Law Schools Are Accepting the GRE: What Does That Mean for the Future Generation of Lawyers

It started as a crack, but by now it is safe to say that the LSAT’s monopoly on law school admissions testing is broken. The general-purpose postgraduate GRE entrance exam is making inroads and adoption is accelerating.

To date, four schools have made the leap to GRE acceptance. University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law was the first, in February 2016. This year, Harvard Law, Northwestern, and Georgetown followed suit. These four account for less than 2% of the nation’s law schools; but time will tell if this is a watershed event.

More interesting than the raw numbers is the caliber of institutions adding the GRE to their admission protocol. None is an also-ran. Notably, the three schools to throw in with the GRE this year all place #15 or better on the US News and World Report law school rankings. Other law schools known to be investigating GRE acceptance include the University of Southern California, UC Irvine, and George Washington University.

How the GRE Found Its Way To 1L

The trendsetters at the University of Arizona don’t necessarily speak for all of their peers, but they do provide a comprehensive FAQ explaining the shift. Notably, Arizona participated in a study by GRE sponsor Educational Testing Service which concluded that the GRE was a “valid and reliable predictor of students’ first-term law school grades,” and further that the rigor and depth of the GRE satisfies ABA Legal Education Standard protocols.

According to data published by GRE sponsor Educational Testing Service, over 500,000 students take valid GREs annually. Just over 100,000 LSATs are completed each year. Proponents see the wider GRE pool as a strong aiding to candidate diversity. “This is about ensuring that top candidates from many disciplines and many geographic locations continue to consider Harvard Law school,” Harvard Law School Associate Dean of Admissions Jessica L. Soban told The Harvard Crimson.

What Separates the GRE From the LSAT

The GRE tests a broad base of knowledge, with verbal, math, and writing components similar to those found in undergraduate entrance exams. Essays are scored, unlike on the LSAT. The LSAT emphasizes logic and reasoning, and leaves out formal mathematical questions entirely. Fees and test duration are similar.

The Future

It’s too soon to assess how curricula or even the caliber of lawyers admitted by GRE score may change. However, the path to adoption hasn’t been smooth. It’s important to note that current ABA educational regulations still require 90% of a class to be admitted with LSAT scores.

As Arizona’s rationale points out, schools want to find candidates who will deliver strong first-year grades. If that correlation holds, there may be few course corrections needed.

It’s safe to say that the LSAT isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Law School Admission Council, the test’s sponsor, is adopting features including digital test-taking and more frequent LSAT test sessions, which could equalize some of the GRE’s current convenience advantages. LSAC also no longer limits retakes, although law schools can still see all results.

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