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What are the LSAT Score Percentiles?

What are the LSAT score percentiles? - Image by Magoosh

If you thought you only had to worry about where your scaled LSAT score falls on the range, think again. LSAT score percentiles help you (and law school admissions committees) compare your score with everyone else who has taken the LSAT in recent years.

Table of Contents

In this post, we’re going to go over:

  1. LSAT Score Conversion Chart
  2. How to Calculate Your LSAT Score Percentile
  3. How Do I Compare to Other LSAT Test-Takers?
  4. LSAT Score Percentiles for Law Schools
  5. Remember: Scores are Part of the Picture
  6. Why is the LSAT Score Percentile Important?

Let’s take a quick look at recent scaled score conversions, and then we’ll dive into how to calculate your LSAT score percentile.

LSAT Score Conversion Chart (2016-2020)

Each possible LSAT score falls into a percentile rank, which shows the percentage of LSAT takers who performed below that score. This means that when you see your final LSAT score on your score report, two numbers appear:

  • The first is your scaled LSAT score, which is the number out of 180 that we’re all familiar with.
  • The second is your LSAT score percentile, which shows how you performed compared to other students who have taken the test before you.

Both scaled scores and LSAT percentile ranks change from one test to another, but for a general reference point, you can refer to the snapshot below of the official LSAT score percentile table for 2016-2019. In 2020, most of the exams administered were the LSAT-Flex—if you’re planning to take the at-home exam, see the latest scores at LSAT-Flex Score Conversions.

Find your scaled score in the left column and see your percentile in the right column:

LSAT Scaled ScoreLSAT Percentile
18099.9
17999.9
17899.9
17799.8
17699.7
17599.6
17499.3
17399.0
17298.6
17198.1
17097.4
16996.6
16895.5
16794.3
16692.9
16591.4
16489.4
16387.1
16284.9
16182.4
16079.4
15976.5
15873.6
15770.0
15666.4
15562.8
15459.0
15355.1
15251.1
15147.6
15043.9
14940.1
14836.3
14732.6
14629.7
14526.0
14423.0
14320.5
14217.7
14115.5
14013.3
13911.3
1389.6
1378.1
1366.8
1355.5
1344.7
1333.9
1323.2
1312.6
1302.0
1291.7
1281.3
1271.1
1260.9
1250.7
1240.6
1230.5
1220.4
1210.3
1200

Note: Expand the percentile chart or use the arrow keys at the bottom of the chart to view the rest of the LSAT percentiles

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How to Calculate Your LSAT Score Percentile

When you take the LSAT exam, you will get some questions right and others wrong (unless you get them all right or all wrong…but let’s ignore these dream and nightmare scenarios for the time being). The sum of the number of questions that you answer correctly is your raw score.

What is the LSAT score range?

The raw score, by itself, means absolutely nothing. Law schools don’t even get to look at it. LSAC takes that raw score and turns it into a scaled score. Your scaled LSAT score is where all the money is, and this is the score range you need to pay attention to.

The LSAT score range is 120 to 180, and the higher your score the better. It’s also the score all law schools look at when determining whether or not to accept you.

How is the scaled score calculated?

Put simply, LSAC takes your LSAT score and plugs it into an extremely complicated algorithm. The algorithm takes into account the difficulty of the test compared to previous tests and the total number of questions. This process, for all of you stat nerds out there, is called equating.

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For example, if you took the exam in February 2018, your score compares you to all the other February 2018 LSAT takers. Furthermore, the LSAC averages all of those performances against a group of past test-takers’ performances to make sure that scores over time mean the same thing and account for the slight variations in difficulty and content from one test to another.

At the end of the day, the LSAC wants to get a good look at a test taker’s proficiency in the skills the council thinks are important. Rather than trying to calculate this by hand, a much easier method is to simply use a score conversion table to translate your raw score into a scaled score.

From Scaled Score to Score Percentile

Where you land on the scaled LSAT score range reflects your performance specifically on the test that you sat for, but your percentile rank shows how you performed based on the distribution of LSAT scores in the three years prior to the year you took the test.

Why does the LSAC calculate LSAT score percentiles from previous years? This calculation helps better gauge percentiles with greater accuracy. Given the fluctuations that occur in any one test or any one year, it is more reliable for LSAC to look at a span of time. As a result, you don’t need to worry about dueling the fellow test-takers sitting to your left and right for your percentile—your LSAT score percentile puts you in competition with students who have already taken the test.

 

How Do I Compare to Other LSAT Test-Takers?

For a quick summary of how to interpret your LSAT score, the diagram below shows a normal distribution of LSAT scores, with a few score benchmarks illustrated.

LSAT score percentile

 
 
The higher the curve at any given point, the more test-takers are receiving that score. As you can see, lots of people are scoring in the 140-160 LSAT score range, but not as many are scoring above 170 or below 130.

This is a simplified version of the distribution: the real thing probably isn’t a perfectly symmetrical bell curve. Also, it might skew slightly to the right or the left, but this is still an effective way to visualize your score.

