Once the Exception, Becoming the Rule
Yesterday, WashU (US News #18 Law School) joined six other US law schools in accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT for law school admissions. As of today, these are the law schools that accept the GRE:
- Harvard Law
- Northwestern Law
- Georgetown Law
- University of Hawaii Law
- University of Arizona Law
- Washington University in St. Louis Law
As PowerScore CEO Dave Killoran noted in a tweet yesterday, this means that four top-twenty law programs now accept the GRE.
6 schools now accepting the GRE in place of the LSAT, 4 of which are in the USNews Top 20. https://t.co/miUV2Y9uJl— Dave Killoran (@DaveKilloran) October 3, 2017
The LSAC might have once been able to throw its weight around when the University of Arizona was alone in its GRE pilot program, but that train has left the station. The LSAC will have to compete with ETS directly not only on the merits of the LSAT versus the GRE but also on accessibility, responsiveness, and convenience.
While the LSAC can rightly claim that the LSAT more directly tests skills relevant for success than does the GRE, this is not the beginning and end of the discussion about the GRE's utility for law school admissions. Some of the most in-demand fields in law involve information technology, patents, and other technical skills held by students who may not even be considering law school. To attract these students to law school instead of graduate or business school, law schools are wise to consider accepting a test that many of these students are taking anyways, since the GRE is already universally accepted for business school admissions as well as grad school admissions.
Thus, arguments that the LSAT should be the exclusive test for law school admissions based on its structure and the skills it tests are largely moot, since the appeal and utility of the GRE for law school admissions are based in part on different considerations. In addition to the cross-discipline appeal mentioned above, PowerScore VP Jon Denning dove into several other aspects of the GRE for law school admissions in an article published pursuant to Harvard's announcement earlier this year. Read more below for additional key factors in the GRE's expansion into law school admissions.
Students' Questions Answered
Jon Denning identifies the following key benefits of the GRE for law school admissions in his article, quoted at length:
Diversity. This move is a great way to attract a much wider range of applicants (particularly international, where LSAT access is often extremely limited), and to do so from a broader, more math/science-based background than a lot of law schools encounter. That's great for Harvard and the legal community at large. This, and the point below, accord closely to claims Harvard has made directly.
Access. This is similar to #1. LSAT numbers have dropped significantly in recent years, and while they've shown a subtle uptick very recently, it's undeniable that many schools are feeling the effects. The Top 14 aren't going under any time soon, of course, but here's where the T14 is hurt: a (slightly) disproportionately large percentage of that shrinkage has been concentrated at the high-scoring end; simply put, the best LSAT candidates have disappeared at a greater rate than their lower-scoring peers. Now I'd argue that that's due to the tremendous cost of LS and the dubious employment prospects many graduates faced for an alarming stretch of years, and not due to a sudden disinterest in a legal career itself, but anything schools can do to make applying easier and more appealing to more people they're going to at least consider. The computerized GRE is undeniably a more accessible test than the LSAT in terms of actually sitting for it, so that box is immediately checked.
Merit. If the GRE is indeed a valid predictor of first-year LS success, as is being claimed by HLS and as the LSAT has been shown to be, then why not? Falling test taker numbers or not, there isn't a law school in the world that doesn't want more applicants, particularly if they've proven themselves qualified, so this is a no-brainer step in that direction.
Innovation. I almost called this "novelty," but felt people might mistake my meaning as "whimsy" or "caprice." No, what I mean is who doesn't want to be on the cutting-edge, potentially revolutionizing a decades-old (arguably stale and outdated) system, especially with the merits above working in your favor? Years from now if this is standard practice Harvard is on the podium rightfully claiming credit (sorry Arizona). I don't think this is the driving force...but if I'm Harvard it'd certainly be on my mind!
Publicity. Not that Harvard needs the press (although the USNWR dropping them from #2 to #3 in the rankings this week probably stings a little), but boy are they about to get it. And when it comes to publicity, this is the kind you want, because...
Choice. It's a fact: students love options. The LSAT is a test near and dear to me, but I'm in a microscopic minority. A school saying to students, "Look, you hate the LSAT and think it's unfair and we hear you...how about this test that feels more like college instead?," becomes instantly heroic. Again, Harvard's academic reputation is forever intact, but did anyone foresee them also labeled a champion of the people? In the corner of the little guy sucking endlessly at Games but with a legitimate shot at a 97th percent on GRE Quant? That's a hope that's just been endowed, and I for one think it's pretty cool (See? It's working already)!
Prospective law students considering taking the GRE instead of or in addition to the LSAT should consult this article in full.
In addition, this blog has also tackled some of the most salient similarities and differences between the LSAT and the GRE. The following is an excerpt from an in-depth analysis we did in July.
Both the GRE and LSAT are aptitude tests, designed to measure certain cognitive reasoning skills, both akin in some sense to the pioneering Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales. Thus, even though the question types vary dramatically between the GRE and LSAT, we can note conceptual overlap between the two tests.
- Reasoning Skills Common to Both Exams
- Fluid/Verbal Reasoning
- Reading Comprehension
- Working Memory
- Visual-Spatial Processing
- An aspect of both LSAT Analytical Reasoning and GRE Quantitative Reasoning
- Critical/Logical Reasoning
- Significantly more important on the LSAT than on the GRE; integral to almost all LSAT problems; important on a subset of GRE Verbal Reasoning Questions
- Deductive Reasoning
- Informal Fallacies
- Argument Analysis
- Aspects of the LSAT Only
- Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games)
- Advanced Logical Reasoning Tasks
- Formal Logic, Conditional Reasoning, Categorical Propositions
- Aspects of the GRE Only
- Quantitative Reasoning (Both verbal (“word problems”) and non-verbal (conventional math problems)
- The LSAT does include some intermittent, elementary quantitative reasoning tasks, occasionally as part of Logical Reasoning questions.
- Persuasive Writing (Issue Essay Task)
- The LSAT Writing Sample could be considered a form of persuasive writing, but the GRE Issue Essay Task is considerably more significant and challenging.
- Vocabulary Knowledge
- Important for both Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence problems.
A Host of Resources Already Available
Far from feeling overwhelmed with a new decision between the LSAT and the GRE, students can find solace in the depth and breadth of material already available for both LSAT and GRE preparation. These are two of the most-studied and best-understood admissions tests. If you're interested in either, consider consulting PowerScores extensive resources:
We also encourage students to take advantage of our free LSAT and GRE forums to ask questions and receive prompt expert responses to all your queries, no matter how large or small. At PowerScore, we have been following every development in GRE expansion into law school admissions and will continue to keep you apprised of all relevant details.