Is the LSAT really that hard? Learn why the LSAT is so challenging and what strategies you can use to earn a top score
Part 1: Introduction
If you want to become a lawyer, you’ve probably heard horror stories about people studying for and taking the LSAT. Historically, the LSAT has represented one of the biggest obstacles in the paths of those hoping to pursue a legal education at the law school of their dreams. And while the American Bar Association has proposed moving away from the LSAT, most law schools still require applicants to take the exam to gain admission.
With the knowledge that there might not be a way around taking the LSAT if you want to go to law school, you may be asking yourself questions like:
Is the LSAT really that hard?
How difficult is it to get a good LSAT score?
How much do I need to study for the LSAT if I want to go to a top law school?(Video) The Best Extracurricular Activities for Medical School
To be perfectly honest, the LSAT is likely to be one of the hardest exams that you’ll ever take. The proof of this can be found in the numbers.
How is the LSAT scored?
(Note: In this section, we’ll go over the LSAT in its standard format. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, LSAC was previously offering a shortened, online version of the exam. We’ll discuss this further in the red box below.)
A typical LSAT exam is made up of five sections and includes 100 scored questions. Because of the exam’s difficulty, the raw score (i.e., the number of questions you get right out of the 100 scored questions) is converted into a scaled score using an exam-specific conversion chart.
The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120–180. In the last couple of years, only 0.1 percent of test takers have scored a 180 on the exam. For reference, a 180 usually equates to getting at least 98 of the 100 scored questions correct. This extremely low percentage of perfect scores highlights the difficulty of the LSAT.
Though getting a 180 is highly unlikely, you’re probably wondering what LSAT score you need to gain admission to the nation’s most elite law schools—and how hard it is to earn that score.
In recent years, the score seen by many as a key component of getting into T-14 law schools (i.e., schools ranked in the top 14 by U.S. News & World Report) has been the highly coveted 170.In 2018–2019, only 2.4 percent of test takers scored a 170 or better, and in 2019–2020, only 2.9 percent of test takers bested that mark.
For perspective, a 170 usually requires getting about 87 of the scored questions right. In most settings, getting 87 out of 100 equates to a B+, which is a solid grade but also indicates that we have room for improvement. However, on the LSAT, that same grade means that we did better than more than 97 percent of the people who took the test. The fact that a B+ equates to an elite LSAT score highlights the exam’s difficulty.
Now you may be asking yourself, “What makes the LSAT so difficult?” In the next section, we will drill down on some of the exam’s key challenges.
Part 2: Why is the LSAT so challenging?
The LSAT is time-pressured exam that will challenge your logic-based and analytical thinking skills. This exam is by no means a cakewalk, but by understanding what you are up against, you can tailor your preparation to ensure you are ready for whatever it throws at you. To give you a sense of what you will face on the LSAT, we will now dive into three of the exam’s biggest challenges.
Challenge #1: The LSAT tests unfamiliar skills in unfamiliar ways.
Standardized tests like the SAT, GRE, and MCAT assess skills and subjects that most test takers have experience with. While you obviously still have to study, it can be comforting to just refresh or build on content that you have already learned in school.
The LSAT takes a different approach. Instead of testing content, the LSAT is an analytical exam that tests critical thinking skills across three subjects: logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, and reading comprehension. What makes the LSAT so challenging is that it approaches these subjects in a manner that is best described as counterintuitive.
The vast majority of test takers will not be able to lean on what they have learned in school to help them answer most LSAT questions. This confounding nature of the exam presents itself in several ways:
First, LSAT questions often include an overload of information. This makes keeping track of what is happening in the questions very difficult.
Second, LSAT questions are often subtly and confusingly worded to throw you off. This makes questions even harder to follow and diverts mental energy away from solving the problem to just staying focused on the questions’ many moving pieces.(Video) Post-Baccalaureate Premed Programs: Are They Right For You?
Lastly, each section of the LSAT has its own approach to subtlety and information overload. This means that you have to have a develop a broad skillset in order to master the entire exam.
Challenge #2: Learning skills required to master the LSAT takes a lot of time and practice.
Since the LSAT is so counterintuitive, and you likely have not spent much time up to this point in your educational career developing the skills required to master this exam, you are going to have to spend a lot of time studying and taking practice tests. It really is the only way to learn the unique set of skills required to do well on this exam.
