Evidence to Support Validity Claims for Using LSAT Scores in Law School Admission
Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores provide a standard measure of an applicant’s proficiency in a well-defined set of important skills associated with success in law school coursework. LSAT scores are also a strong predictor of first-year grades (FYG) and cumulative grade point average (CGPA) in law school.
The most recent correlational study of LSAT results (2019) shows that LSAT scores are far superior to undergraduate grade point average (UGPA) in predicting FYG:
- Correlation of Average LSAT and FYG = .40 (.60 adjusted for restriction of range)
- Correlation of Highest LSAT and FYG = .37 (.59 adjusted for restriction of range)
- Correlation of UGPA and FYG = .26 (.42 adjusted for restriction of range)
- Proportional Contribution* of Average LSAT score (minus UGPA) = 59.44%
- Proportional Contribution* of Highest LSAT score (minus UGPA) = 57.19%
- Proportional Contribution* of UGPA (minus LSAT score) = 40.56 to 42.81%
In addition, about 80% of schools met or exceeded a correlation of .40 between LSAT scores and FYG.
While the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) cautions against the use of LSAT scores for purposes other than making holistic law school admission decisions, it is worth noting third party research has demonstrated that the LSAT is more highly predictive of CGPA, class-rank at graduation, and bar exam performance than any other factor available to law schools prior to matriculation. An external study (Marks and Moss, 2016) demonstrated in two law schools that LSAT scores are predictive of cumulative grades in law school with a 1-point increase in test scores resulting in a .016 increase in law school GPA (p<0.01). Thomas (2003) also showed that LSAT scores had a slightly higher correlation with class-rank at graduation than GPA. Numerous studies, including those by Alphran (2011), Austin, Christopher and Dickerson (2017), Georgakopoulos (2013), Merritt (2015), and Wightman (1998) show that LSAT scores are an indicator of bar exam success.
Information gathered from numerous surveys provide substantial evidence that LSAC measures skills specifically required in the application of law. These and other studies present content validity demonstrating the unique relevance of the LSAT to success in law school.
* Proportional contribution indicates the percent of variance in predicting FYG accounted for by LSAT score or UGPA alone in comparison to both (LSAT and UGPA) predictors. The proportional contribution of average LSAT scores and UGPA is 59.44% and 40.56%, respectively. Both percentages total 100 and indicate the proportional contribution of each individual variable from a prediction equation using both variables.
Alphran, D. (2011). Yes We Can, Pass the Bar: University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law Bar Passage Initiatives and Bar Pass Rates-From the Titanic to the Queen Mary!, 14 U.
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Austin, K. A.; Christopher, C.M. and Dickerson, D. (2017) "Will I Pass the Bar Exam: Predicting Student Success Using LSAT Scores and Law School Performance," Hofstra Law Review: Vol. 35 (3), Article 4.
Georgakopoulos, N. (2013). Bar Passage: GPA and LSAT Not Bar Reviews 7 (Robert H. McKinney Sch. of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-30, 2013).
Law School Admission Council (In press). Predictive validity of the LSAT: A national summary of 2017, 2018, and 2019 LSAT correlation studies.
Marks A. B. & Moss, S.A. (2016). What Predicts Law Student Success? A Longitudinal Study Correlating Law Student Applicant Data and Law School Outcomes, 13 J. Empirical Legal Stud. 205. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jels.12114/pdf.
Merritt, D.J. (2015). LSAT Scores and Eventual Bar Passage Rates, Faculty Lounge, Retrieved from: https://www.thefacultylounge.org/2015/12/lsat-scores-and-eventual-bar-p…
Thomas, D. A. (2003). Predicting Law School Academic Performance from LSAT Scores and Undergraduate Grade Point Averages: A Comprehensive Study Arizona State Law Journal, Vol. 35, pp. 1007-1028.
Wightman, L. F. (1998). LSAC national longitudinal bar passage study. Law School Admission Council, 37 Retrieved from: http://lawschooltransparency.com/reform/projects/investigations/2015/do….
About Wayne J. Camara
Wayne J. Camara is the distinguished scientist for measurement innovation at the Law School Admission Council where he oversees the design of the LSAT and other assessments. Camara previously served as senior vice president of research at ACT (2013-2020), vice president of research at College Board (1994- 2013), and associate executive director for science at the American Psychological Association (APA, 1987-1994). He has been responsible for psychometrics, research, validation, and assessment design and development, and led the redesign of the PSAT and SAT (2002-2005). Camara is a fellow of APA (divisions 1, 5, and 14), American Psychological Society, American Educational Research Association (AERA), and the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists (SIOP), and is past president of the National Council for Measurement in Education, past vice president of AERA Division D, past president of APA’s Division of Evaluation, Measurement & Statistics, past chair of the Association of Test Publishers (ATP), and an associate editor or on the editorial board of journals in education and industrial psychology. He is currently on the Council of the International Test Commission (ITC). He has served as technical advisor for U.S. assessment programs for the military (DOD-ASVAB), law school (LSAC), medical school (AAMC), accountants (AICPA), student athletes (NCAA), and various state and employment testing programs. Camara has served as the project director for the 1999 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, chair of the Management Committee for the 2014 revision, and on committees developing testing standards for ISO, SIOP, ITC, APA, and the Code of Fair Testing Practices. He is recipient of career awards from SIOP and ATP. His most recent scholarly publications address using admission tests for federal accountability, impact of technology on fairness in assessment and impact of test timing. He has testified before Congress, state legislative bodies, and appeared in media addressing topics related to the appropriate use and validation of assessments in education and employment.