List of law school GPA curves

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Many, or perhaps most, law schools in the United States grade on a curve. The process generally works within each class, where the instructor grades each exam, and then ranks the exams against each other, adding to and subtracting from the initial grades so that the overall grade distribution matches the school's specified curve (usually a bell curve). "The curve" is the permitted range of each letter grade that can be awarded, for example, 0-3% A+, 3-7% A, etc. Curves vary between different law schools, as do the rules for when the curve is mandatory versus suggestive. It is common for the curve to be mandatory for first year ("1L") courses, and for classes above a certain size.

Grading on a curve contributes to the notoriously competitive atmosphere within law schools. "The main source of this competition is the mandatory curve you will likely encounter once you enter law school. The curve affects the class rank, affects the chances of making law review, affects the chances of scoring that big job/externship."[1] Some law schools set their curve lower to retain scholarship funding; others set their curve higher to make their students more competitive in the job market.

The following list shows where law schools set the 50% mark for an individual class subject to the curve. Because not all classes are curved and because professors still have discretion within the curve's ranges, where a law school sets its curve is not necessarily revealing of that school's average student GPA (whether after 1L or upon graduation).

The list[edit]

Law School GPA Curve
Mississippi College School of Law 2.50–2.79(1L)
University of Akron School of Law 2.78[2]
University of Alabama School of Law 3.20[3]
Albany Law School 3.07[4]
American University Washington College of Law Curve of 3.1 to 3.3 for 1L doctrinal courses.
Appalachian School of Law 2.50–2.67[5]
Atlanta's John Marshall Law School 2.00–2.34(1L)
University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law 3.29[6]
Arizona State University, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law 3.30[7]
University of Arkansas School of Law 2.67[8]
University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law 3.0[9]
Ave Maria School of Law 3.08[10]
University of Baltimore School of Law 2.86[11]
Barry University, Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law 2.75[12]
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law 3.16[13]
Boston College Law School 3.03[14]
Boston University School of Law Not Reported (Top-third: 3.51)[15]
Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School 3.30[16]
Brooklyn Law School 3.25[17]
Capital University Law School 2.73 1L; 2.82 2/3L[18]
Case Western Reserve University School of Law 3.0 (3.1 Median)[19] for 1Ls, varies from (3.2–3.67) for 2L/3Ls
UCLA School of Law 3.0 in First Year Courses; 3.2 Median in Most Upper Division Courses [20]
Chapman University School of Law 2.80[citation needed]
Charleston School of Law 2.67–3.00[citation needed]
University of Cincinnati College of Law 3.0 in First Year Courses; 3.3 Median in Most Upper Division Courses[21]
Columbus School of Law 2.80–3.00[22]
University of Connecticut School of Law 3.0 Median
Cornell Law School 3.35[23]
University of Dayton School of Law 2.80 (1L); 3.00 (2L/3L)[24]
University of Denver Sturm College of Law 3.00 (median); 2.85–3.15 (mean)[25]
DePaul University For each first-year course and all JD courses with 50 or more students, the faculty suggests that 12%-17% of the grades be A, 20%-30% of the grades be A- and/or B+, 20%-30% of the grades be B, 20%-30% of the grades be B- and/or C+, 10%-15% of the grades be C or below[26]
Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law 2.8–3.0 [27]
Duke University School of Law 3.30[28]
Duquesne University School of Law For first-year courses: Tier 1 (A+, A, A-) Between 14% and 22% of all grades, with a target of 18%; Tier 2 (B+, B, B-) Between 36% and 54% of all grades, with a target of 45%; Tier 3 (C+, C, C-) Between 24% and 36% of all grades, with a target of 30%; Tier 4 (D+, D, F): Between 0% and 10% of all grades, with a target of 7%. Upper-level courses with 30 or more students have a slightly modified distribution. Upper-level courses with fewer than 30 students are not bound by any distribution.[29]
Elon University School of Law 3.39 (based on a scale where 2.8 was equivalent to C and 4.3 was highest A)[30]
