Search the Lounge


« The BMJ Still Declines to Retract the Flawed "Lightning Process" Study | Main | Global Academic Fellow (3 posts) in the Department of Law at the University of Hong Kong »

December 16, 2019


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Steve Lubet

This is an excellent series, David. Thanks very much for continuing to post here.

But I have a question. You "recommend that students with LSAT scores at 146 or below take the LSAT again," after taking a prep course. What is the point of that? They will still have the same aptitude for law study as they did before. Improving their LSAT score is not going to make them any more likely to pass the bar three years later.


I believe that we all will agree that scoring on the LSAT is easily gamed by taking prep courses.

Steve Lubet: are you arguing that a person who didn't know how effective a prep course can be, and therefore took the LSAT the first time without having first paid for a prep course, therefore inherently lacks the "aptitude" for the law? (Is "aptitude for the law" measured by one's knowledge that the privileged enjoy privileges, one of which is a prep school, sheltered upbringing and superior coaching for these sorts of tests?) If so, I don't think your point is well taken.

If one took the test without coaching, and can improve that score significantly as a result of coaching, then there is every reason to believe that the same will hold true with respect to the bar. (This is especially true in this context, wherein Frakt slices the baloney so thin that you can see thru it.)

For those who can't afford the prep course, I think your comment is a bit naïve and heartless.


David, I understand why you don't adjust LSAT targets for the degree of difficulty for a given state, but with USF and Golden Gate once again coming in at a 40% pass rate on the CA bar, when is the ABA going to get around and put these programs out of their misery?

David Frakt

Steve - I recommend taking the free LSAT prep course for several reasons. People who do poorly on the LSAT the first time may have performed poorly for a variety of reasons that are not wholly related to their aptitude for the study of law. For example, they may not have paced themselves properly and might not have finished. Or they might just have been nervous because they don't consider themselves to be good test takers or because so much is riding on the exam. People in a highly stressed or agitated state are unlikely to perform to the best of their abilities. I don't think that a good LSAT prep course is really just about "gaming the LSAT" as much as it is doing your best on the exam. To the extent that students learn skills that help them think better under pressure or help them to read test questions more closely and analyze them more effectively, those skills may indeed carry over to multiple choice tests in law school and on the bar exam. If a student takes a prep course and performs at their best and they still score very poorly, then that is a strong indicator that Law School is not for them.

David Frakt

PaulB -

It was virtually impossible to fail the old bar pass standard. Even schools with very low first time bar pass rates were never found out of compliance. Under the new 75% UBP rate which will be enforced for the first time this spring, several schools will likely be found out of compliance, possibly including USF and Golden Gate. Schools out of compliance will be given some time to get back in compliance and perhaps some remedial measures will be required. Incidentally, my analysis of UBP rates in California found that despite the much lower first time bar pass rate in California, the UBP rates end up very close to the UBP rates of peer schools in states with easier bar exams. I other words, the students that should pass eventually do pass in California, it just takes them longer. See my post here:

Steve L.

Thanks, David. I agree of course that people can underperform on the LSAT for many reasons unrelated to their abilities. Retaking the test is often a good strategy and can lead to admission at a more highly ranked school.

But those who score "146 or below" are, according to you, at either "very high risk" or "extreme risk" of failing to graduate or flunking the bar." The risk is signaled by the LSAT score, but not caused by it. Raising the score on a subsequent test does not mean that the student's chances have actually improved -- unless it goes up significantly or if there was some external factor affecting them on the first test.

Given your overall position that people at such great risk should not go to law school, the advice to retake the test seemed inconsistent.

Also, I strongly doubt that a test prep course will carry over three years later on the multistate. Doesn't everyone take a bar prep course? And yet, those in the bottom risk band still tend to fail the bar.

David Frakt

Steve L. -

A student who takes the LSAT only one time, with little or no preparation, may receive a score that does not reflect their true aptitude. Using the LSAC materials and taking the free prep course will enhance the student's confidence and give them some skills to perform to their full capacity. (I am not suggesting spending a lot of money on an expensive prep course - taking the free course or preparing diligently on your own will likely yield the same benefits.) My understanding is that using the free or low cost materials from LSAC raises a student's score, on average, by 3 points. (LSAC has prepared a study on the relative efficacy of test prep methods - see here A student who scores below 146, then takes a prep course and takes the test again and still scores at or below 146 probably should not go to law school. A student who gets a 146 then takes a prep course and gets a 149 is a different story. This three point difference represents a huge difference in ability. A 146 is at the 29.5 percentile of LSAT takers, while a 149 is at 40.3%. Your question seems to be directed at the student's "true" aptitude for law school - is the student really a 146 and therefore still at very high risk despite their improved score, or should they be considered in the next risk category? The most accurate measure of a student's ability is an average of their LSAT scores. So I would consider that student to be a 147.5 - which would put that student between the 33rd and 36th percentile - still a high risk, but with a reasonable chance of success in law school. Another important thing to consider for potential law students is that the student with a 149 has a much wider range of law schools that may be willing to accept him or her. Some schools may even offer a partial scholarship to a student with a 149. In contrast, few law schools will accept a non-minority student with a 146. So it is well worth a student's time and effort to prepare for the LSAT and take it over.

Dave Garrow

David, just to commend you once again for what pioneering work you've done & continue to do on a subject that is SO crucial for young people not being taken advantage of & left saddled with burdensome debt that did them no good.

David Frakt

Dave Garrow -

Thank you for your kind words. Happy Holidays!

David Frakt

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad