Math Students Ace the LSAT, Pre-Law Students Suck

Avg LSAT Scores by Major

The LSAT is essentially the law school entrance exam in the United States. One’s score on that test is a big factor in determining which law school one will get to attend (if any). The law school one attends has an enormous influence on what sort of jobs will be available on graduation, and thus one’s entire career. So the LSAT is kind of a big deal, if one is considering a career in the law.

The college students most likely to be considering a legal career, of course, are those majoring in “Pre-Law.” So one would expect that, after four years of undergraduate preparation, they’re the most likely to ace that LSAT.

But as it turns out, Pre-Law and Criminal Justice students have the worst average scores out of 29 college majors. The students with the best scores? Math majors, Economics majors, and Philosophy majors.

The data has recently been published in a study by Michael Nieswiadomy, an Econ professor at the University of North Texas. The study, “LSAT Scores of Economics Majors: The 2008-2009 Class Update,” can be downloaded here.

Here’s what’s going on: The LSAT is mainly a logic test, with some reading comprehension thrown in. The logic problems aren’t terribly challenging — the logic puzzles one finds in the supermarket checkout line are much harder. But to answer them correctly, one needs to have an analytically-trained mind.

This is precisely the kind of mind that Math majors, Econ majors and Philosophy majors have formed during their four years of undergrad. (Physics is lumped in with Math because that’s all Physics is any more.) Philosophy is all logic and reasoning. These majors, in fact, essentially teach students how to think.

And that is precisely what law school does. Law school doesn’t teach you how to be a lawyer, but how to think and reason like one.

So really, it’s hardly surprising that the LSAT scores are distributed this way.

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College students have often asked us what courses they ought to take, to best prepare themselves for law school. Our answer has always been “History, Philosophy and Economics.” History, because that teaches you to analyze your sources and root out details, and also because the common law is nothing but history. Philosophy, because it teaches you to think and analyze and reason out an argument. And Econ, because half of the legal principles out there these days come from Economics, whether you realize it or not. All three of these, if mastered reasonably well, provide a rock-solid foudnation for the practice of law at the highest levels, as taught in the finest schools.

And apparently, they help you get in, too.

(Hat tip: TaxProf Blog)

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3 Comments

  1. Robert Fridman, January 6, 2010:

    Perhaps the focus of an entrance exam such as the LSAT ought to be the practice of law and not succeeding law school. Logical reasoning questions, as found in the LSAT, have no application in the practice of law (unless the lawyer is practising in a monastery). The LSAT merely weeds out according to irrelevant parameters.

  2. Bar Exam Review, March 12, 2010:

    Wow! This is really interesting info. Definitely counterintuitive at first, but makes more sense when you think about it.

  3. Alexandria, November 12, 2014:

    How much math does one have to have to pass the LSAT?

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