We suggest you spend somewhere in the range between 250 and 300 hours studying before actually sitting for the exam. This is a huge commitment and can come at a high personal cost to other things you want to do with your time. Staying committed to your LSAT studies will not be fun or easy.
Challenge #3: The LSAT produces a lot of stress.
Simply put, your LSAT score is an extremely important factor in whether or not you get admitted to the law school of your dreams. While you can certainly make up for a lower LSAT score with other parts of your application, such as an excellent GPA or standout law school personal statement, reaching or exceeding a competitive score for the schools you want to attend makes a huge difference in your chances of admission and how you will feel throughout the admissions process.
While you can take the LSAT more than once, you will want to take it as few times as possible, since some schools may average all of your reported scores when reviewing your application.
The difficulty of the test combined with the knowledge of its importance to your admissions chances and the awareness of how much time and energy it took to prepare yourself for the exam could make the three and a half hours you spend taking the LSAT extremely stressful. If you cannot overcome the added obstacles the stress will produce, it will be tough for you to reach your LSAT goals.
Part 3: How to ace the LSAT
While the LSAT is certainly challenging, it is definitely possible to reach your goals. By dissecting the challenges we discussed above, you will see that each has similar threads running through them. This means that, with a targeted approach, you can address all of these challenges at the same time.
We will now lay out three steps that we believe will best help you overcome the difficulties you will face when taking the LSAT.
Step 1: Study smart.
While this may seem clichéd or obvious, the importance of following a targeted study plan cannot be overstated. While the LSAT is counterintuitive, the questions often follow specific formulas.
The best performers on the LSAT rarely brute force their way through the exam on the strength of their intellectual prowess. Instead, they have a very intricate understanding of the exam’s mechanics. They understand the underlying formulas being tested in the questions, can spot when a particular formula is being tested, and are able to apply the specific formula to the question quickly and effectively. If you can get to this point, the exam becomes less intimidating and more manageable.
Step 2: Have a plan.
As we said earlier, you should plan to study between 250 and 300 hours, and you should space out your study over at least two months. Since the LSAT is likely to be a totally new experience for most test takers, studying will be the best way for you to learn the strategies you need to succeed on test day.
When developing your plan, first take a diagnostic exam to see where you are starting from and to figure out your LSAT strengths and weaknesses. Then, build a plan that helps you maximize your overall performance so that you can achieve your desired score.
The good thing about the LSAT is that many people have unlocked its secrets, so there are a lot of resources out there, from prep courses to study books, that you can utilize to your advantage. The key is to make the study materials your own so that you become completely comfortable with what the LSAT requires of you.
Step 3: Practice a lot, and practice under exam conditions.
Having confidence in yourself is key to managing the stress of test day, and the best way to build confidence going into the LSAT is to practice. If you have already hit your target score on several practice exams, it becomes a lot easier to envision yourself hitting that score on test day.
You should practice with official materials. LSAC offers two official practice tests for free, and you can purchase 70 exams for $99. Many LSAT prep programs also offer official exams through their materials.
When taking these practice exams, you should try to mimic exam conditions as much as possible. This will give you even more confidence in your preparation and help to ensure there are no surprises on test day.
(Suggested reading: How to Get a Perfect LSAT Score: Strategies From a 180 Scorer)
The LSAT will likely be one of the most challenging exams that you ever take. While it won’t be easy, the LSAT is manageable with the proper approach.
A smart study plan combined with a deep commitment to sticking to that plan will help you reach your target score. Practicing the LSAT under exam conditions is the best way to master the techniques required to get a high score. Furthermore, you will become so accustomed to answering the exam questions that you won’t be fazed by pressure on test day. These strategies will allow you to perform at your best and move you closer to an acceptance from your dream law school.
