The LSAT, as you may know, is not a pass/fail exam. Rather, it’s based on a scale of 120 to 180. If you get a 120, you won’t be going to law school, and, if you get a 180, you pretty much have your pick of schools to go to. Not surprisingly, most people don’t get within 10 points of either extreme. Very often I get the question from a student, “What LSAT score do I need?” Well, that depends on a few things. So, let me ask you a few questions, and maybe we can figure it out together.
1. What school do you have your heart set on?
You should set a safety school, target school, and reach school. Those are, respectively, a school you’d go to if you didn’t get in anywhere else, a better school that you think you’ll have a better than 50% chance of getting into, and a dream school.
We have a nifty little widget in our free resources area called the Law School Compass. You can play around with it and see how you need to do for different schools. I did a little experiment. Since I’m in Los Angeles, I chose Southwestern for a safety school, Loyola Marymount for a target, and UCLA for a reach. I gave myself a 3.5 and a 160 LSAT — both solid but not breathtaking numbers — and here’s what I came up with. My chances at Southwestern were 99%, at Loyola 56%, and at UCLA 1%.
You can also just Google “[school] median LSAT and GPA,” and you’ll get the numbers. The median is the score right in the middle of all the scores. Usually these are reported as those who matriculated, which is different than those who were accepted but might have gone elsewhere. Make sure you know which numbers you’re looking at.
2. How much do you need/want scholarship money?
The more desirable you are to a law school, the more likely they are to shave a few grand off your tuition every year. In the example above, I’d likely get some help at Southwestern, I might get some at Loyola, although not much, and at UCLA it’s loans as far as the eye can see. The upshot is that you’ll need to score a few points higher or reset your target school if you want help with tuition.
3. What does the rest of your application package look like?
Did you establish an orphanage in a third world country and act as president of seven different campus organizations while an undergrad? If so, this might make up a little bit for an LSAT score that wasn’t quite where you wanted it to be. Or did you get arrested for being drunk in public numerous times? If so, you need to bump that LSAT up just a little.
Hope that helps! Questions? Leave a comment below.