A score of 150 puts you right in the middle of the pack, whereas a 160 puts you ahead of about 80% of test-takers. As you slide any of those green lines to the right, notice how much of the area under the curve is to the left of the line. That’s the percentage of test-takers scoring lower than the score indicated by the line.

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LSAT Score Percentiles for Law Schools

Each law school’s LSAT score percentile numbers tell you how your score compares to the scores of recently enrolled students. There are three percentile numbers that you’ll want to look at when researching law schools: the 25th percentile, the 50th percentile, and the 75th percentile.

LSAT score percentiles

25th Percentile LSAT Score

What if my score is in the 25th percentile?

If your score falls into a school’s 25th percentile range, that means your LSAT score was better than that of 25% of recently admitted students. Put differently, it means that 75% of recently admitted students scored higher on the LSAT than you did.

If your LSAT score falls into a law school’s bottom 25th percentile, then this is not a good LSAT score for this program. Now, if the rest of your application is beyond stellar—to the point that you’d basically get in no matter what—then you’re fine. But, if that’s the case, then you’re probably not reading this post right now.

Should you give up on your dream of attending this law school? No! There’s nothing wrong with applying to a reach school or two (in fact, we encourage it). Remember that a full 25% of recently admitted students scored as well or worse than you. You always have a chance.

Moral of the story: This is a reach school.

The 50th Percentile: Average LSAT Score

What if my score is in the 50th percentile?

I know that you’ve probably taken statistics classes and are wondering why I keep repeating how a bell curve works. But, here it is again. If your score is within a school’s 50th LSAT percentile, then you scored higher than 50% of recently enrolled students. You also scored lower than 50% of recently enrolled students. Your score is average for this school.

If you score within a school’s 50th percentile, then your LSAT score is pretty good. There’s a realistic chance that you’ll be accepted into this program. At the very least, you will have passed a minimum threshold that leads to your application going into a “maybe” pile for further consideration.

This also means that the other aspects of your application—the “soft factors” like your recommendation letters, personal statement, and work experience—are now very important. If this is the case, and you don’t plan to take the LSAT again, spend your time and energy making your application the absolute best it can be.

Moral of the story: This is a target school. You should feel comfortable applying to several schools in this category.

The 75th LSAT Score Percentile

What if my score is in the 75th percentile?

If your LSAT score is in the 75th percentile for a given law school, then it’s a good LSAT score—no question about it. A 75th percentile score means that you performed as well or better than 75% of the school’s newly admitted class, and your chances of admission are very high.

In fact, if your score falls within the 75th LSAT percentile of your dream school, then you should consider applying to some higher ranked schools. There’s nothing wrong with having a reach school or two.

I should add that the rest of your application does still matter, even when your LSAT score is extremely competitive. A low GPA or weak application can still derail your admissions chances. But if you produce a strong application, then you should be in good shape!

Moral of the story: This is a safety school. (Probably. If we’re talking a top ten school, then this is still a target school. There are no guarantees in the world of top tier law school admissions.)

 
So how do you know if you have a good LSAT score for your target school? I highly recommend taking a look at LSAT Scores for the Top 100 Law Schools. This guide features great interactive search tools to help you find U.S. law schools in your score percentile range, plus data on average salaries by law school and LSAT score!

lsat score percentiles for top law schools

Let’s take a look at a few sample scores and see what they could mean for your future law school applications!

145

Here is a sample of the dozen or so ABA-approved law schools where a 145 would be at or above the 50th percentile:

155

Here are some of the ABA-approved law schools where a 155 would be at or above the 50th percentile:

165

Here’s a sample of the ABA-approved law schools where a 165 would be at or above the 50th percentile:

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Remember: Scores are Part of the Picture

While LSAT scores may be an important factor in law school admissions decisions, they are only one factor among many. Undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, your personal statement, and your work experience are seen as equally crucial components of your law school application by many law schools. Additionally, demonstrating that you have overcome adversity or that you have made exceptional achievements in public service or extracurriculars can tilt the balance in your favor.

Even the above lists only account for the 50th percentile of LSAT scores at a handful of law schools. A full 50% of students at each of the listed schools have LSAT scores below the stated threshold.

In other words, remember that your LSAT score opens doors; it does not close them. As you conduct your search for law schools that best fit your needs, look for as many open doors as you can find. That means looking at schools with median scores at or below your own, schools where your score falls within or above the middle 50%, and schools where your score falls a little short of the middle 50%.

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Why is the LSAT Score Percentile Important?

The LSAT score percentile’s true significance comes from its assessment of how you stand relative to other test takers, and relative to other law school applicants. After all, the percentile rank reflects the true difficulty of the LSAT.

In general, the ten-point range from 170-180 is separated by less than three percentile points—because very few students score in that range. However, the ten-point range from 140-150 is generally separated by a whopping 30 percentile points&mdashsimply because there are so many more test-takers who fall into that range!

Therefore, by calculating LSAT score percentiles, the LSAC is able to better show law schools how students stack up. A 160 score is relatively impressive since the performance is better than the overwhelming majority of other test takers’ performance. This fact does not go unnoticed by law school admissions officers!

 
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