Which LSAT is usually the hardest? ›
Over the years, we have heard a number of pervasive myths discussed as people attempt to compare one particular LSAT administration to another, perhaps the most common of which is that one test is typically easier, harder, or somehow different than the others. The truth is that every LSAT is more or less the same.How many questions can I get wrong to get a 165 on the LSAT? ›
You can get around 19-22 questions incorrect to score 165 on the LSAT. In other terms, you need to get 80 answers correct to get a 165.How many questions can I get wrong on the LSAT to get a 175? ›
Scoring a 175 means you missed 5 questions on the test, which can be the equivalent of an entire logic game. Scoring a 170 means you missed 10 or 11 questions, which is nearly half of an entire section. The point of all this is that there is room to make mistakes.How hard is a 155 on the LSAT? ›
First off, if you're in this score range, you're already officially above the mean (and above median, though we can't speak to mode – sorry stats fans). Within this score range, you're besting 64-78 percent of your peers, putting you solidly within the top half of test takers!What is the lowest LSAT for Harvard? ›
As you can see from these numbers, an LSAT score of 170 or higher and a GPA above 3.75 will give you a chance of gaining admission to Harvard Law School. If you have a GPA of 3.94 or higher and above a 175, you are pretty much a lock for admission, particularly given the class size of ~560.What is the lowest LSAT score ever? ›
The LSAT scores range from 120-180, with 120 being the lowest possible score.How many questions can I miss on the LSAT to get a 170? ›
To achieve a score of 170 requires a test taker to correctly answer 90 out of 101 questions.How many questions can you miss on the LSAT to get a 180? ›
Though 180 is the perfect LSAT score, you can often miss one or two questions and still achieve the perfect 180. Comparing the score conversion charts for LSAT exams since 2005 shows that on some tests, you can miss as many as three questions and still achieve a 180.How many questions can you miss on the LSAT and get a 170 Flex? ›
Excellent: Answering at least 67 questions correctly on the LSAT-Flex gives you a score of 170, placing you in the 97th percentile of test-takers. Good: With 54 correct answers on the LSAT-Flex, your score of 160 puts you in the 81st percentile.What month is the easiest LSAT? ›
You'll look at my LSAT PrepTest Raw Score Conversion Charts and calculations of what it takes to get an LSAT score of 160 or 170. Using that data, you'll find that the December exam consistently has the easiest "curve," and the June exam consistently has the hardest.
What score is 20 wrong on LSAT? ›
Every LSAT throughout the year is different, but on a typical LSAT, you can still get 25 wrong and end up in the 160s— or about 20 wrong and get a 164, a 90th percentile score. Even a perfect score of 180 often allows for a question or two to be missed.How bad is a 148 on the LSAT? ›
Typical LSAT score ranges include: 120-147 Low. 148-156 Mid. 157-164 High.What is the average LSAT score for first time takers? ›
Data Summary. The average LSAT score for first-time takers was 151, according to scores tracked from 2006-2013. During this period, second-time test takers had the highest LSAT average score of about 152. The average national LSAT score for full-time, first-year JD enrollees for fall 2022 was about 159.Can you get a 150 on the LSAT without studying? ›
How Much On An Average Can I Score In LSAT Without Studying? A crystal clear and precise answer to this query is 150. The LSAT ( law school admission test) exam is scored between 120-180; on average, students sitting in the exam can score 145-153 without studying based on various statistics.Can I raise my LSAT score 10 points? ›
If you've sat for the LSAT multiple times, and have not seen much change in your score, you might think it's impossible to increase it, no matter how much you study. However, this is not true! We've had students increase their scores by 5-10 points on their third or fourth attempt at the LSAT.Has anyone gotten into law school with a low LSAT? ›
You can still get into a great law school despite a low LSAT score. Receiving a low LSAT score can be incredibly disappointing but don't give up hope! Continue reading for tips and be sure to connect with one of our admissions experts for advice tailored to your situation!Is a 3.7 GPA too low for law school? ›
In general, law schools like to see a GPA of 3.5 or above. More selective schools may primarily admit students with GPAs of 3.8 or higher. LSAT scores also factor into admissions decisions. Students with lower GPAs may boost their admissions chances by performing well on the LSAT.What was Elle Woods LSAT score? ›
Conversation. The least realistic part of Legally Blonde is how Elle Woods went from scoring a 143 on her practice LSAT to a 179 on the real thing.What LSAT score did Obama get? ›
Unraveling the secret behind Obama's LSAT Score
Only two of them scored over the 63% mark; and in fact scored between 94-98%, which would be equivalent to a score of 166 – 171 in today's grading system.
In short, medical school is hands-on and requires a lot of memorization. Law school requires analytical work and critical thinking. Law school requires heavy reading and writing while medical school requires learning about problems through clinical studies and hands-on training.
