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 2.83[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]
UC Davis School of Law 3.25-3.35 [21]
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[22]
Columbus School of Law 2.80–3.00[23]
University of Connecticut School of Law 3.0 Median
Cornell Law School 3.35[24]
University of Dayton School of Law 2.80 (1L); 3.00 (2L/3L)[25]
University of Denver Sturm College of Law 3.00 (median); 2.85–3.15 (mean)[26]
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[27]
Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law 2.8–3.0 [28]
Duke University School of Law 3.30[29]
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.[30]
Elon University School of Law 3.39 (based on a scale where 2.8 was equivalent to C and 4.3 was highest A)[31]
Emory University School of Law 3.00[citation needed]
Florida Coastal School of Law 2.50 (1L mean); 2.70 (2L/3L mean)[32]
University of Florida Levin College of Law 3.15[citation needed]
Fordham University School of Law 3.19[33]
George Mason University School of Law 2.70–3.10 [34]
The George Washington University Law School 3.15–3.25[35]
Georgetown University Law Center 3.322[36]
University of Georgia School of Law 2.90[37]
Georgia State University College of Law 2.9-3.1[38]
Gonzaga University School of Law 2.60–2.90[39]
Thomas Jefferson School of Law 2.7[40]
University of Houston Law Center 2.9–3.1 (1L mean)[41]
University of Idaho College of Law 2.70[42]
University of Illinois College of Law 3.20 (1L mean)[43]
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)[44]
University of Kentucky College of Law 2.9–3.1[45]
Lewis & Clark Law School 3.0 (1L and classes with more than 20 students); 3.3 expected maximum (all other courses) [46]
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)[47]
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law 3.017[48]
University of Massachusetts School of Law 1.9–2.3[49]
Massachusetts School of Law 2.0[50]
University of MemphisCecil C. Humphreys School of Law 2.67[51]
University of Miami School of Law 3.2
University of Michigan Law School 3.13–3.25[52]
University of Minnesota Law School 3.00–3.33[53]
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law 2.942 (median grade – grading guidelines vary by year in school and type of course)[54]
North Carolina Central University School of Law 1.67–2.33[55]
Northwestern University School of Law 3.26[56]
Ohio Northern University, Pettit College of Law 2.33 (L1) – 2.66 (L2/L3)[57]
Ohio State University Moritz College of Law 3.30[58]
Oklahoma City University School of Law 2.17–2.60[59]
University of Oregon School of Law 2.67–2.75[60]
Pennsylvania State University – Dickinson School of Law 2.90–3.10[61]
Quinnipiac University School of Law 3.02[62]
Roger Williams University School of Law 2.65–2.85 1L; 2.80–3.1 2L[63]
Rutgers School of Law–Newark 3.00[64]
St. John's University School of Law 3.30 (median); 2.95–3.05 (mean)[65]
Saint Louis University School of Law 2.80[66][67][68]
University of St. Thomas School of Law 2.70–3.10 [69]
University of San Diego School of Law 2.95–3.05[70]
University of San Francisco School of Law 2.73–2.99[citation needed]
Seattle University School of Law 3.1–3.2[71]
Seton Hall University School of Law 3.0[72]
University of Southern California School of Law 3.30[73]
South Texas College of Law 2.85–3.15[74]
Southern Illinois University School of Law 2.55–2.80[75]
Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 3.093 1L/2E; 3.090 2L/3E; 3.198 3L/4E (graduating)[76]
Southwestern Law School 2.90 (1L mean); 3.00 (2L/3L mean)[77]
Suffolk University Law School 3.02 (1L); 3.16 (2L/3L)[78]
Syracuse University College of Law 2.90–3.10[79]
Temple University Beasley School of Law 3.05[80]
University of Tennessee College of Law 3.0(1L); 3.1 (2L); 3.2–3.3 (3L)[81]
University of Texas School of Law 3.25-3.35[82]
Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 3.00[83]
Thomas M. Cooley Law School 2.00–2.40[84]
Tulane University Law School 3.20–3.30[citation needed]
University of Tulsa College of Law 2.50–2.67[85]
University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law 3.38[86]
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[87]
Washington and Lee University School of Law 3.34[88]
University of Washington School of Law 3.40[89]
Whittier Law School 2.50–2.75 (1L); 2.50–2.88 (2L/3L)[90]
University of Nevada, Las Vegas: William S. Boyd School of Law 3.0[91]
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[92]
University of Wisconsin Law School 2.85–3.10[93]
University of Wyoming College of Law 2.60–3.00[citation needed]
West Virginia University College of Law 2.95–3.05[94]

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.[95] GPA calculated based on 4.33 scale.
