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My LSAT Score Versus Yours

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LSAT scores got released last Friday (and I swear we’re going to shut up about it soon). But what this means is that I’m rapidly developing carpal tunnel syndrome, answering about 8 messages per hour from former students. Most got The Email containing a score that was similar to what they were seeing on practice tests, and were thus not surprised, and for the most part satisfied. Some flourished under the pressure, and saw scores that were until then unseen. And some broke under the pressure, or were tired, or were just having a bad case of the stupids (we’ve all been there), and saw their score drop.

But this LSAT, like all LSATs, will create armies of two different types of people. Pretentious high scorers who now believe they are little Einsteins, and depressed low scorers who now believe they have an extra 21st chromosome. Don’t get me wrong; the vast majority of my students who have gotten super high scores aren’t pretentious, knowing that they worked really hard to get that high score. I’m not talking about you guys. You know who you are. You guys are awesome. Likewise, most people who saw their score drop are fairly levelheaded about it, knowing that it was an issue of performance, and that it doesn’t say anything about their neural connections, or lack thereof. Sadly, not everyone is so grounded.

Firstly, there are those out there who think their high score somehow confirms their genius and thus validates their existence. With these people the LSAT somehow always comes up in conversation, as does their score. You’ve met these people before. They’re the same people who got 2400s on the SAT. Do you know anyone who got a perfect score on the SAT? Probably. Why do you know that they got a perfect score? Because they told someone, either you directly, or someone they knew would spread the word. You know why they spilled the beans? Of course you do. It’s because they feel that it says something good about them, and they know that it will make others feel inferior. It’s the most human thing you can do. (Of course I’m not talking about all people with 2400s. Probably someone you know has this score, but you just don’t know it, because they’re not a shallow enough person to bring it up in conversation.)

It’s the same thing with the person who constantly “lets slip” her 4.0, or, of course, the arrogant prick who is constantly broadcasting his 180. Does it mean he has some sort of intelligence? Sure. But so does being able to use a can opener. Does the fact that he told you his score with little to no prompting mean he’s an asshole? Oh-you-betcha. You’ll find this guy at parties, using his jaws-of-life conversational skills to insert his LSAT score into a conversation. He maintains a second home in the pre-law discussion boards, the king of the tiniest imaginable kingdom. But does his score imply that he really is a genius? If you think this, you truly are retarded.

It’s true that most people respond to these people and their high numbers with feelings of inferiority, or, at the very least, with admiration. “Ohh, she got a 180? She must be so smart!” This is idiotic. Doing well at the LSAT is a skill. If you’re super smart, it might (might) make the acquisition of this skill somewhat speedier, and I would say that people who get a 175+ on their first diagnostic are probably pretty quick. But it’s a skill nonetheless, like doing well at Dance Dance Revolution. If you put a ballerina on a DDR machine, would she get a high score? Probably, I guess; ballerinas are pretty coordinated. But if I did DDR right now, would I get a high score? I’m a fat piece of shit, and I’d probably break the machine. But if I practiced a whole hell of a lot, could I do it? Of course (but I do mean a whole hell of a lot). The vast majority of people with excellent scores got them through hard work and studying, not because they were some sort of genius ballerina. That’s how I did it. I’ve had students get accepted into Yale, Stanford, Harvard, and everywhere else, and that’s how they did it, too.

Look, I don’t mean to be self-disparaging, and I do think that I am smart, but the reason I’m so convinced of the fact that super high score doesn’t mean super high intelligence is because of my own score. I pretty much failed high school and went to community college. I don’t think I could write a thesis to save my life. I have trouble following the plotlines of relatively simplistic movies. And yet I got a 178. Doing well at the LSAT is a skill, and a pretty useless one at that. It gets you into law school, and it gets you sweet test-prep jobs (I’m an enabler, I know, I’ve learned to live with it), but it’s not an intelligence test, in spite of what Mensa would have you believe. It is true that there is a correlation between the LSAT score and 1L success, but I think this is due mostly to two things; some of the logical reasoning skills you gain by studying for the LSAT can actually be quite helpful, and those who are willing to study their asses off for the test are also probably more willing to study their asses off in law school.

So if your score was low, or lower than you would like, don’t take it as a personal affront. There are generally two situations where this happens. The first is when your score took a big drop. That just shows that you’re not good with taking the test in stressful environments. It doesn’t say anything about your intelligence; if you can do well on practice tests, you obviously know the stuff, it’s just the pressure that gets to you. And this test is extremely biased against those with nerves of any sort. You’re given barely any time to answer stupid questions about cocaine, the arctic, and bridges, and you have to stay incredibly focused for hours and hours. And I don’t think focus has anything to do with intelligence, unless you believe that everyone with ADHD is stupid. On the other hand, if your score has never been as high as you want, it’s generally a question of diligence and drive. If you’re starting with a score in the 130s, I would agree that you don’t have as much of a natural aptitude for the test. That just means that you have more ground to cover to get to the high scores, which might take some time. But it can be done, with a lot of work. Like I said, the LSAT isn’t an intelligence test, and it’s definitely learnable.

But going back to our guy who is bragging with the 180. Let’s say he got it on his first try, having never seen the test. If that’s the case (and it’s almost certainly not) he’s probably pretty sharp, so let’s assume that just for the sake of argument. But why is he bragging about it? Why does this, a three-hour test about dinosaurs, Native Americans and Thurgood Marshall, validate his existence? Hasn’t he done anything with himself that is more worthwhile, more interesting? The truth is, we should pity these people. A friend of mine who is a waiter tries not to get too upset when he gets a 10% tip. His reasoning, he told me, is that anyone who thinks that this is acceptable behavior probably has more problems than you could ever wish upon him. They lead shallow, sad lives.

I try not to have road rage for this reason. When I’m on the freeway, and some douche cuts me off in his yellow Hummer, weaving in and out of traffic to save 3 minutes, my first reaction is to hope his disgusting monstrosity goes flying off a cliff in a matching yellow inferno. I’m human; we’ve all felt this. But you think that guy is happy? You think he’s rushing home to see his loving wife and children for family game night? Much more likely is that he has a job that he hates, a boss who doesn’t appreciate his talents, a loveless marriage to a woman who he now views as a stranger, children who resent him, and who he resents in turn. And a tiny, tiny penis. Driving his ostentatious Frankenstein on a suburban safari and cutting off all the unimportant little people is probably the only part of his day when he feels like he has real control over his surroundings. And while your first reaction might be anger, this whole situation is really more sad than anything else.

So if someone at a party feels the need to drop their LSAT score, and if they choose to imply that this makes them somehow smarter and better than you, who scored considerably lower, just smile and nod, congratulate him or her, and let him have his moment. He needs it. He probably doesn’t have much else.

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