The two most important parts of your law school application are your (highest) LSAT score and your cumulative, undergraduate GPA. For most law schools, your LSAT score will be the more important of the two criteria, especially if you are a “splitter” (i.e., high LSAT score and low GPA, or vice versa). Studies show that neither of those two factors, standing alone, has a particularly great correlation with first-year law school grades. However, combining both factors does provide a reasonably good correlation (i.e., if your LSAT score and cumulative GPA are both high, the odds are that your first-year law school grades will be better than if both of those numbers are low).
Here are some key differences between your LSAT score and GPA:
- Your LSAT score provides a better “apples to apples” comparison to other law school applicants than your grades do, because the LSAT is essentially scored on a worldwide curve (even if you don’t take the same LSAT as others, the LSAT’s “equating” system does a pretty good job of comparing all students taking the same/similar exam).
- In contrast to the LSAT, comparing your GPA to other students’ GPAs is not an “apples to apples” comparison, and can be influenced by many things. For example, some schools may have more “grade inflation” than others, some majors may have more “grade inflation” than others, some majors are harder than others, and some students take harder elective courses than others.
- Your LSAT score is based on one 2-1/2 hour multiple-choice exam, whereas your cumulative GPA is a result of 4+ years of academic work that likely will include many different types of tests. Some students tend to perform better on multiple-choice exams than others. (Law school exams, unlike the LSAT, are typically essay-based exams.)
- The LSAT is a carefully controlled exam, prepared by professional test-writers who have the benefit of lots of test-taking data from students who took prior versions of the exam. The college exams that comprise your GPA are written by professors who are not professional test-writers, and they do not have the benefit of all the data that the LSAT-writers have.
- The time limits imposed on the LSAT are very challenging – even for students very good at the LSAT, the LSAT is not easy to finish on time. By contrast, many college exams can easily be completed in the allotted time.
- The LSAT involves “comprehension and application” of the logic and legal-reasoning skills underlying the LSAT, and there is very little memorization involved. College exams often are, at least in part, a test of one’s ability to memorize information and then “regurgitate” it on the final exam.
Bottom line – do everything you can to maximize your LSAT score and college grades. If it is too late for you to improve one of those two numbers, do your best to improve the other one! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.