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Smarter Daughter - But by How Much?

Socrates Steinberg
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I took the LSAT in 1966 and if my memory is correct I scored 654. (It was then scored on a 200-800 basis.) I had gone to a Public Ivy, had a 3.8 (in the era before grade inflation) and I applied to Harvard, Yale, Boalt Hall and UCLA. I got in to Boalt Hall and UCLA and was on the Harvard waiting list. Yale rejected me pretty quickly.

I eventually went to Harvard and have been practicing for 47 years.

I have a daughter who I know is a lot smarter than me, but how much smarter is the reason for this post. I want to find out.

She is starting her senior year at a Public Ivy on the other coast, has a 3.82 GPA and just got a 174 on the LSAT as it is currently scored. I've told her she's a lot smarter than me, just that I have a lot more experience. (I'm more than 50 years older than she is.) So that's my question.

How does a 1966 654 on the LSAT compare to a 2018 174 on the LSAT?
Jon Denning
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Haha hi Socrates - welcome to the Forum, and thanks for this post (it gave me a good laugh)!

I'll say two things here.

First, "smart" may not be the right (or operative) word in this comparison :) The LSAT is far less a test of intelligence than it is of technique, which is to say that someone scoring better than someone else isn't necessarily smarter, but rather just more informed and better prepared! Couple that with the fact that intelligence itself is a pretty intangible/abstract (or at least poorly-defined) notion, and you find you're talking more about unique skillsets that raw intellect. (Your daughter may well be smarter than all of us, but her LSAT score isn't the way to definitively establish that fact!)

Second, for all practical purposes it's impossible to compare scores from the 60s to scores from today. The test has changed dramatically since the time when you took it—here's a current-era LSAT if you want to take a look https://www.lsac.org/docs/default-sourc ... ptjune.pdf —so you'd be comparing two wholly distinct exams. Plus the test audience has evolved so much in the past 50 years that even a percentile comparison, where you relate your percentile rank to hers, becomes largely meaningless.

That all said, and so as not to come off like a complete dodge of your question, her 174 is a better score, and by a notable margin. She's well into the top 1% of all test takers (test takers who are uniformly better prepared than folks in the 60s) whereas a 654 likely doesn't crack the top 10-15 % I wouldn't think (I don't have the percentiles from that long ago, but it seems a safe bet). Assuming the old LSAT and today's GMAT are curved similarly, a 650 GMAT at present represents just the 75th percentile. Her 174 on the other hand equates roughly to a 760-770 GMAT score (so a 765 or so on the old LSAT scale, again assuming an equivalent bell curve shape).

Things have gotten far more competitive in the legal admissions game since the days when you applied, but with her credentials she too has got a very realistic chance at a Harvard acceptance (and Yale if she's looking to one-up you haha), so congrats to her in advance on her successes and here's hoping she follows in your footsteps!

Hope that helps!
Jon Denning
PowerScore Test Preparation

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Socrates Steinberg
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Thanks, Jon. Well I do know my daughter is much smarter than me, and better at reasoning, too. And I'm really proud of her wanting to follow in my footsteps. (She's applying to HYS using today's lingo. And a bunch of safety schools like UVA, UCLA, Duke and what is now called Berkeley Law. No schools in New York City or Chicago.)

When I was in law school we had very few women. I was an advocate for parity over 50 years ago and today we have it. As for the competition, it is fierce today. I volunteer as a moot court judge for the law school near where I live and it hosts a national competition every year, so I get to see moot court students from all over the country and they are very well prepared and very good. (I was a law review editor myself.)

If my daughter gets into Harvard and matriculates in 3 years her graduation will be 52 years after mine, possibly a record.

(A funny anecdote. We didn't have very good information in the 1960s, so I wrote to Princeton because I wanted to apply to law school there, too. I got back a form postcard sadly advising me that Princeton didn't have a law school.)