by Zack Baldwin
The highest score you can achieve on the LSAT is a 180. To obtain a 180, you need to answer all 100 or 101 questions on the exam correctly. Fewer than one in one thousand test takers accomplishes this feat. So, don’t freak out if you’re not hitting that high score.
In fact, and more significantly, fewer than one in one thousand test takers achieves a 178, which is getting just two questions wrong. The average LSAT acceptance for the best law schools in the United States (Yale, Harvard) hovers around 173 – and remember, that‘s the average acceptance rate.
In other words, there’s no particular reason to prioritize achieving a 180
Scoring a 175 will essentially guarantee you have the same options you would have with a 180 and with a score of a 170 you would still be competitive in your Yale application.
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. The LSAT is a very long examination and you will make errors while you take it: you’ll read a rule incorrectly or you’ll bubble the wrong answer. That’s okay. Mistakes are a key part of learning and it’s nearly impossible to score a 180 on this examination.
You can use this to your advantage when you are strategizing for the examination
For example, let’s say you’re shooting for a 165 – a great score that will keep you competitive in nearly every law school except for the very best ones. It’s 91st percentile, and plenty of people are accepted to, say, Georgetown with a 165. You can afford to miss around eighteen questions and score a 165. And you may want to choose a few questions to miss intentionally.
What do we mean? Well, think about your worst section, the one that you consistently score the worst in. If your worst section is Games or Reading, chances are you are having difficulty answering the questions in the time limit. As a result, it may make sense to do fewer questions with more time and accuracy than to answer every question. If you are aiming for a 165, and you have one strong section to carry you, you can miss 6 in the Reading Comprehension section. In other words? You can skip an entire passage and focus on getting the questions for the other three correct.
This approach can be applied to the Logical Reasoning section as well. The Logical Reasoning section’s most difficult questions are around 17-21 and you can plan around that. As a rule in life, when something is challenging, you are more likely to fail. And that is true in Logical Reasoning; it may seem extremely obvious, but you are more likely to get hard questions wrong than easy questions wrong. So….skip the hard questions. Or at least do them last. Or maybe 17-21 aren’t hard for you, but parallel reasoning questions or formal logic questions are. In which case, skip those. Unless you’re shooting for a 175, you can usually afford to burn a question or three per section. Keep this in mind while you’re testing.
Should you be guessing?
The last standardized test you took may have been the SAT, which penalizes test takers for wrong answers. This creates a unique problem: should the test-taker guess or leave the question blank?
The LSAT has no penalty. So you should always guess. In the last 30 seconds of the section, bubble in any blank questions. You have a 20% chance of a blind guess earning you points, so for every five questions you skip, you can expect to reclaim one point.
This is relevant to your strategy on the exam, because if you know you can get 18 questions wrong and hit your target score, you know that from 10 guesses you can actually expect to only lose 8 questions. Therefore, you can be a bit risky with your guessing strategy.
Be sure to guess the same letter for each of your blind guesses. By bubbling the same letter, you greatly increase the chance that you get at least some points (in turn, you also reduce the chance you get a whole lot of questions correct). In other words, you’re trading your chance of winning the lottery in exchange for a guaranteed income. By bubbling randomly, you are more likely to get more questions correct, but also far more likely to miss all the questions.
Bubbling the same letter on each guess only applies to blind guess. If you choose to bubble “A” on every letter and you have already made a 50/50 guess on an unanswered question, don’t choose A if you’ve eliminated it! In that case, make your best determination of the answer. Learning wrong answer strategies can help you navigate those tricky 50/50 situations.
The best possible LSAT score is a 180, but no one needs a 180 to gain acceptance to even the best law schools. A 175 is as good as a 180 in almost any circumstance, and a 170 is a competitive score at even the best law schools. Build this information into your strategy. You can afford to skip questions, so prioritize easy questions over difficult questions.