  • New York University School of Law – not reported, but likely between 3.17 and 3.25[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 and 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] Additionally, the top student in a course may be awarded the American Jurisprudence Award. The second-highest performing student in a course may be award the Prosser Prize.
  • 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] Below are the class rankings:
Class of 2015 Class of 2016 Class of 2017 Class of 2018
Top 5% 90.69 91.12
Top 10% 89 89.41 89.65
Top 15% 88.14 88.55
Top 20% 87.03 87.91
Top 25% 86.21 87.20
Top 33% 85.34 85.92
Top 50% 82.10 83.71

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Competition and the Mandatory Curve in Law School," Apr. 18, 2006, CALI's Pre-Law Blog ("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.") See also, Barbara Glesner Fines, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, "Competition and the Curve
  2. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=33601&yr=2010
  3. ^ http://www.law.ua.edu/academics/curriculum/grading/
  4. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=23301&yr=2010
  5. ^ http://www.asl.edu/documents/standards.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=80301&yr=2010
  7. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=80302&yr=2010
  8. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=70401&yr=2010
  9. ^ http://ualr.edu/law/files/2010/11/Grade-Scale-and-Mandatory-CurveforWebsite.doc.pdf
  10. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=32306&yr=2010
  11. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=52101&yr=2010
  12. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=51008&yr=2010
  13. ^ http://law.hofstra.edu/pdf/adjfr_grade_curve.pdf
  14. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=12201&yr=2010
  15. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=12202&yr=2010
  16. ^ BYU Policies and Procedures
  17. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=23302&yr=2010
  18. ^ http://law.capital.edu/4.7ExaminationsandGrades
  19. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp
  20. ^ http://cdn.law.ucla.edu/SiteCollectionDocuments/records%202/summary%20of%20academic%20standards%20as%20of%2008-31-09.pdf
  21. ^ https://law.ucdavis.edu/registrar/law-school-regulations.html
  22. ^ http://law.uc.edu/current-students/resources/college-law-rules#sec8
  23. ^ CUA/CSL
  24. ^ Cornell OCS
  25. ^ http://law.udayton.edu/NR/exeres/6106124D-A155-454A-92A9-1160E03172DF.htm
  26. ^ DU Law Student Handbook
  27. ^ [1]
  28. ^ [2]
  29. ^ Duke OCS
  30. ^ Duquesne University School of Law Academic Bulletin
  31. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=53407&yr=2010
  32. ^ FCSL Student Handbook
  33. ^ http://law.fordham.edu/career-planning/1416.htm
  34. ^ George Mason Academic Regulations
  35. ^ http://www.gwsba.com/wp-content/uploads/WHITEPAPERS_Final.pdf
  36. ^ http://abovethelaw.com/2009/12/harvard-law-and-georgetown-law-make-grading-easier/2/
  37. ^ [law.uga.edu]
  38. ^ http://law.gsu.edu/resources/registrar/College_of_Law_Bulletin_2011-2012.pdf
  39. ^ [3]
  40. ^ [4]
  41. ^ UHLC Policy Handbook
  42. ^ No Grade Inflation at Idaho
  43. ^ Illinois Academic Policy Handbook
  44. ^ http://law.ku.edu/regulations
  45. ^ http://www.law.uky.edu/index.php?pid=272
  46. ^ http://law.lclark.edu/academics/whats_what/grading_system_probation_and_dismissal/
  47. ^ http://www.law.lsu.edu/academics/files/2014/02/LSULawCatalog_20152016.pdf
  48. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=71902&yr=2010
  49. ^ "University of Massachusetts School of Law – Dartmouth Student Handbook" (PDF). Retrieved March 30, 2012. 
