Legal Education

Starting now, the GRE can replace the LSAT in law school admissions

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In a closed session, the council of the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar recently voted in favor of allowing law schools to accept Graduate Record Examination scores from applicants in place of Law School Admission Test scores. The change is effective immediately.

According to a news release, the topic falls under Standard 503, which requires that law schools use a “valid and reliable” admission test to assess applicants’ capabilities of completing law school. Before the council’s November decision, schools had to demonstrate that entrance exams other than the LSAT were valid and reliable, including the GRE.

The development deals with the application of the standard and is not a revision, so it does not require concurrence from the ABA House of Delegates, according to Bill Adams, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education.

“This was in closed session because it involved an ongoing conversation, including what advice we might want to provide about application of the standard that was not final by the time of the open session,” Adams told the ABA Journal in an email.

Previously, at the 2018 ABA Annual Meeting, the council submitted a proposed resolution to the House of Delegates that called for cutting Standard 503 and adding more language to Standard 501, which requires law schools adhere to sound admission policies and practices.

The proposed revision was supported by many law school deans who wanted to accept the GRE but received criticism from various groups, including the Minority Network, a group of law school admissions professionals. The council withdrew the proposed revision shortly before the scheduled House of Delegates’ vote.

For the more recent revision, it could take a few admissions cycles to determine impact, according to Jeff Thomas, executive director of legal programs at test prep company Kaplan. In a statement via email, he estimated that few law school applicants submit GRE scores, perhaps because there’s a perception LSAT scores were preferred.

“Overall, we are glad the ABA has finally made a ruling on this issue, which will bring some much needed clarity to both law schools and prospective students—keeping prospective students in limbo was particularly unfortunate,” Thomas said.

The Educational Testing Service administers the GRE. Alberto Acereda, its associate vice president of global higher education, said in a statement via email the council’s decision demonstrates the GRE’s value in legal education.

“We look forward to continuing to bring innovation and transformation to legal education, working alongside law schools to enrich and diversify pools of future legal practitioners,” Acereda said.

The Law School Admission Council is responsible for the LSAT. A spokesperson told the ABA Journal in a statement the LSAC was not going to second-guess the council’s decision.

“We will continue to innovate to ensure that the LSAT remains the gold standard for law school admission, and we will deliver unparalleled programs and services specifically designed to attract and help diverse, talented individuals succeed,” the LSAC spokesperson wrote.

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