How to Explain an LSAT Score

Law School Expert Blog

(This post is from 2016; I am making updates on 6/18/19 and noting them in bold):
When should you explain an LSAT score in your law school application?
There are some situations in which it can help the law schools to have a better understanding of how they should interpret your LSAT score.

Here are some common types of law school addenda:

1. You Have a Proven History of Underperformance on Standardized Tests

This doesn’t mean that you simply wish you’d done better on the LSAT, but that you can use facts to demonstrate to law schools that the ACT/SAT failed to predict how well you’d do in undergrad and – therefore – the same can be said of your LSAT score failing to predict your law school performance. You should use numbers to make your argument. For example:

– “Although I entered UCLA with an ACT score of 26, when the median score for my class was a 31, I graduated with a 4.0, in the top 2 percent of my class. Likewise, my highest LSAT score of 149 does not reflect my academic potential in law school.”

2. You Took the LSAT Multiple Times

And one or more of the scores does not reflect your abilities on the test as well as your highest score does. For example, if your first score was taken at a time when you did not have as much time to prepare, and your second (higher) score was taken when you had the summer to focus on the LSAT, that might be something to point out to the schools. If scores are within 3 points of each other, there’s probably not much to explain here.
– “I first took the LSAT in June 2016 when I was a junior in college. I misjudged the amount of preparation required during a busy semester when I was president of my fraternity and also taking 18 credits. When I retook the LSAT in September 2016, after a summer spent focusing on preparing for the test, I improved my score 7 points to a 163.”

3. Your Score isn’t Competitive and You Can’t Retake the Test

If you have a score that you feel is not competitive and you are unable to retake the LSAT for this admission cycle due to work/personal circumstances/international travel (or you’ve hit your limit on the number of times you can take the LSATSee the latest news on how many times you can take the LSAT)

4. You Were Not Granted Proper Accommodations

If you were not granted accommodations that you’ve always received and been entitled to – and you submitted an application to LSAC for accommodations in a timely manner – and this is the reason you believe your score is not representative of your abilities.

35 Responses

  1. Hello! I have the LSAT blues. I took the September LSAT and scored 146. My GPA is 3.54 and my rank is about 30% as an accounting major. I completed my undergraduate studies while concurrently working full-time (45-50 hrs a week) and studied for and took the LSAT during this time as well. I have letters of recommendations from 2 professors and one character reference that’s alumnus and a big supporter of the university in which I want to apply. My personal statement is professionally coached underscoring my strong points and describing some hardships that adversely affected me. I traveled to the university I want to attend twice, 2014 and 2015 and toured their facility and met with admissions. My question: what are my chances of getting into Michigan state law (has a tax clinic that I like) with an addendum that explicitly states that I have always been employed full-time and law school will be the first time that I won’t work any full-time job concurrently and that I will be a much better student.

      1. Hi Ann,

        First, thanks for taking time to respond to our replies. I’m interest in your thoughts on example #3. When I graduated, I intended to retake the LSAT at least once for this admission cycle. Unfortunately, my job regularly demands 60-80 hour weeks, and I simply haven’t had the time to prepare more earnestly this time around.

        It’s unlikely that the time demands will go away as long as I’m working this job, so my only other options are quitting or finding a new one. Neither is a great choice, since I really like this job and we all know new ones don’t grow on trees. Do you think that writing an addendum explaining how I chose to dedicate the necessary time to my work, for causes I find worthy (and will be the subject of my personal statement) instead of quitting or taking fewer responsibilities just to have more time to study, is appropriate?

        Thanks again,

        1. John, it could be appropriate but I can’t comment on how much your existing score will hinder your application for different schools and whether the explanation will be enough to boost you at those schools.

      2. Good afternoon! I recently took the January LSAT, and am expecting to get upper 40’s. My inquiry is in regards to whether I should take the time to write a addendum –

        For the last five months I have been a part of a leadership-intensive program in a new state. Not only do I have an internship, but I also have one day off (given that I do not have a required seminar on Saturday.) That being said, I have had a total of 13 days off while in preparation for the LSAT. Would my further explanation of this unique scenario qualify for an Addendum?

      3. Hi Ann! Thanks for the sage advice, I have the most recent copy of your book. It’s been my go-to throughout the current admissions cycle. I also love your recent musings on the blog and on the Thinking LSAT podcast about the parallels between running a half marathon and taking the test (I’m a runner as well!).

        I’ve taken the LSAT three times – 157 (Sept 2019), 157 (October 2019), and TBD (November 2019). I consistently score between 167-171 on practice tests but have bad test anxiety. I’ve studied for seven months, consistently 6 days/week while working full time. I’d take the test again in January, but am limited by the 3 test/cycle restriction, and don’t want to wait another year to apply. I have a 3.7 GPA from Columbia, undergrad.

        I want to be able to convey this context in my application, but am not sure how much detail to include. Would you advise including my PT range even though there’s nothing to back it up but my word? (I do have screenshots from the TestMasters and LSAT Lab online platforms listing my scores…) Is it helpful to include the amount of time that I’ve studied or does that weaken my argument?

  2. Hi Ann,
    Do you ever find it appropriate to explain multiple low LSAT scores by admission of test anxiety, backed with evidence of multiple ACT scores below 25% for my undergraduate institution, despite competing and even excelling academically regardless. I took the LSAT three times and was scoring consistently between 155-158 on PT’s in classes and on my own. However on test day I scored a 147, 148, and am waiting on my third score but semi confident that history could repeat itself. I have no hesitation that these scores are due to the anxiety I experienced on test day and quite frankly I wouldn’t have continued to take the test if I did not feel 100% prepared. I do not want to come off as needy as I’m sure many people have this same experience. I do however feel the scores are significant enough to want to say something short and concise, but do not want to turn a school off further by not accepting my low scores as they are.