What score is 75% on LSAT? ›
For example if your LSAT Scaled Score is 157 you will have a percentile rank of approximately 75% meaning that your Scaled Score of 157 is better than 75% of the LSAT Scaled Scores for the last three years.
Short answer: No. The only difference across practice tests over time is that early Logic Games are harder, so if anything, the LSAT has gotten easier. Don't worry about subtle changes based on a few data points. Focus on understanding the test, one question at a time.Can I improve my LSAT score in one month? ›
One month is the minimum for LSAT prep.
You can make great score improvements with one intense month of study, practice, and review, but most expert LSAT faculty will recommend a longer schedule if one is possible for you.
For most students, a three-month period of preparation (of approximately 20 hours per week) is a great goal. This is, of course, an estimate; most students are not all students. To find out how much LSAT prep time you're likely to need, we recommend taking a practice LSAT to get a baseline score.How many times can I fail the LSAT? ›
Three times in a single testing year (the next testing cycle begins with the August 2022 test). Five times within the current and five past testing years (the period in which LSAC reports scores to law schools).Will a 180 on the LSAT get you in anywhere? ›
No, even if you get the highest possible score, 180, your admission into the law school of your choice is still not 100 percent guaranteed. Why? As mentioned before, there's more to getting into a law school than just the LSAT.Can you see what questions you got wrong on LSAT? ›
When the test is nondisclosed, you won't get the test back when you receive your score. That means you can't see where you made mistakes. On score release day, you'll only get the following from LSAC: Your score (120 – 180)Should I retake a 158 LSAT? ›
If you get your official LSAT score back and it is significantly lower than your practice test average, you should retake. For example, if your last 3 practice test scores were a 165, 167, and 166, but on test day you scored a 158, you should definitely retake the LSAT.How rare is a 170 LSAT? ›
170 score: Scoring a 170 on the LSAT is almost always considered a good score — that means you are in the 2-3% of test-takers. Still, it won't guarantee you admission at a top law school. Other parts of your application are still a factor.How bad is a 139 LSAT score? ›
|Exceptional||165-180||Top 10% of all test takers|
Is 2 weeks enough to study for LSAT? ›
We recommend that most students look to spend 150–300 hours on LSAT prep; that's a healthy range over a two or three-month period at around 20–25 hours per week, which is a standard amount for most students. Keep in mind that those hours include any classes or private LSAT tutoring sessions you might be using.What is the average first LSAT score without studying? ›
The LSAT is scored on a 120-180 scale.
From our independent research, we've found that students who take the LSAT without studying achieve scores between 145 and 153.
This shows that the lowest acceptable LSAT score is 139. Typically, a good rule of thumb is that you want to at least break 140 to make taking on the cost of law school economically feasible. You can get into a law school with a 140 LSAT score.What is 80% correct on LSAT? ›
However, most programs view an LSAT score of 160 — which falls around the 80th percentile — with high regard.What is a 40% on the LSAT? ›
This would be the equivalent of missing about 14-15 questions on an LSAT with 4 scored sections. It's pretty forgiving in the middle—40 right answers puts your score at around 148-150. This is the equivalent of about 53 right answers on an LSAT with 4 scored sections.What is a 65% on LSAT? ›
Estimated Score Conversions.
|Raw score*||Scaled Score||Est. Percentile**|
I think I took the ACT four times, the LSAT three times. And I had to take yet another test in order to be a licensed attorney: the bar exam. Sometimes life is all about perseverance.What majors score highest on LSAT? ›
- Mathematics/Physics: 160.0.
- Economics/Philosophy/Theology: 157.4.
- International Relations: 156.5.
- Engineering: 156.2.
- Government/Service/Chemistry: 156.1.
- History: 155.9.
- Interdisciplinary Studies: 155.5.
- Foreign Languages: 155.3.
Instead of testing content, the LSAT is an analytical exam that tests critical thinking skills across three subjects: logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, and reading comprehension. What makes the LSAT so challenging is that it approaches these subjects in a manner that is best described as counterintuitive.Is the LSAT harder than the MCAT? ›
While the LSAT relies less on extensive background knowledge than the MCAT, the lengthy, complex reading material can be challenging for some test-takers. Conversely, the MCAT has a simple, straightforward structure but requires in-depth comprehension of complex medical and scientific principles.
