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.
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.
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
Table combines US and Canadian applicants who applied for the 2021 and 2022 school years
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:
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things. But I can outline a few things that people often overlook.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.