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The Nature of Essay Grades in Law School LSAC LSAT

Klein, Stephen P.; Hart, Frederick M.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Law School Admission Council (LSAC), Essay Tests, Grading, Law School Admission Test (LSAT), Law Schools, Test Reliability


The same one-hour essay question was included in the final examinations in the Contracts course at 16 law schools. The professor (P) at each school sent to ETS five answers from his or her class. A Xerox copy of the set of 80 answers was then sent to each P who graded them on a five-point scale. An analysis of these grades indicated that: (1) the students were consistent in their performance on different essays since grades on the common question (CQ) correlated .71 with their grades in the course, (2) the professors agreed with each other highly in how the papers should be graded (the intraclass correlation was .58 and the reliability of the mean grades across all Ps was .96) and (3) the average grade on the CQ was significantly related to a number of other variables such as LSAT scores (.45), Handwriting quality (.25), the Length of the answer (.56), and first-year GPA in law school (.62). The average grades assigned to the papers by two laymen and the combination of LSAT and Length correlated .63 and .68, respectively, with the Ps' average grade on the CQ. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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