Emory University School of Law 3.00[citation needed]
Florida Coastal School of Law 2.50 (1L mean); 2.70 (2L/3L mean)[31]
University of Florida Levin College of Law 3.15[citation needed]
Fordham University School of Law 3.19[32]
George Mason University School of Law 2.70–3.10 [33]
The George Washington University Law School 3.15–3.25[34]
Georgetown University Law Center 3.322[35]
University of Georgia School of Law 2.90[36]
Georgia State University College of Law 2.9-3.1[37]
Gonzaga University School of Law 2.60–2.90[38]
Thomas Jefferson School of Law 2.7[39]
University of Houston Law Center 2.9–3.1 (1L mean)[40]
University of Idaho College of Law 2.70[41]
University of Illinois College of Law 3.20 (1L mean)[42]
University of Kansas School of Law 2.80–3.00 (1L mean), 2.9-3.1 (2L/3L required courses mean), 2.8-3.4 (all other mean)[43]
University of Kentucky College of Law 2.9–3.1[44]
Lewis & Clark Law School 3.0 (1L and classes with more than 20 students); 3.3 expected maximum (all other courses) [45]
Louisiana State University, Paul M. Hebert Law Center 3.0 median, ±.1 (1L and all classes with more than 50 students); 3.0 median and mean, ±.2 (2L/3L Classes with less than 50 but more than 20 students)[46]
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law 3.017[47]
University of Massachusetts School of Law 1.9–2.3[48]
Massachusetts School of Law 2.0[49]
University of MemphisCecil C. Humphreys School of Law 2.67[50]
University of Michigan Law School 3.13–3.25[51]
University of Minnesota Law School 3.00–3.33[52]
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law 2.942 (median grade – grading guidelines vary by year in school and type of course)[53]
North Carolina Central University School of Law 1.67–2.33[54]
Northwestern University School of Law 3.26[55]
Ohio Northern University, Pettit College of Law 2.33 (L1) – 2.66 (L2/L3)[56]
Ohio State University Moritz College of Law 3.30[57]
Oklahoma City University School of Law 2.17–2.60[58]
University of Oregon School of Law 2.67–2.75[59]
Pennsylvania State University – Dickinson School of Law 2.90–3.10[60]
Quinnipiac University School of Law 3.02[61]
Roger Williams University School of Law 2.65–2.85 1L; 2.80–3.1 2L[62]
Rutgers School of Law–Newark 3.00[63]
St. John's University School of Law 3.30 (median); 2.95–3.05 (mean)[64]
Saint Louis University School of Law 2.80[65][66][67]
University of St. Thomas School of Law 2.70–3.10 [68]
University of San Diego School of Law 2.95–3.05[69]
University of San Francisco School of Law 2.73–2.99[citation needed]
Seattle University School of Law 3.1–3.2[70]
Seton Hall University School of Law 3.0[71]
University of Southern California School of Law 3.30[72]
South Texas College of Law 2.85–3.15[73]
Southern Illinois University School of Law 2.55–2.80[74]
Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 3.093 1L/2E; 3.090 2L/3E; 3.198 3L/4E (graduating)[75]
Southwestern Law School 2.90 (1L mean); 3.00 (2L/3L mean)[76]
Suffolk University Law School 3.02 (1L); 3.16 (2L/3L)[77]
Syracuse University College of Law 2.90–3.10[78]
Temple University Beasley School of Law 3.05[79]
University of Tennessee College of Law 3.0(1L); 3.1 (2L); 3.2–3.3 (3L)[80]
University of Texas School of Law 3.25-3.35[81]
Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 3.00[82]
Thomas M. Cooley Law School 2.00–2.40[83]
Tulane University Law School 3.20–3.30[citation needed]
University of Tulsa College of Law 2.50–2.67[84]
University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law 3.38[85]
Valparaiso University School of Law 2.50–2.70[citation needed]
Vanderbilt University Law School 3.17[citation needed]
Vermont Law School 3.00[citation needed]
Villanova University School of Law 3.1[86]
Washington and Lee University School of Law 3.34[87]
University of Washington School of Law 3.40[88]
Whittier Law School 2.50–2.75 (1L); 2.50–2.88 (2L/3L)[89]
University of Nevada, Las Vegas: William S. Boyd School of Law 3.0[90]
Widener University School of Law 2.30–2.75 (1L), 2.50–2.85 (Upper Level Required), 2.50–3.10 (Upper Level Elective, >20 students), 2.50–3.40 (Upper Level Elective, ≤20 students)
William Mitchell College of Law 3.00[91]
University of Wisconsin Law School 2.85–3.10[92]
University of Wyoming College of Law 2.60–3.00[citation needed]
West Virginia University College of Law 2.95–3.05[93]

Class rank and GPA not reported[edit]

