How important is the LNAT

Naturally, the competition for places offered at each LNAT university is fierce, given the academic reputation of these institutions and the quality of teaching which their names commit to. LNAT is one component which is used in assessing the candidate’s application, but it can play different roles in the admission process of each university.

Here we will discern between how different universities use the LNAT multiple-choice score and their different approaches to the LNAT essay, to give you some understanding of how important it is to do well in the LNAT which is a question on a lot of students’ minds.

Based on the information you are about to read below, Arbitio serves students with preparation materials and environment aimed for excelling both in the multiple choice and essay components of the test. We believe that, ultimately, an above the average LNAT score and an impressive essay can significantly increase the chances of an application being successful and it’s borne out of the correlation between our students’ LNAT scores and offers data.

LNAT score is sometimes used as a gatekeeper – it determines whether your application progresses onto the next stage of assessment.

LNAT universities are often notoriously oversubscribed for the number of places which they are able to offer on their Law courses. This is why some applicants to offer-holder ratios are so high, for example UCL on average only making offers to approx. 20% of its applicants for the Law LLB (M100) (figure consistent for every year 2013-2017) and London School of Economics 16.8% for the 2017-2018 cohort. Further, since there is a significant crossing over with Oxbridge applicants, these figures should be contextualised within a narrower pool of candidates. (Sources for this data)

Some universities use the LNAT score of the multiple-choice component in the following way: to decide whether or not to progress the applicant onto the next stage of their admissions process. The universities which adapt this stage-based approach are University of Oxford and University College London (UCL).

University of Oxford firstly considers your academic achievements and the LNAT score together to decide on which candidates to shortlist for the interview stage. After the interview, the admissions tutor considers all components of your application holistically in the final decision stage – including the LNAT score, essay, academic achievements, Personal Statement and interview performance together – in deciding to whether make an offer of place. It goes without saying that you should and want to put in the best application you can, including your LNAT. Having said that, it is your interview which will speak volumes to the college tutors.

UCL also follows a very clear-cut step-by-step process for its applicants. Firstly, it considers the UCAS exam grades and predictions, if this passes the threshold then its admissions look at the LNAT score form the multiple-choice component of the test. Only if the score is considered to be high enough will then the whole application progress to an Admissions tutor. The Admissions tutor will then read the LNAT essay and the remaining components of an applicant’s submission (namely the Personal Statement and the Academic reference) to make the final decision.

UCL openly states that it places high importance in its selections: “The essay carries considerable weight in the selection process at UCL”.

In this stage-by-stage approach, the LNAT score acts as a real gatekeeper of your application’s progress and, conversely, it could bar it from further consideration at an early stage if the LNAT score is not considered to be high enough.

Further, remember that a statistical approach is one side of the coin – we know of many students that, for instance, do badly on the essay but excel on the score and receive offers from UCL. Whereas Oxford law admissions data for individuals show interesting results on one’s chances with regards to essay and score, when categorised for below average, third quartile (above average), and top quartile (excellent) – you can see this in detail in our University Scores and Requirements article.

In the context of the average score for the cohort being 22, notice the dramatic increase to your chances of getting an interview when you manage to beat the average (indeed, no mean feat!) and borders on near guarantee if you truly manage to excel with those extra few marks!

LNAT is sometimes used as the determining factor that ‘makes or breaks’ an application

In the event of receiving a high number of candidates who prove similarly likely to be able to meet the grade requirements of the course, LNAT can be used as the deciding factor in differentiating between those otherwise similar candidates and who will receive an offer.

This admission tactic, for instances, is openly stated to be applied by University of Glasgow and University of Nottingham.

For example, for the 2018-2019 cohort for the Common Law LLB course, University of Glasgow received a very large pool of candidates with similar A-level (or equivalent) grades and used the LNAT score to determine which candidates received an offer. Likewise, University of Nottingham uses a cut-off score, meaning that candidates below a certain LNAT score are not considered. Its admissions openly state that “LNAT is a component used to distinguish between otherwise similar candidates”.

Of course, each admissions cycle is different from the other, and University of Glasgow is not openly committed to this strategy of admissions unless facing high application numbers once again. But you can never be sure of what your own year’s cohort of applications will be like and so it is best to build all the stakes in your favour and do well in the LNAT in case its score is used in this decisive manner.