  50. ^ http://www.mslaw.edu/Directory_Reg_Standing.htm
  51. ^ http://memphis.edu/law/currentstudents/calendars/academic_regs2013.pdf
  52. ^ http://www.law.umich.edu/currentstudents/registration/Pages/gradingguidelines.aspx
  53. ^ http://www.law.umn.edu/careers/grades.html
  54. ^ http://law.umkc.edu/pdfs/grading.pdf
  55. ^ NCCU
  56. ^ [5]
  57. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=33607&yr=2010
  58. ^ Moritz Law Registrar
  59. ^ http://www.okcu.edu/law/
  60. ^ http://www.law.uoregon.edu/career/empgrading/
  61. ^ Penn State Dickinson School of Law – www.dsl.psu.edu
  62. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=10701&yr=2010
  63. ^ http://law.rwu.edu/academics/curriculum
  64. ^ http://law.newark.rutgers.edu/career-development/about-our-law-school
  65. ^ St. John's Student Handbook
  66. ^ SLU First Year Rankings
  67. ^ SLU Second Year Rankings
  68. ^ SLU Third Year Rankings
  69. ^ [6]
  70. ^ Grading
  71. ^ http://www.law.seattleu.edu/Academics/Curriculum/Grading.xml
  72. ^ http://law.shu.edu/Students/academics/examinations/Grading-Curves.cfm
  73. ^ USC Handbook
  74. ^ [7]
  75. ^ Southern Illinois University School of Law Rules
  76. ^ SMU OCS Current through Spring 2013
  77. ^ http://www.howtochoosealawschool.com/how_to_pick_a_law_school_updated_010.htm
  78. ^ NALP SULS GPA
  79. ^ Syracuse University College of Law Academic Rules
  80. ^ Temple University Class Rank Report
  81. ^ http://www.law.utk.edu/administration/records
  82. ^ "UT Law – Student Affairs Office – Grading Policy". Retrieved February 21, 2015. 
  83. ^ Texas Wesleyan University – Home
  84. ^ Wise, Carolyn C (2007-02-15). The Law School Buzz Book. ISBN 9781581314243. 
  85. ^ The University of Tulsa College of Law
  86. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=84502&yr=2010
  87. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=23906&yr=2010
  88. ^ W&L Admissions
  89. ^ http://www.law.washington.edu/Students/Academics/Grading.aspx
  90. ^ http://www.law.whittier.edu/pdfs/cstudents/Whittier-Law-School-Policies-2009-2010.pdf
  91. ^ [8] §8.06
  92. ^ http://web.wmitchell.edu/students/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/2011-2012-Handbook-2.pdf
  93. ^ Wisconsin Students
  94. ^ [9]
  95. ^ https://wwws-db.law.columbia.edu/lawnet/checkgrades/GradingGuidelinesFoundation.pdf
  96. ^ New York University School of Law | Grading System & Academic Standards (J.D. & Graduate Students), accessed October 1, 2014
  97. ^ [10], accessed March 16, 2009
  98. ^ Notre Dame Law School Grading Policy, accessed August 20, 2015
  99. ^ Penn Law Information on Law School Grades
  100. ^ Rutgers University School of Law – Camden Grading System, accessed June 12, 2009
  101. ^ http://www.nalplawschoolsonline.org/ndlsdir_search_results.asp?lscd=23102&yr=2011 NALP Directory of Law Schools – Rutgers School of Law-Newark
  102. ^ UT Law - Student Affairs Office - No Ranking Policy, accessed February 21, 2015
  103. ^ UT Law - Student Affairs Office - General Graduation Information, accessed February 21, 2015
  104. ^ UT Law Chancellors, accessed February 21, 2015
  105. ^ Grading Policy, law.berkeley.edu, accessed June 9, 2011
  106. ^ http://law.campbell.edu/employers/class-rank-percentages.pdf
  107. ^ Harvard Law School Handbook of Academic Policies 2009–2010
  108. ^ http://www.law.harvard.edu/current/careers/ocs/employers/about-our-students/grading.html
  109. ^ Student Handbook, law.howard.edu, accessed July 5, 2013
  110. ^ Stanford Law School Grading System, accessed December 7, 2010
  111. ^ top-law-schools.com
  112. ^ Yale Law School | Grades, accessed March 22, 2007
  113. ^ http://law.wisc.edu/career/new_grading_system.html