  • University at Buffalo Law School – no curve, but benchmarks for top 5%, 10%, 15%, 20% and 25% for each class are released each June
  • Columbia Law School – Estimated at 3.4.[94] GPA calculated based on 4.33 scale.
  • New York University School of Law – not reported, but discussion boards claim 3.3+[95][96]
  • University of Michigan Law School – class rank is not established until after graduation[97]
  • University of Notre Dame Law School – 1L courses (except for 1L elective, which is graded as an upper‐level course, and Legal Writing (I & II)) mean must be between 3.25 to 3.30 with a mandatory distribution. 1L Legal Writing (I & II) Mean: 3.15 to 3.45. Large upper-level courses for 2L and 3L (>25 students) must have a mean between 3.25 and 3.35 with a mandatory distribution. Paper-Based Small Upper-Level Courses (10 to 24 students) Mean: 3.15 to 3.60. Small upper-level courses (10 to 24 students) must have a mean between 3.15 and 3.45 with no mandatory distribution. Small courses (9 or fewer students) do not have a required curve.[98]
  • University of Pennsylvania Law School – not reported.[99]
  • Rutgers School of Law–Camden – class rank was eliminated in 1972; each semester, the law school identifies Dean's Scholars as the top 5% and Dean's List as the next 20%; at graduation, highest honors and high honors are determined by the faculty and honors is given to the top 15%[100]
  • Rutgers School of Law–Newark – class rank is not published; however, upon graduation, rank is used to determine graduation honors with top 10% awarded Order of the Coif and cum laude; top 5% awarded magna cum laude; and top 1% awarded summa cum laude.[101]
  • University of Texas School of Law – "It is the policy of The University of Texas School of Law not to rank its students on the basis of academic standing." Therefore, students may not estimate class standing or indicate a percentile ranking on their resumes, cover letters or application materials.[102] UT Law does, however, release interim cutoffs to continuing students for top 25% and top 50% at the end of the school year. Additionally, the school bestows honors on the top 1%, 5%, 10%, and 35% of graduating students.[103] The top sixteen students in the class at the end of the second year are also recognized as Chancellors, with the top four students being identified in order as Grand Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Clerk, and Keeper of the Peregrinus.[104]

Irregular grading systems[edit]

The following law schools have adopted a grading system which does not allow for the calculation of a comparable median GPA on a 4.0 scale, if any GPA is recorded at all:

  • Berkeley Law (aka Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, Law School – pass/no pass system with 10% of first-years receiving pass with high honors and 30% of first-year students receiving pass with honors in each class; for upper division classes (2L and 3L years) up to 15% of in a class may receive high honors and up to 45% may receive either honors or high honors[105]
  • Campbell Law School – mandatory median (82, or a C)[106]
  • Harvard Law School – The current grading system of dean's scholar, honors, pass, low pass, and fail had at one time a recommended curve of 37% honors, 55% pass, and 8% low pass in classes with over 30 JD and LLM students,[107] but the curve is no longer enforced. Between 1970 and 2008 Harvard established a GPA cut-off required in order to obtain the summa cum laude distinction. During that time, only 5 students achieved the GPA required for the distinction of summa cum laude (33 out of the 38 years, the top student only managed to obtain the magna cum laude distinction, for example, there was a 15-year hiatus until Lisa Ann Grow managed to obtain summa cum laude). Those who have managed to obtain the summa cum laude distinction include Lewis Sargentich ('70), Isaac Pachulski ('74), Peter Huber ('82), Lisa Ann Grow/Sun ('97), Julian Poon ('99). Since 2008, to address the difficulty of obtaining the summa cum laude distinction, in a year where no student manages to meet the GPA cut-off, Harvard will now award summa cum laude to the top student of the year (a rank that did not guarantee summa cum laude in the past).[108]
  • Howard University School of Law – uses a scale of 72–100; the mandatory mean range for first-year courses is 81–83[109]
  • Northeastern University School of Law – written evaluations given for each course with "buzz words" used[citation needed]
  • Stanford Law School – pass/no pass system with honors and distinctions, with a limit of 30% honors in lecture classes and 40% in seminars[110]
  • University of Chicago Law School – uses unusual numeric grade with median of 177[111]
  • Wake Forest University School of Law – curved at 85.
  • Yale Law School – honors/pass/low pass/fail system with no fixed curve[112]
  • University of Wisconsin Law School - GPA calculated based on a 4.3 scale[113]


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