How to Get a Perfect Score on the LSAT

It’s possible to walk into the LSAT with minimal practice and score a perfect 180. My college roommate managed this feat, and I cannot fathom how he did it. For those of us mortals who may need a little more help to hit such an elusive target, I’m happy to share some advice from my own experience as a longtime LSAT instructor who scored 179 after months of practice.

First, however, it is worth stepping back and asking: Why aim for 180?

What Does it Means to Score 180 on the LSAT?

The LSAT, formally known as the Law School Admission Test, is one of the most important factors in law school admissions. There is substantial evidence that those who score well on the test, like those who perform well academically in college, tend to get high grades in the first year of law school.

The LSAT is scored on a bell curve, ranging from 120 to 180. On recent tests, the hump of the curve has centered around 153. Percentiles vary slightly between tests, but generally around 25% of test-takers score 160 or higher, 5% score 170 or higher, and 1% score 175 or higher. Only one in 1,000 test-takers scores 180.

Remember: These scores are based on actual test-takers, not the population at large.

How Do Law Schools Look at a Score of 180?

The most prestigious law schools tend to have median LSAT scores in the 170s. Many candidates are admitted with lower scores, but they likely have high grades and other impressive qualifications.

[Read: Law Schools Where Students Had the Highest LSAT Scores.]

There is no law school with a median LSAT score above 175. This is because the LSAT is only one of many factors in law school admissions, and it is also due to the shape of the bell curve.

Standardized tests like the LSAT are calibrated to evaluate the bulk of test-takers whose scores fall in the hump of the bell curve, rather than the outliers at extreme edges. The difference between a 177 and a 178 could be due to making the wrong choice between two similar answer choices on just one question. Since LSAT questions can be somewhat subjective, such differences are not statistically meaningful.

Thus, law schools know that 180 is not a magic number. To take your best shot at a top law school, aim for a score in the 170s, the mid-170s if possible.

A score of 180 will stand out, but it is not a golden ticket.

How Do You Practice to Achieve a Top LSAT Score?

Too many test-takers mistakenly believe that the key to scoring high on the LSAT is to take endless practice tests. After all, practice tests are hard, and those who work hardest do the best on the test, right?

This is not quite true. Practice is not helpful unless it is methodical and purposeful. To practice the right way, you need to create a thoughtful study plan.

First, you must learn the right techniques to tackle every question on the test, using the method that best fits your learning style. This may be self-study, a course or online application, or work with a tutor.

Once you have learned the basics, you can best improve your performance through a mix of timed and untimed practice tests and drilling the questions you find hardest.

[Read: How to Weigh LSAT Test Prep Options.]

Homing in on Your Weaknesses

To achieve a perfect score, you need to be a perfectionist. This means practicing questions at the toughest level of difficulty you can handle and carefully examining your results.

All the practice in the world won’t help you unless you are devoted to understanding the questions you get wrong.

If you are a champion martial artist and an opponent throws you to the ground, it is unhelpful to get upset or disappointed or fearful. Instead, you must get curious. How did this happen? How can I prevent it from happening again?

Likewise, what distinguishes top performers on the LSAT is how they respond to questions they get wrong. Instead of anger or apathy, they react to wrong answers with interest, gleaning the data they need to improve. Over time, this leads to breakthroughs in performance.

[READ: What to Do if Your LSAT Practice Score Is Stuck.]

Mastering Your Mind

Test-takers who fall short of top scores often get so hyperfocused on the test that they exhaust themselves or become overly fixated on the clock.

Top performers understand that the mental side of the LSAT, like test anxiety and time management, are just as important to work on as other essential technical skills.

Instead of willing their brains to focus harder and work faster, they find ways to work with their mind to make the test manageable, sustainable and intrinsically rewarding.

Almost every client I work with who achieves a top score on the test hits a point where they find the LSAT surprisingly interesting. This make practice less of a chore, and it relieves the stress of the test and leads to new insights.

It is hard to get good at something if you hate it. I learned that as a kid, from years of fruitless piano lessons I grew to resent. My brother, who had the same teacher, was fascinated by piano practice and became a phenomenal pianist.

To score 180 on the LSAT, you must find a way to look forward to practice as much as my brother loved sitting down at the keyboard and treating every practice session as a chance to explore and to learn something new.

More from U.S. News

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What Is LSAT Score Preview and Should You Use it?

How to Decide Where to Apply for Law School

How to Get a Perfect Score on the LSAT originally appeared on

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