Breaking Down Your LSAT Score
LSAC gives you your LSAT score percentile, this will give you a better idea of how you did in comparison to other students who took the test. Log into LSAC. Click on the LSAT tab then the LSAT Status link. The IRR Additional Information has percentiles from past 3 years and the Conversion Table has a number of questions right for your score.
Before receiving your score you probably had a pretty good idea of what schools you wanted to apply to based on your GPA and what you were scoring on practice tests. Now that you have an ACTUAL LSAT score, you can better assess at which schools you are competitive. You should still consider applying to schools that would be considered a “reach” and of course schools that would be a “safety.” Look up law school rankings (http://www.top-law-schools.com/rankings.html) and on each law school admission page; they will provide you with a nice breakdown of LSAT and GPA ranges for each school. Make sure you know your LSAC GPA since it may be different from your GPA listed on your transcript. Now you can assess what schools you should apply to:
• “Safety” schools: BOTH your numbers are above the school’s 75th percentile. This is a good way to get scholarship opportunities.
• Competitive Schools: BOTH your numbers are within the school’s 25th and 75th percentiles. **Not a guarantee of outright admission**
• Schools where you are on the fence: one of your numbers is within the school’s 25th and 75th percentiles (or above) and the other number is below the 25th percentile. Look at the ranges of each number, a tighter range means they put more weight on that number. Hopefully the better of your two numbers is the one they weigh more and if not, you become less competitive. This does not mean that you are not competitive but you may need to compensate with other factors such as resume, personal statement, etc. If there is a reason that one of your numbers is significantly lower than the other consider writing an addenda (see below).
• Reach schools: BOTH your numbers are below the school’s 25th percentile.
When to Retake
In reality, most people see very little improvement in their score after retaking. Remember that many schools will also average your two scores so really think about how much you would be likely to improve. Also keep in mind that most people score a few points worse (or on the lower end of the range they had been scoring) on the day of the actual test than in practice tests. Make an honest assessment of your efforts the first time around and determine you should retake based on the following considerations:
• Did you study hard the first time? Did you underestimate the test and prep for it like the SAT? Or did you really dedicate yourself to studying? If you underestimated the test, consider retaking.
• Did you have a “bad day” on exam day? Recognize that a complete disasters is much more severe than a mild disaster. A complete disaster is something like showing up late to the test, being deathly ill, dealing with a motorcycle gang outside the test center. Hopefully you cancelled your score, but consider retaking if you didn’t. A mild disaster, on the other hand, is where maybe you were just distracted or normal test anxiety. Mild disasters might just repeat themselves the next time you take the test and then it is probably not worth retaking.
• Did you prepare enough? Did you prepare LONG enough? And were you smart about how you prepared? The LSAT is one of the harder, if not hardest standardized tests. Preparation may take some people longer than 3-4 months to get their best score. If you didn’t devote the requisite time to it, consider retaking it.
• Admissions Policies of Target Law School(s). Do they average or take the higher score? If they average, any improvement you see will effectively be cut in half, so think seriously about whether retaking is worth it.
When to Write an Addendum
This is not a time to make excuses just give the facts! Consider writing an addendum to your application with respect to your LSAT score if:
• You only have 1 score and something terrible happens on test day. If you are just a bad standardized test taker, be careful. But if you are normally a good test taker and can provide evidence of this (i.e. old tests), consider writing an addendum about the disaster.
• You retake and there is more than a 3 point difference between the scores.