    Thanks, Anne

  3. Hi Ann,

    I received two low LSAT scores of 154 and 156, though I know I’m capable of answering almost all of the questions correctly if given more time, which was my experience when preparing for the LSAT. I’ve always struggled with being slower than others when completing assignments, though I do a thorough job and the results turn out just as well. I know many people would be able to answer more questions correctly if they were allowed to ponder them for awhile, but would my slow reading speed be anything to let admissions know about in my application? For example, I was only able to complete a little over half of the Reading Comprehension section during the allotted 35 minutes.

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Katherine, I don’t want law schools to wonder about your ability to perform in law school with reading related tasks so you’d need a high GPA to make this claim successfully.

  4. Hi Ann,
    I have a cancellation and 2 low lsat scores 155 and 156 on my record. This is not indicative of my ability because I have a 4.0GPA with work experience and leadership roles. I don’t really have any major reasons other than test anxiety because on my PTs I was scoring 160s and above. I did well on my SATS for my undergraduate institution so I don’t really have any concrete proof of bad history of standardized tests I was wondering if I should explain it or simply state that it’s not indicative of my potential to succeed in law school.


    1. Hi Kate, I know how frustrating this can be. Part of the answer depends on where you are applying and how far you are from the school’s LSAT range. I have a new version of The Law School Admission Game coming out this summer and have a lot of new ideas in there for explaining this so hopefully that will help you. (This is my official announcement about the book – in response to your blog post!

  5. Hi Ann, I am writing my personal statement now and I had a particularly low LSAT score and I have always scored pretty low on standardized testing but excelled in undergrad. My question is should I explain this in my personal statement or is there another format where I should include this topic?

  6. Hi Ann,

    I am writing an addendum for my LSAT scores. I have evidence of my low SAT scores, but was wondering how it should be formatted to provide this evidence, since the addendum is only a page and I sat for the SAT more than once.

  7. I just flat out told my #1 pick school the honest truth.

    I wrote something like:

    My LSAT score should be higher.
    I received accommodations late in my university studies due to an injury.
    They included time and a half. My LSAT could easily be 20 points higher has LSAC not denied my accommodations request.

    Tell me, was that stupid?


    1. It’s not that it’s “stupid” but it doesn’t really provide factual information that tells a law school why your score should be higher, or what they should look to as a better indicator, or what the injury was and whether it’s still relevant to your test performance.

  8. Hi Ann,

    I just took the LSAT this past weekend and was accused of going past the time to fill in answers. I was 100% not filling in answers past the time but was finishing bubbling my answer when time was called to which I did not immediately throw my pencil down and because I was sitting so close to the front that in that split second a proctor came up to me and said I was in violation. He then returned to the front filled out a slip and brought it back to me. I was not dismissed from the test, and this incident occurred on Section 5. I was in complete shock and confusion because the section before someone else was still working on their tests and the proctor yelled at them but they did not receive a written violation as I have. I know I did not cheat but I am so worried that I am going to be found guilty because it is my word against theirs’s, so I am considering cancelling my score. What do you think I should do ?

  9. Hi Ann,

    I’ve taken the LSAT 3 times 163 (86%)-166 (93%) -163 (89%). When I took it the first time, I don’t believe I felt very ready. The second time around, I really gave it my all even while I was at my job. I didn’t think it reflected how much I studied, so I decided to give it one more time. I’m disappointed that the score was not higher, but I don’t think taking it again would be wise/sane. I have a good GPA and strong work background at a firm/good LORs. Do you think an addendum for this is necessary? And if so, how do you think I should go about it?


    1. All three scores are within the same score band, but you could write an addendum saying why you believe the 166 is the best indicator of your abilities. (They’re inclined to weigh this one the highest anyway).

  10. Hi Ann,

    I have four LSAT scores on my record (in order): 163 (Dec), 161 (Feb), 168 (July), 168 (Sept).
    Do I need to explain this jump? I simply improved as I had more time to study and prepare. The 168’s are indicative of my ability to perform on the LSAT.

    Thanks for your help!


  11. Hi,

    I have awful test anxiety. I took the LSAT three times, and received at 166, 161, and 171. Should I be explaining the drop in my second score?? I’m aiming for T6 schools. I have a 4.0 from a decent university and relevant work experience. The real explanation for the dip in scores is that I had an anxiety attack during the second test, brought on by the test admin being very noisey. I imagine this is a poor excuse. How else can I spin it? Should I write an addendum? Thanks!

  12. Hello,

    I have awful anxiety and received a 142 and then 151 on my LSAT scores. I was scoring around 160 in test like conditions, but when it came to test day I failed myself. These scores do not represent my abilities to excel as a student since I worked/interned full time while going to school full time and did great in undergrad. Should I write an addendum about this? Should I point out the 10 point increase? Do you have any resources to help?

  13. Hello,

    Like Kay95, I also have text anxiety and received a 150 on my LSAT despite scoring in the 160s on PTs. I don’t think the 150 represent my abilities since I got a 3.7 GPA while double majoring in business. However, since I didn’t do well on my ACT either (24), I do have a history of underperforming on standardized tests. Do you know if schools will ask for the ACT score as well if I mention it in an addendum? Thank you.

  14. Hi Ms. Levine,

    I would be interested to get your furthered insight on Example 1, where you discuss consistent low performance on standardized tests across the board. I’m considering writing an addendum since my average SAT score was a 1400, but graduated with my bachelors degree cum laude (>3.5 GPA) and as an honors student. I also scored a 19 on my ACT. When it comes down to the LSAT, I can’t get above a 145 and now hit my test taking limitations. Could you share your thoughts on this situation?

    Thank you!

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