« on: April 16, 2005, 12:36:08 PM »
Is an LSAT score a good predictor of someone's ability to pass the Bar Exam on the first attempt?
One author has recently argued that the average LSAT scores peaked for first-year students at ABA schools in 1991 at 158.5 (representing the 75th percentile). He then noted that the current mean for all ABA schools was 155 (representing the 64th percentile). He wrote that students with a 155 have a "predictive pass rate" on the bar exam of about 72.5%. Nationally, the bar pass rate has fallen to below 75% (year 2000 data). He then argued that there is a nearly perfect correlation between LSAT score and passing the bar on the first attempt. The correlation he cited was 0.91 to 0.94--a perfect correlation is 1.0. See National Bar Examiner, (vol. 73, no 4 p 11-13).
However, the Law School Admission Council ("LSAC") wrote a Letter to the Editor in response to the author's claims. They said it was not statistically appropriate to only use aggregate data from the law schools (in other words, a law school's mean LSAT) to "predict" how an INDIVIDUAL student of that law school will perform on the bar exam. LSAC had conducted a lengthy study that evaluated data from over 23,000 INDIVIDUAL members of the law school class that entered in 1991. They found that LAW SCHOOL GRADES had the highest correlation with bar passage. (.38 - .41). LSAT score came in second (.30). In other words, the vast majority of the factors that can predict how an individual will perform on the bar exam are unknown or not captured by these statistics. Law school grades, however, are a stronger predictor of bar exam success than the LSAT score.
Quoting from the LSAC
"LSAC, as sponsor of the LSAT, always walks a fine line between defending the utility of its test against the test's critics, and helping law schools understand that its utility as an admission tool is limited. Should the mistaken notion that a school's LSAT mean has a direct and nearly perfect relationship with bar passage really take hold, there is a great risk that admissions committees will begin to evaluate individual applicants with that group result in mind. Such a situation will almost certainly lead to an overreliance on the LSAT score in the admissions process, with one potential result being a decrease in racial and ethnic diversity among law schools." The Bar Examiner, February 2005, p 42.