keep in mind is that most law schools use rolling admissions so it is important to apply early. One thing that people often forget is that you can take the LSAT again after you apply. Emotionally it is challenging, but if you are happy with your score but not very very happy with your score and want to apply early with the score you have, then you can take the LSAT after you apply. 

Related Articles

  1. What is the LSAT?
  2. The Best LSAT Prep Books
  3. A Guide to the LSAC Fee Waiver

Data

Windsor MIT '22, Harvard College Advisor

I am the half of LSD that didn't take the LSAT, or go to law school (Sorry about that). But I did go to MIT business school while surrounded by law students and lawyers, so I am somewhat qualified to talk about the intricacies of law school apps and finances.

Windsor (the dog) didn't write this but he WAS a Resident Tutor and career advisor at Harvard College with me, so deserves some credit.

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robotarmsapartments
21:19
Enjoy the weekend
8888887777776t6t
21:19
Haha. I'll try. You too.
That is miserable, I am sorry for that outcome
8888887777776t6t
21:23
At this point, what I want is an OSU A with a full ride. Judging from lsd data, that seems realistic. If that happens, it'll come down, most likely, to OSU and a small handful of (slightly) better schools that haven't given me a full ride.
honestly, i think they overlooked a lot of 1/22 II's @8888887777776t6t
only 1 1/22 has heard back, and i haven't, neither has my roommate who has the exact sam stats + when to cornell UG
8888887777776t6t
21:23
Oh, I see you're a 1/22. Phew! Gives me hope. :)
8888887777776t6t
21:23
I hope you're right.
their app closes today, so they need to fill out a class w/ their current pool.
8888887777776t6t
21:27
I don't really understand how they could overlook IIs though. Like, do you mean they made a mistake in overlooking them or that they deliberately set them temporarily aside for some reason?
the latter
additionally, idt they go by sent date, most of the A's seem to be mixed dates
Done with my hail mary cornell app
No more living in regret abt skipping them the one year they decide to like splitters
8888887777776t6t
21:31
Bro, it's not a hail mary. You have a 180.
8888887777776t6t
21:33
@sufferchildrensmiths: Also, you're making me more hopeful (though I still want to keep my expectations low at this point). For we do have a fair amount in common besides the 1/22 II date. We both submitted on the same date, we have the same GPA, and we both have a grad degree.
8888887777776t6t
21:37
I'm at 15/15, so I'm going to stop talking now. :)
Good luck, I am glad hope has returned
0:16
sup everybody
hello lsd.law user hotwhale
good to meet you
DLH
1:12
Silly question: Is the standard procedure for withdrawing an acceptance/waitlist to simply email the admissions department/primary contact?
@FranticSpiffySwallow: You'll get into a top school
some reverse-splitter will counteract your GPA
if your school does not do out of 4.3, then you have nothing to worry about. :)
Pongleton
11:56
For a scholarship that has an additional essay do yall think the scholarship committee reads your full app to that school plus the extra essay or just the extra essay? Trying to figure out if things would be too repetitive
[] ararara
12:19
@DLH: yes!
Ijustwannagetinman
12:28
What schools do we expect to have a Monday wave
CLS
cornell mayeb
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