In the days following each LSAT, students often worry about how their LSAT will be scaled. A more generous scoring scale can positively affect scores whereas a harsher curve can adversely affect scores. For those of you considering your possible test scaling, let’s examine a few historical facts about LSAT scoring scales, and then examine some recent trends in scoring.
Here are a few facts about LSAT tests and scoring scales:
Average number of questions per LSAT:100.71
Greatest number of questions on an LSAT:102
This occurred only once prior to the October 2010 LSAT, on the October 1992 LSAT
Least number of questions on an LSAT:99
This has occurred numerous times. Total question counts of 99, 100, and 101 have all occurred multiple times with 101 being the most common question total.
Average number of questions correct needed to achieve a 180:98.47
Greatest number of questions correct needed to achieve a 180:100
This has occurred numerous times, most recently on the December 2005 LSAT (which contained 101 questions)
Least number of questions correct needed to achieve a 180:96
This occurred on the October 1997 LSAT, which was originally a 101 question test, but then had one question removed due to a question integrity issue.
So, we know that LSATs range from 99 to 102 questions, but what about how many questions can be missed on a given test? The following lists the greatest number of misses allowed to achieve certain target scores:
Average number of questions correct needed to achieve a 180:98.59
Greatest number of questions correct needed to achieve a 180: 100
This has ocurred numerous times, most recently on the June 2011 LSAT (which contained 101 questions)
Least number of questions correct needed to achieve a 180: 96
This occured on the October 1997 LSAT, which was originally a 101-question test, but then had one question removed due to question integrity issues.
Greatest number of misses allowed to achieve individual scores:
180: -4 questionsThis has occured twice, in October 1997 and in February 1999.
175: -10 questionsThis has occured twice, in October 1997 and in December 1998.
170: -16 questionsThis has occurred twice, in October 1997 and in December 1998.
165: -23 questionsThis has occurred on three occasions, all in the 1990s.
160: -31 questionsThis has occured on four occasions, all in the 1990s.
So, if you are considering the most generous scales ever, the numbers above tell you that to get a 170, under the most beneficial LSAT scoring scale you could miss a maximum of 16 questions. But, that “loose” of a scale has not appeared in over a decade, so let’s take a moment to examine the last five years of LSAT scoring scales and get a better sense of what recent LSAT scoring scales have looked like:
Let’s use the target score of 160. Historically, the most generous curve for a 160 allowed a test taker to miss 31 questions. But, if we take a look at the last five years of LSAT scoring scales, we can see that -28 was the most generous scaling during this period, and that the average was -24.59. So, in recent years the scales have been less generous than at times in the past. This means that although we have seen scales as generous as -31, on today’s LSAT we are much more likely to see scales around -25 for a 160, with the most generous scale likely being -27 or -28. A similar analysis can be applied to almost every scoring point on the above chart. In short, the lesson is, “Hope for the best but prepare for the average.”
For more information about LSAT scoring, read this article about LSAT Scoring Scales.