Hello, everyone. AA Male, frequent lurker, infrequent poster and law school hopeful here. I’ve been interested in the nature of URM admissions and, given my desire to add some clarity to the whole process, I decided to crunch some numbers. In this particular case, I decided to focus on Blacks and the admission process by analyzing LSAT scores and enrollment numbers at top law schools. This will be fairly long, but my hope is that this analysis will be able to help some hopefuls get a better idea of where they stand with the schools they’d like to attend than LSN (which, let’s be honest, is useful though limited by sample sizes) can give us. I’m hoping that a discussion within this thread will aid in making this even more helpful by plugging holes in my analysis and making more suggestions for further clarity. I’ll present all of the underlying components of my thesis in order.
First, let’s discuss the key factor that this theory relies on, and that is the normally distributed sample. It seems to be generally agreed that LSAT scores follow a normal distribution. Here, I have narrowed that pool of scores to focus specifically on black test takers, and applied the principles of the normal distribution to that group alone.
The standard deviation is the second key here, as it will allow us to determine how many people fall into individual sections within that normally distributed sample. Here’s a graph showing some of the percentages:
Third, we need to get an idea of the goal in sight. For most applicants, that goal is a Top 14 school, so it would be useful to see how many blacks these schools take in a year. I’ll provide that info now, courtesy of the ABA.
Number of AA first-years (most recent data):
UC Berkeley: 19
Total for Top 14: 331
Total including additional three: 371
The most recent data suggest approximately 331 spots for AA’s within the Top 14. If you include the next best three schools (the “Top 16”, according to the 2012 USN rankings-there’s a tie for #16), then we get 371 spots for top AA test-takers.
EDIT: This isn't the entire story. We know that 371 AA's were at these schools for this cycle, but this only counts the number enrolled. It is likely that more were accepted to this group of schools and did not attend for whatever reason, though exactly how many is difficult to pin down. This dynamic is articulated well in a response later in the thread:viewtopic.php?f=14&t=195443&start=75#p6297722
I'm going to run with the 331 and 371 numbers (which, again, only represent the students who were accepted to and
chose to attend this group of schools) but just keep this in mind.
Now for some number crunching with the standard deviations. For this, I went to LSAC and downloaded their LSAT performance summary, which contains yearly test-taker performance data separated by gender, ethnicity and region. You can download the full report at the bottom of this page
I’ll be using the data for African-Americans from the 2009-10 testing years. The key numbers are as follows:
Total number of test-takers: 14,585
Mean score: 142.04
Standard Deviation: 8.74
1SD Above Mean: 150.78 (151)
2 SD Above Mean: 159.52 (160)
2.5SD Above Mean: 163.89(164)
3 SD Above Mean: 168.26 (168)
Now with this data in hand, we can use this standard deviation curve
to get an idea of approximately how many AA test takers (what percentage, roughly) fall at or above each of the standard deviation milestones I listed above.
Number of Black Test Takers At or Above 2SD (159.5): 335.455 (335-336)
At or Above 2.5SD (164): 87.51 (87-88)
At or above 3SD (168): 14.585 (14-15)
Before any conclusions are made, it is important to note a couple of major caveats.
Firstly, numbers vary by year. 14,584 blacks took the test in 2009-10. This number could shift a little year by year (it was 13,205 in 2007-08), as can the mean and standard deviation. Granted, these shifts won’t really make much of a difference, particularly at the high ends of the scoring spectrum (2SD and above) we’re focusing on, but they should be noted anyway.
Secondly, your GPA is obviously quite important, and could in theory enhance your competitiveness to an extent even greater than your score would predict (even, in theory, if that score is south of 160). The most recent data I could find on the mean UGPA for black applicants was from Fall 2008
, when it was a 2.96. This figure had been increasing in years past, though that increase seems to have leveled off.
If you’ve got a GPA north of 3.0, you should help yourself out quite a bit here by narrowing your competition within your scoring range (and possibly allowing yourself to compete more evenly with higher scoring “splitters” who have better LSATs but lower GPA’s). When you look at the number of AA’s scoring in the ranges I’ve indicated above, you should expect that the number who manage to do so with an above average (3.0+) GPA is probably even smaller.
Finally, my analysis doesn’t account for folks who take the test and don’t go to law school, among other anomalies. The pool of test takers who are seriously going for law school may be smaller than I’ve assumed for a host of reasons, though there’s no way to find out exactly how much smaller. This is the best I could come up with.
Alright, so onto some conclusions:
1. A 159 should, in theory, put you approximately near the top 360 or so among black test takers (about 2 full Standard Deviations above the mean), and a 160 should put you more comfortably and confidently within that range. The T-14 will accept approximately 331 AA’s in a given year, so you’ll contend with these scores, maybe some money. If the “next three” (Vandy, UCLA, UT-Austin) are also on your list, you should be in an even better shot at getting an acceptance. Overall, this isn’t a bad place to be. If you’re an AA law school hopeful who wants a T-14, I’d recommend a 160 as the minimum standard to shoot for assuming an average (or better) GPA.
2. A 164 will put you 2.5 SDs above the mean, a level that only approximately 90 AA’s should reach annually (88 or so did this in 2009-10), assuming a normally distributed sample. You should be very well placed for a shot at the top 14 with a score like this. A glance at my enrollment numbers above will also show that the holy trinity at the top (HYS) accepted 81 black applicants most recently. This indicates that a 164 may (depending on your GPA) give you an outside shot at contending for HYS, and should certainly put you in T6 contention.
Going further, I do not have exact approximations for where scores in between 2 and 2.5SDs (161-163) would put you, but it could probably be safely inferred that there aren’t many more than 130-160 AA’s at or above 162/163. A 163 might make shooting for HYS less realistic barring an above average GPA, but it should give you a shot at a T6 and should certainly set you up for a T-14 acceptance somewhere (perhaps with some good money). A 165/166 should place you firmly in HYS contention, again depending on where the GPA is.
3. A 168 will put you 3SDs above the mean, a level that less than 20 AA test takers (around 1-1000, to be more precise-only 15 or so likely pulled this off in 2009-10) will reach annually in a normally distributed sample. HYS is probably a given here barring a very poor GPA, and one should probably expect plenty of money.
And that’s all. Thanks for taking the time to read if you did, and I hope this is useful to any visitors here. It is all just theoretical, no absolutes here, but hopefully it can be useful to someone.