Penn Law First to Accept GMAT for Law School Admissions

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Pilot Program May Have Implications for Other Law Programs

images-5Since early this year, the ABA has continued to move forward with eliminating the accreditation standard mandating that schools use a standardized test in admissions, a proposal adopted in committee that now awaits adoption by the ABA House of Delegates. In a nutshell, this means that law schools would no longer need to require any standardized test for admissions. While some law schools might dispense with not only the LSAT but also standardized testing altogether, these schools will be the exception; instead, many law schools may follow the example of the University of Pennsylvania and the eighteen other law schools that accept the GRE for admissions

If a school accepts the GRE, why not the GMAT too? 

If you're familiar with the major standardized tests for graduate admissions, you might wonder why law schools have gravitated towards the GRE rather than the GMAT. After all, there is no clear reason why the GRE would be in principle more valid for law school admissions than the GMAT. In fact, arguably the structure and content of the GMAT intersect more directly with the LSAT than do the structure and content of the GRE. For example, GMAT Quantitative and Verbal reasoning are all five answer choice multiple-choice, select one questions, as opposed to the GRE's mixture of single-answer multiple choice questions with multiple-answer multiple choice and select-in-passage questions. Furthermore, GMAT Critical Reasoning is more analogous to LSAT Logical Reasoning than are GRE Verbal Reasoning short passage questions. For instance, GMAT Critical Reasoning directly tests logical validity with assumption questions, which the GRE has historically eschewed. 

The main reasons why law schools may have adopted the GRE earlier than the GMAT are twofold:

  1. ETS has marketed the GRE directly to law schools and has invested considerable time, money, and effort to legitimize the GRE for law school admissions; the GMAC has made no such effort and has continued to concentrate on the GMAT for business school admissions.
  2. The GRE General Test has long been a kind of default test for graduate admissions. In the absence of a more specialized test for particular programs (e.g. the MCAT, the GMAT, the LSAT), many graduate programs have required at a minimum the GRE General Test. 

The GRE was First but Unlikely to Remain the Only Alternative to the LSAT

The GRE for law school admissions was somewhat a novelty, accepted only at the University of Arizona and a couple other undisclosed pilot programs until Harvard adopted it officially as an alternative the the LSAT in March 2017. However, now that the ABA is likely to remove the final barrier to alternative admissions tests and several other highly reputable law schools have followed Harvard's lead with the GRE, law schools will likely draft testing policies in sync with their admissions and program needs. Penn cites its roughly two dozen dual degree JD programs in its statement about using the GMAT for law school admissions. In fact, this statement affirms that the GMAT will be of interest "particularly those interested in our joint degree programs."

In other words, using the GMAT for law school admissions alone will likely remain an anomaly, even at Penn. 

Thus, if you are a student interested primarily in law school, continue to prepare for the LSAT. If you are seriously exploring other programs, whether dual degree or otherwise, the GRE, and perhaps in time the GMAT, may offer you the possibility of applying to law school as well. 

More Possibilities, More Empowered Students

As new options become available and law school policies change, you may find the choice of which test to take for law school admissions confusing. However, don't let this news throw a wrench in your plans! As long as you continue to follow the sound advice of preparing for the LSAT first, you should feel empowered by the additional options you will have. For instance, if you have a strong aptitude for math, grammar, vocabulary, or another skill set that is better tested on the GMAT or GRE than on the LSAT, you may be able to use these strengths to your advantage depending on the program you end up applying to. Eventually, the GRE or GMAT may reach universal law school adoption, if not parity with the LSAT, but in the mean time you can stay abreast of further developments by subscribing to this blog. 

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