jnordlander wrote:To the people saying "well this could just mean fewer lower scoring people took the test" you do not understand the test. I am horrendous at math, but the test is scored on a bell curve. Each percentile representing a point on the curve. Thus fewer people taking the test simply results in fewer people in each percentile.
That's essentially right, but the bell curve is adjusted to account for differences in test-taking populations. Remember, the test is curved AND equated (equated meaning that a score of 170 on any given test should indicate a person of equal ability to someone who scored a 170 on a previous test). If you were to hypothetically remove the worst-scoring 20% from the test-taking pool, the test-scorers will have a big problem on their hands--they were probably expecting 2% of the test-takers to get -12 or better, but now maybe 3% get -12 or better. The curve is generally set before a test is administered, from how previous testers responded in experimental sections. I don't know how they deal with this--where there are big discrepancies they may actually adjust the curve.
The score and percentile rank you receive are not an exact cut-off for that test. A 170 puts you above 97.3% of test-takers for the past 3 years. Generally there has been a slight push downward on that percentage--five years ago a 170 may have put you above 97.6%, meaning they are giving out slightly more high scores. They are not only trying to create a bell curve, but also "equate" scores to each other--meaning LSAC has become slightly more generous in giving out high scores, because it seems to believe there are slightly more people of high ability.
I'm kind of confusing myself with this, but basically I'm saying the LSAT is not strictly a bell-curve type of thing like law school is (where top 10% get an A, etc., with strict cutoffs). A 170 doesn't just mean you are in the top 2.5% of whoever took the test, although the percentages generally work out pretty close historically.