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What’s a Good LSAT Score?

What is a good LSAT score? This is a common question, and it can be answered in many ways. If you haven’t already read What is the Average LSAT Score? and LSAT Scores for the Top 100 Law Schools, those posts provide an overview of how the exam is scored and how to compare your score to other test-takers.

But for those of you who already know the basics, here’s what I’d say about good LSAT scores: they are relative. A score is only as good as the recipient thinks it is. So let’s take this opportunity to talk about a few different LSAT scores, and the contexts in which each score might or might not be viewed as “good.”

A brief reminder regarding what is a good LSAT score

The LSAT is scored on a scale from 120 to 180. If you receive a 150, you are scoring higher than about 50% of test-takers. If you receive a 160, you are scoring higher than about 80% of test-takers. If you receive a 170, you’re scoring higher than over 95% of test-takers. The diagram below is from our post on Understanding Your LSAT Score, which also contains loads of examples of schools at a variety of LSAT ranges.
 
Average LSAT Score - Bell Curve -magoosh

Now let’s break it down a little more, and talk about some specific scores:
 
Is 150 a good LSAT Score?

When is a 150 “good”?

According to StartClass.com (which is an incredibly helpful place to start your law school research), there are over 50 law schools in the United States with median LSAT scores of 150 or lower. In other words, a score of 150 on the LSAT is good enough to get into law school, despite what anyone says to the contrary.

So does that mean 150 is a good LSAT score? It does if your only goal is to get into any law school, and for many people, that’s exactly their goal. In this sense, you can think of a 150 as a good score for the passionate applicant. These are people who feel driven to practice law because they understand the job, love what it entails, and are prepared to work hard regardless of compensation or recognition. If that describes you, and if you’re struggling to score above a 150, relax a little. You might not be accepted at your first choice institution, but if you do your research, round out your application, and apply to schools within reach, you should receive some good news.

When is a 150 not “good”?

If you’re applying to law school primarily because you are searching for financial and professional stability, a 150 is probably not a promising score. A score of 150 most likely means that you’ll be attending a lower tier school, and thus will have more limited access to lucrative positions at big firms.

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I hate to be this blunt, but the reality is that the legal job market is highly competitive and law school is very expensive. When you read about law students graduating and making $160,000 their first year out, that is referring to a small portion of the population, concentrated heavily within the top 10 or 20 law schools in the nation. Salaries fall precipitously for those who are not working for big firms, and many law school graduates find themselves making $50,000 or less after school. If you’re not passionate about being a lawyer, you can make that kind of money in almost any industry. You just need a few years of experience, which isn’t so bad compared to three years of law school and $150,000 in student loans.

With this is mind, having an LSAT score in the 150s might mean you should consider retaking the LSAT.
 
Is 160 a good lsat score?

When is a 160 “good”?

Most people consider anything above a 160 to be a good LSAT score on your LSAT test date. In this context, “good” really only means a score that sounds respectable and that most law schools will look upon favorably. Compare this to scoring above 1800 on the SAT (or above 1200, depending on when you took the SAT) or above 25 on the ACT.

Of the 205 ABA-approved law schools in the United States, only about 40 of them have median LSAT scores above 160. That means that a score of 160 would put you above the median at 80% of the law schools in the country.

Is a 160 high enough to get you admitted to Harvard Law School? Certainly not on its own. But will a 160 prevent you from being admitted to Harvard? Quite likely, but not necessarily. An outstanding GPA, impressive work experience, exceptional letters of recommendation, a personal statement that explains why your scores don’t accurately reflect your ability, and any kind of achievement that makes you stand out from the crowd may be enough to overcome the LSAT score deficit, although you’d be one of a very few to do so.

In short, to the vast majority of test-takers and law schools in the US, a 160 is without doubt a good LSAT score. But…

When is a 160 not “good”?

…to those of you who are aiming for top 20 schools, you’ll need to set your sights a bit higher than 160. All of the top 20 law schools in the US have median LSAT scores of 165 or higher. As a reminder, that’s the median score, so your chances aren’t ruined if you don’t hit that mark. However, you’ll have a competitive edge if you can get your score up above the school’s median.

Furthermore, a 160 might not be desirable for students seeking scholarships. Generally, scholarships are going to be offered to the most competitive candidates who meet all the qualifications. That means the money typically goes to applicants who exceed the school’s median and mean statistics. Therefore, even if you’re applying to a school where a 160 is a competitive score, it might not be enough to win you a lucrative scholarship package.

For something like that, you’ll need to set your sights on the big prize:
 
scores above 170 are very good lsat scores

When is a 170 “good”?

Pretty much always. A 170 or higher means you’re scoring in the top 2-3% of test-takers, and almost no one is going to complain about that. Admissions officers certainly won’t. There are only 4 law schools in the US (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia) that currently claim to have median LSAT scores above 170, and the latter two of those are only at 171. In other words, nearly half of the students at the very best legal institutions in the country are still scoring at or below 170.

So will a 170 guarantee you a spot at Yale? Nope. Will a 175? Probably not. Will a 180? Unlikely. LSAT scores are an important part of your application, but they are still only one part. A weak GPA, lack of work experience, or unimpressive letters of recommendation can derail any application, even if it’s accompanied by perfect LSAT scores.

Think of it this way: over 100,000 people take the LSAT each year. The top 2-3% equals about 3,000 students. The top 10 law schools, collectively, have fewer than 3,000 seats available. Therefore, there isn’t even space for all the people who score above 170 to attend a top ten school.

Now to be fair, if you score a 170 or higher, you’re probably going to be accepted to a great school regardless of the rest of your application. The politics of law school rankings aside, this is because a score like that is evidence of your potential to excel. By achieving such a score, you have demonstrated that you are able to read and reason at an exceptionally high level, and that will appeal to many schools that are willing to overlook other weaknesses in the hopes that they are finding a diamond in the rough.

So when is a 170 not “good”?

If you’ve ever visited an online law school forum, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that some people are not impressed with a 170. Granted, law school forum-users tend to be an exceptionally intense subset of an already selective group of the population (people taking the LSAT), but they do have some valid reasons for fretting over the difference between a 170 and a 175.

Remember, there aren’t enough seats in the top 10 law schools for all the folks who score over a 170. If you’re one of those people, you want to do everything in your power to make sure you’re not one of the applicants who gets bumped. So, you try to edge out the competition with an extra point of two.

By the time you’re studying for the LSAT, chances are it’s too late to change your GPA or get a new job that meaningfully boosts your resume. However, it’s reasonable to try and improve your LSAT score, no matter how high it is. So, someone who starts out at 170, spends 6 months studying, and ends up at 171 may not feel the sense of satisfaction felt by someone who climbs from a 163 to a 170.

In other words, scores are relative. A good LSAT score is either a high enough score to be competitive at the schools where you’re applying, or it’s a score that illustrates the effort you’ve put into improving on the LSAT. Ultimately, each test-taker has to choose which of these metrics to apply to him or herself.

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