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How the LSAT Works

The LSAT and Law School Admissions

There's really no way to get into law school without taking the LSAT. All ABA-certified schools require LSAT scores from applicants. Even international countries beyond the United States, Canada and Australia have similar testing requirements for admission to most graduate and legal programs.

The LSAT plays an important role in helping law schools decide which candidates will be a good fit. Studies suggest that LSAT scores are more indicative of a person's chance of success in law school than GPA or other academic data [source: LSAC]. The LSAT also helps level the playing field, so to speak, in terms of grades. A student with a 4.0 GPA at a college with less rigorous curriculum may not be as qualified for law school as a student with a 3.0 GPA at an Ivy League school, for example. The LSAT helps to standardize the entrance process, making the admissions process fair for all candidates.

When it comes to weighing LSAT scores, however, law school policies can vary dramatically. Some schools look at the highest score only, ignoring the average. Others focus only on the average score, ignoring dramatic highs or lows. Most scores look at some combination of LSAT scores and GPA when evaluating applicants. Many use a weighted average, with LSAT scores counting for as much as five times the weight of the GPA [source: LSAC].

In addition to these scores, law schools will usually look at the candidate's essay from the LSAT exam. Most colleges realize that this essay was completed at the end of a grueling exam, and because of this, the essay generally holds much less weight than other writing samples submitted with the application.

While the median score of 151 is good enough for the average school, it's not enough to get you into a top law school. Just like the top 10 in college sports teams, the top 15 law schools represent the cream of the crop. Graduates from these schools often obtain jobs at the country's best law firms, and are able to benefit from powerful networks within the legal community. Harvard Law is considered among the best of these schools. A person with a score of 169 represents only the 25th percentile of Harvard Law's accepted applicants, while an applicant with a score of 175 represents the 75th percentile [source: Harvard Law School]. A similar range of scores can be found among applicants at other top schools, such as Columbia or Yale [source: Yale Law School].