Assume that the candidate is a graduate of a good state school, e.g. North Carolina or Ohio State. Then I want to explore this candidate's probable viability in getting into "second tier" graduate schools, say 15-30th in a given field using the following academic combinations.
The best combination would be something like a 3.9 GPA and a graduate exam (GRE or LSAT) score of 175 or better (out of 180). Assuming research and activities were competitive (and are held constant between candidates), would these candidates be able to do better than second tier (say top 15)?
A second best combination might be something like a 3.5 GPA and a 175 exam score or a 3.9 GPA and a 165 exam score. How would this candidate "stack up" for a second tier grad school? Are the two sets equivalent or is one combination decidedly more competitive than the other?
Third best would be something like 3.5 GPA and a 165 exam score. Would "second tier" grad school be a reach for such a person?
If you changed "good state school" to "HYPSM" and kept exam scores and GPA constant, would that change matters?
Explanation: Unlike the other question, this one is not about getting students in from the "bottom." This question is about how the TOP three (or so) categories sort themselves out.