Do law schools care about your first LSAT score? ›
Law schools do not average the scores for admission, but we always look at performance if you've taken the test more than once. Ideally, it would be best if every applicant could secure their ideal LSAT score on the first attempt, but that is often not the case. Law schools will report the highest LSAT score.Do law schools see all LSAT scores? ›
You will find that most law schools look at the higher or highest LSAT test score for applicants with multiple scores. However, applicants should keep in mind that Admissions Committee members will see all scores and may be negatively influenced by a large number of tests or a downward trend in scores.What did Kim Kardashian get on the LSAT? ›
In a clip from the show, Kim revealed to sisters Khloé and Kourtney that she failed the important test. In order to pass, Kim needed a score of 560. She scored 474.Are some people naturally good at LSAT? ›
There is no escaping it — natural ability pays off on the LSAT, a lot. I'm not sure that “LSAT smarts” equate very well to general intelligence (whatever that is), but to do truly well on the LSAT, like around 99th percentile or better, you have to have some pretty serious natural LSAT brilliance.Is LSAT more important than GPA? ›
Just how important the LSAT relative to other elements of your overall application package varies a little from school to school. However, generally, your LSAT score alone is thought to be anywhere from twice as important as your GPA to four to five times as important!What is the easiest section of the LSAT? ›
What Is the Easiest Section of the LSAT to Improve? The analytical reasoning section is generally the easiest to improve on because it is very teachable. A lot of AR games follow a few patterns, so it's just about learning how to approach these different patterns to find the right answer.How do I compensate for low LSAT score? ›
The best way to make up for a low LSAT score is to simply retake the test until you achieve a score that is in line with your practice test results. You can take the test up to three times in one testing year, five times over the current and past five years, and seven times total.How many questions can you get wrong to get a 150 on the LSAT? ›
How many questions can you get wrong on the LSAT to get a 150? Since the LSAT is about 99-102 multiple-choice questions, you can get about 41-44 questions incorrect to achieve a score of 150. In other words, you need to get 58 questions correctly to get a 150 on the LSAT.Is a 170 LSAT realistic? ›
An LSAT score of 170 pretty much guarantees you're getting into law school. You've outscored 98% of all other LSAT test takers, so you're automatically elevated as a desirable applicant. With this score, you're not just “getting in” to “any” law school; you have the potential to be admitted to a top-tier law school.How hard is it to get a 172 on the LSAT? ›
A 99th percentile score on the LSAT is about a 172, meaning if you get a 172, then you did better than 99% of all test-takers. That's clearly an excellent score. However, even though most people put in a decent effort to prep for the exam, only 1% of test-takers will hit that or above each year.
Is 170 LSAT hard to get? ›
A 170 represents a percentile of 97.4%, meaning that test takers with a score of 170 have a score higher than 97.4% of all LSAT takers. So, that's pretty good! But what does it take to achieve that score? On the most recent LSAT, you would have to answer at least 89 out of 101 questions to receive a 170.What did Obama get on the LSAT? ›
Unraveling the secret behind Obama's LSAT Score
Hence it's very likely that Obama had an LSAT Score around the median of the class (43 on the then-used 48 point scale).
We recommend that most students look to spend 150–300 hours on LSAT prep; that's a healthy range over a two or three-month period at around 20–25 hours per week, which is a standard amount for most students. Keep in mind that those hours include any classes or private LSAT tutoring sessions you might be using.Can you get into Harvard with a 170 LSAT? ›
Assuming the rest of your application is perfectly “average” for Harvard Law, if your LSAT score is below 174, your chances of getting in are below average. If it's above 174, your chances are above average.How many questions can you get wrong on LSAT for 170? ›
To achieve a score of 170 requires a test taker to correctly answer 90 out of 101 questions.What is the average LSAT score without studying? ›
The LSAT is scored on a 120-180 scale.
From our independent research, we've found that students who take the LSAT without studying achieve scores between 145 and 153.
|LSAT Raw Score (remote test)||LSAT Scaled Score||LSAT Percentile|
Average LSAT Score
LSAT scores range from 120 to 180. The median average score is roughly 152. To get this average score, you'll need to get about 60 questions correct, out of 99 to 102 total questions.
In fact, you're besting 99.4 to 99.9 percent of your peers – not bad at all. So, what does that mean for you sky-high, go-getters? Whelp, you can apply to pretty much anywhere with confidence. Scoring in this range makes you extremely competitive for a variety of great law schools.