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by Vault Law Editors | March 10, 2009


2008 ABA Update: Are Law Schools Still Averaging LSAT Scores?

You know from our previous article The Latest from the Council of the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Legal Education and Admission that in June of 2006, the ABA changed the way it required schools to report LSAT scores. Instead of reporting the average of multiple scores, schools were required to report the highest score only. Some test takers thought this was amazing news. After all, (the thinking went), this would put an end to worrying about taking the LSAT more than once. Instead of averaging scores of 150 and 170 to a 160, schools would just take the 170, no questions asked. Like the perfect one night stand, the LSAT could be taken multiple times without repercussions. Celebratory parties were thrown; party platters were purchased; trips to Ibiza were finalized.

Except that, for the 2006/2007 admissions cycle, law schools were slow to respond to the new policy. Out of the schools we originally surveyed, many hadn't changed their policy of taking the average LSAT score, and some weren't aware that the policy had changed at all. Ibiza was downgraded to Dublin.

Which is why we're revisiting the issue at the close of the 2007/2008 admissions cycle. Because the LSAT is such an important component of applying to law school, it's crucial for prospective law students to understand whether or not their scores will be averaged.

To get an idea of how law schools are handling LSAT scores now, the staff at Blueprint conducted a survey of over forty law schools. What we learned is that the answer to the question of averaging is, like the party scene in Dublin, rather ambiguous.

Of the forty schools contacted, twenty were the highest-ranked in the country, ten were mid-range schools, and ten were lower-range schools. Of our nation's twenty finest law schools, only about a third of them (including Yale and the University of Chicago) stated unequivocally that they solely considered an applicant's highest score. The remainder of these institutions either continued to average an individual's LSAT scores, or, if one score was significantly higher than the others, to give the highest one more weight with an essay explaining significant differences between scores. Which is pretty much what law schools have done all along, anyway. So unless you're a shoe-in for Yale or the University of Chicago, it remains in your best interest to achieve your highest possible LSAT in the fewest possible number of efforts if you'd like to go to a top-tier institution.

Looking at ten schools that are what we call "second tier," however, this policy shifts slightly toward a stronger emphasis on your highest score than on your average score. A number of these second-tier schools considered the highest score while keeping an eye on how many times an applicant took the LSAT and on the gap between scores. Usually, the greater the gap between multiple scores, the less likely the institution was to average scores-but often still advised that an essay be submitted to explain the difference.

This trend toward an emphasis upon higher scores increases as one moves down the law-school food chain. Third-tier schools are much more likely than first and second tier schools to consider exclusively the highest score of each applicant. This policy makes sense. After all, law school rankings take into account the LSAT scores of law school students. By submitting highest scores only, these law schools can help bolster their rankings with US News & World Report (the holy grail of law school ranking systems). As with other schools, however, not all of them turned a blind eye to averages and, often, an explanatory essay was still recommended for widely disparate scores.

In the end, the following trend emerged: the higher ranked the law school, the more likely they were to average LSAT scores. However, it is important to keep in mind that all of your LSAT scores will be reported on your LSDAS report. That means that any school to which you apply will see all of your LSAT scores. So, whether or not a law school accepts your highest LSAT score only, they will still be able to see all of your LSAT scores from previous administrations. For the ramifications of this fact, ask yourself this: if you were an admissions officer and were comparing two candidates-one with a 3.0 GPA and a 150 LSAT and another with a 3.0 GPA and LSAT scores of a 140 and a 150-which would you accept?

Given that a large number of schools continue to consider averages, and that a large gap in scores still calls attention to itself and often requires an explanation, you should still try to do your best on the LSAT in as few attempts as possible. We advise that you contact admissions offices at your prospective schools and ask them their policy before signing up for an eleventh LSAT session. In the meantime, save some money for that trip to Ibiza. You may need it.

Article by Blueprint application consultant Leilani Riehle and Blueprint founders Jodi Triplett and Trent Teti.


Filed Under: Law