Is the LSAT a good way to decide who gets into law school? Would other tests – specifically the GRE – work just as well?
Or should the requirement of the LSAT or any other entrance exam be dropped altogether?
These questions are roiling the world of legal education.
In June, the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar held a public hearing on law school admissions. At that hearing, some of the country’s top law deans urged the ABA to allow schools to use other tests – or no test at all.
“We disagree that the requirement for a law school admission test ‘is important in enforcing the requirement’ that law schools should only admit students they believe are capable of succeeding in law school and passing the bar,” six deans said in this statement. “There are many and better ways other than a standardized test to determine whether a law school believes an applicant can succeed in law school and pass the bar. That is why most law schools consider a range of factors, including academic ability, work experience, volunteer or public service, life experience, leadership, challenges overcome, career goals, writing skills, personal motivation and letters of recommendation.”
The deans said even if a school chooses to use an admission test like the LSAT, it should not be a requirement for ABA accreditation.
LSAT Under Fire
At issue is ABA Accreditation Standard 503, which says law schools “shall require each applicant for admission as a first-year JD student to take a valid and reliable admission test to assist the school and the applicant in assessing the applicant’s capability of satisfactorily completing the school’s educational program.”
Most law schools use the LSAT. But they are not prohibited from using another test, provided they can prove it is “valid and reliable” in assessing student readiness.
In 2016, the University of Arizona College of Law became the first school in the country to begin accepting GRE scores in lieu of the LSAT. It did so after conducting a study in which it compared GRE and LSAT results with law school performance and found the GRE to be a “valid and reliable predictor of students’ first-term law school grades.”
“We believe the goals of excellence and diversity in legal education and in the profession will be better achieved if the LSAT is not the only standardized test,” the school says on its website. “By using the GRE test, which is accepted by thousands of graduate and professional degree programs, from biochemistry to public policy to philosophy, we are able to consider qualified applicants from more diverse backgrounds.”
Shortly afterward, Harvard Law School began accepting the GRE as well.
“[A]ccepting the GRE lowers barriers to application,” Harvard’s dean said in this statement. “The GRE is offered frequently throughout the year and in numerous locations around the world. Many prospective law school applicants take the GRE as they consider graduate school options. The Law School’s decision to accept the GRE will alleviate the financial burden on applicants who would otherwise be required to prepare and pay for an additional test.”
Admissions Officers Seek Guidance
At other law schools, opinions are across the board. Some say the LSAT should be the exclusive test, while others favor opening up the process.
Either way, schools want clarity from the ABA. According to this survey of 119 admissions officers conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, 61 percent said “the ABA should make a statement saying that law schools are either permitted or not permitted to allow applicants to submit GRE scores as an alternative to scores from the LSAT.”
Here are some comments from schools responding to the Kaplan survey:
· “They need to pick a side. I want the ABA to be more definitive so we are playing from the same book.”
· “It would make it easier for all of us to have a concrete statement.”
· “The ABA is the accrediting body of law schools. It would be helpful to get their sense on the validity of the GRE.”
· “[The ABA] is notorious for making decisions in a vacuum without getting input from law schools. They don’t have a good understanding of what they are regulating. Most don’t have experience in higher education or law school administration.”
Predictably, the Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE, wants the ABA to green-light the GRE. It says the LSAT has a virtual monopoly on the testing process despite the absence of research showing it is any more “valid and reliable” than other tests.
What do you say? Should GRE scores be accepted in lieu of the LSAT? Should there even be an entrance test in the first place?
· ABA Statement on Standard 503 submitted June 28, 2017 https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/council_reports_and_resolutions/comments/20170628_comment_s503_deans_miller_chemerinsky_rodriguez_morant_guzman_farnsworth.authcheckdam.pdf
· ABA Journal http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/rather_than_accept_more_entrance_exams_some_law_school_deans_favor_eliminat
· University of Arizona https://law.arizona.edu/arizona-law-school-gre
· ABA Statement on Standard 503 – Harvard https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/council_reports_and_resolutions/comments/2017_comment_s503_harvard_law_school.authcheckdam.pdf · Kaplan Test Prep http://press.kaptest.com/press-releases/kaplan-test-prep-survey-law-schools-opinions-vary-on-whether-the-american-bar-association-should-insert-itself-into-the-growing-admissions-competition-between-the-lsat-and-gre