LSAT Results Undermine Undergraduate Achievement for Minority Law School Applicants

University Testing

A new study of admissions at the University of California (UC) at Berkeley's law school, Boalt Hall, shows that minority applicants from competitive undergraduate institutions lag behind their white counterparts on LSAT scores, even when matched by undergraduate grade-point average (UGPA).


The study, carried out by Testing for the Public, a nonprofit education research group, looked at 1,366 minority students who had attended Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles (UCLA) and who sought admission to Boalt Hall between 1996 and 1998. Each student from a minority group was matched with all white applicants from the same college whose four-year UGPAs differed by no more than one-tenth of a point, on a four-point scale.


The LSAT score gap between white and minority group applicants with similar grades was 9.3 points for African Americans, 6.87 for Chicanos and Latinos, 3.77 for Native Americans and 2.48 for Asian-Americans. The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120 to 180. As pointed out by William Kidder, the Boalt Hall student who did the score matching, "[C]ollege achievement built over four years is routinely destroyed in four hours on the LSAT." This holds true even for students from the most rigorous undergraduate institutions.


The Boalt Hall data reaffirm the findings of a 1997 study of law school admissions carried out by Dr. Linda Wightman, a former vice president of the Law School Admissions Council. She found that LSAT scores and other simple numerical measures are poor predictors of law school graduation and bar passage rates, and also serve to exclude otherwise academically qualified minority law school applicants (see Examiner, Fall 1997).