In short, if you happen to apply in a year where there is a high number of highly-achieving candidates in exams, then your LNAT performance may be the factor that absolutely decides your application at those particular universities.

Although Universities of Glasgow and University of Nottingham are the only LNAT universities who openly commit to this absolutist strategy, other universities are also within their right to opt for this strategy any year when facing a high number of candidates who appear similar on paper, subject to communication. Because of this nature of admissions, the LNAT score in the multiple-choice component may always become the determining factor of your application.

“The role of LNAT is to help us to distinguish between large numbers of similarly qualified applicants” (Nottingham University, 2020)

LNAT always contributes as a component of a holistically assessed application

LSE, University of Bristol and Durham University commit to assessing their candidates based on a holistic assessment of each application. This means that every component of an application is looked at together (UCAS grades, Personal Statement, Academic reference and the LNAT) and these can be weighed against each other. For example, a better LNAT score may mean that a candidate with lower academic grades is still considered and vice versa, a candidate with a lower LNAT score but higher academic achievements will also be considered. All components are looked at together and contribute to make an overall impression of the candidate.

Note that even University of Oxford and UCL consider both the LNAT score and its essay in a holistic manner at the very final stage of their application assessment.

LSE and Durham University do not reveal the exact proportion for which the LNAT counts in their holistic assessment of an application.

Whilst, University of Bristol uses the LNAT to count for 40% of the application, with the other 40% coming from A-level grades (or equivalent) and the remaining 20% from GCSE grades (or equivalent). Meanwhile the LNAT essay counts for 40% and multiple-choice component score for 60% of the LNAT assessment. (Source: Uni of Bristol admission website)

The fact that LNAT accounts for as much as the A-level (or equivalent) grades for University of Bristol can be considered quite telling of how important it is in the holistic assessment of an application. Consider that the variance in students’ A-level predictions is much lower than the possibility of differentiation through the LNAT score.

How important is the LNAT essay?

As explained above, in any admissions cycle you can be sure of facing high competition from a large number of great candidates. This makes it hard for admission tutors to discern between a large pool of candidates and decisions of offer are therefore often tough to make. Remember though to keep it all in perspective: you are not in competition with others per se but really with yourself – have I worked throughout my education to develop skills which will match the standard required of excelling at a given law degree? At the end of the day, admissions tutors want students who they are confident about teaching and helping succeed in their degrees!

One way that is accessible to you, to make your application unique and prove your ability to excel in a Law degree is by performing well on the LNAT essay. Each candidate will have a unique voice and their own way of writing, not to mention that candidates pick different questions to answer when faced with the choice of a range of essay questions. This nature of the essay introduces great variety to what can be an otherwise similar pool of applications, although should not be treated as a panacea for a below average score (at least in instance of Oxford, see our University Score Requirements Guide.

Having said that, the essay is a great opportunity to mark yourself out. An impressive essay can really dazzle an admissions tutor and make their choice all the more easier!

Do note that some universities do not consider the essay as part of their selections, because they prefer the numerically objective metric of the multiple-choice component. These are: LSE, King’s College London and University of Nottingham. In one way, this is good, because it provides an insurance policy on the day of exam – sometimes, writing well in 40 minutes does not happen.

However, universities which openly place high importance on the essay component are: University of Oxford, UCL, University of Bristol, Durham University, with a varied past practise for University of Glasgow which considers the essay dependant on the circumstances of the given admissions cycle. These universities state the LNAT essay to play an important part of their admissions tactic, and mark each essay using an objective mark scheme.

Case closed: LNAT can be at most completely decisive and at least important.

From the above you can hopefully discern that although the way in which the LNAT score and essay is used in admissions of the different universities varies, ultimately it does play a significant role in the decision-making process of each. It is notably an important part of any application. Universities do treat it seriously because of how telling it is of a candidate’s specific aptness for a Law degree, testing those skills which are most relevant to it. Of course, there are sound criticisms to be made about the realities of the exam, however it undoubtedly focuses on testing skills inherent to legal study.

We hope that the above information shows you that a successful admission is attainable with the right approach and LNAT is not a thing to fear, but rather your opportunity to impress and stand out.

Indeed, Arbitio works to challenge your preparation through most extensive set of LNAT tests under simulated exam conditions. Our student averages of both 27 for 2018 and 2019 entry on the actual LNAT speak for themselves. So why not start preparing today?