I'm an international student applying for law school. I took TOEFL and got 103, which is a decent score for most law school. The problem is that I only got 20 on writing section. Will that hurt my chance? Or would admission just care about the total score? Thank you for answering.
Each school sets its own TOEFL requirements, so you'll need to confirm those requirements at each school that you're interested in. Schools usually post that information on their websites.
A common approach that you'll see is for schools to set a minimum for the overall score, and then some (but not all) schools also add minimum requirements for the subsections.
For example, a school might require at least a 100 overall (using the scale for the internet-based test) and at least 25 in each of the four subsections. Another school might require an overall score of at least 100, with a minimum of 26 on the reading and listening subsections, and a minimum of 22 on the writing and speaking subsections. These are just some examples taken from real schools, but they illustrate how each school handles the TOEFL minimums differently. In both of those examples, your overall score would suffice, but your writing score wouldn't, and you would need to get that writing score up.
For schools that list only a minimum overall score but don't list minimum scores for the subsections, you can go ahead and apply if you've met the overall minimum, but be aware that they will still evaluate your subscores as well, and in their discretion they might decide that your writing score is too low. So it's no guarantee that your writing score will pass muster even if a school lists only an overall minimum.
I hugely admire people who are able to master another language enough to be able to earn a degree in that language. Hats off to you, and if you can get that writing score up, so much the better. Law school exams (and grades) are typically writing-based, so any investment you make to improve your writing subscore will help not just with admissions but also with your academic success once you're in. Good luck!
Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founder of Ivey Consulting. She and her team help college, law school, and MBA applicants make smart decisions about their higher education and navigate the application process. She is the author of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions and How to Prepare a Standout College Application, and also serves on the leadership team of the non-profit Service to School.