The new role of the GRE in law school admissions

By Rachel Margiewicz

The LSAT remains the universally accepted entrance exam for law schools across the country. However, in recent years, a growing number of schools (a list that notably includes Harvard Law School) are now also accepting the Graduate Record Examination (“GRE”) in lieu of the LSAT.

While the role of the GRE in law school admissions is still uncertain, this post will break down the growing trend among law schools to accept the GRE and what it means for you as a law school applicant.

Why the Change?

The reason many schools are now accepting the GRE, as well as the LSAT, in law school admissions is generally cited as part of a larger effort to make law school more accessible to students from diverse backgrounds. By accepting the GRE, schools are expanding the scope of their application pool.  

Added Flexibility for Applicants

Most graduate school programs accept the GRE as the standard entrance exam. With law schools now joining that trend, applicants are less restricted in deciding their future career path. 

This now gives more applicants the flexibility and option of which exam they’d like to take. Students who may not be 100% certain that they want to pursue law, as opposed to a different graduate program, now don’t have to make the decision quite so soon. They can take the GRE while they research which graduate program is right for them. The LSAT, however, is only useful when applying to law schools and is not accepted by any other graduate programs.

It’s also worth noting that applicants interested in a dual-degree program will no longer have to take two separate tests, the GRE and the LSAT, if their law school accepts the GRE. Dual degree programs traditionally require a separate entrance exam for each program. For applicants applying to GRE-friendly law schools, this is no longer necessary and saves the time and money of studying for two separate exams.

More Opportunities to Take the Exam

The GRE is offered more times a year and is more convenient for most applicants. It is offered electronically year-round, on almost any day of the year, at over 1,000 locations. Applicants can take the GRE once every 21 days and up to five times in a one-year period.

The LSAT is now being offered nine times a year to help make it more accessible as well. Though it’s not offered everyday like the GRE, it’s an improvement from the four times a year it was traditionally held. The LSAT will now be electronic (as of September 2019), allowing students to take the exam on a tablet.

Applicants can take the LSAT as many times as they’d like, bearing in mind that all scores will be reported to all schools. (See more on that below.) This is also a change in policy that previously restricted applicants to taking the LSAT only three times in a two-year period. 

Control Over Your Reported Scores

Law schools receive all of your LSAT scores, not just your highest ones or those of your choosing. Your LSAC law school report (commonly referred to as a Credential Assembly Service or “CAS” report) lists each time that you sat for the exam, including whether you cancelled your score. In addition to listing all of your LSAT scores, it also reports the average of all of your scores (if you took the test multiple times), and your percentile rank for each test.  

However, the GRE score reporting process is much more flexible. It allows applicants to choose which GRE scores they will report to schools. This is a huge advantage in the admissions process and takes a lot of pressure off each exam.

Keep in mind, however, that many law schools ask applicants to still submit all of their GRE test scores from the last five years, to mimic what is done for the LSAT and provide some consistency between the two exams. Be sure to verify law school admissions policies before not reporting one of your scores.

How Do the Exams Compare?

The LSAT is a timed test that is composed of 100 or 101 multiple-choice questions. The questions are broken down into five 35-minute sections. There is also a separate writing component that is required but is no longer administered at the same time as the multiple-choice exam. 

The LSAT tests critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills that will be required of you as a law student and an attorney. Unlike many of the other exams you’ve taken, there is no substantive material that you will need to study or memorize to perform well on this exam.

 

The LSAT sections tested are:

- Logical reasoning

- Logical reasoning 

- Analytical reasoning (logic games)

- Reading comprehension

- Experiment (either a logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, or reading comprehension section that will be unmarked and ungraded)

 

On the other hand, the GRE is a timed exam composed of approximately 102 multiple-choice and essay questions. The GRE exam is broken down into seven different sections varying in length from 30 to 35 minutes per section. 

The skills tested on the GRE are more academic and similar to what is tested on the ACT/SAT. Though it might seem silly, it’s worth noting that the GRE incorporates math, including calculus and algebra.

 

The GRE sections tested are:

- Verbal reasoning (20 questions)

- Verbal reasoning (20 questions)

- Quantitative reasoning

- Quantitative reasoning

- Analytical writing

- Analytical writing

- Experimental (either a quantitative reasoning or verbal reasoning section that will be unmarked and ungraded)

 

How Does a GRE Score Compare to a LSAT Score?

The comparison between GRE and LSAT scores can be difficult because law schools are comparing apples to oranges, meaning two different tests with two different score scales. However, there are comparison tools for law schools to use to evaluate GRE scores against nearly equivalent LSAT scores. Educational Testing Service (ETS), the company that created the GRE, created a comparison tool for evaluating LSAT and GRE scores.

Keep in mind that such comparison tools are not evaluating the percentile of your score on each exam and making a direct comparison. For example, scoring in the 90th percentile on the GRE may not translate to a 90th percentile score on the LSAT. The percentile is a representation of how well you did compared to everyone else who took the exam. The audience for the GRE and the LSAT might vary greatly, so comparing percentiles is not an accurate plane for comparison.

Also note that law schools have not yet released how they compare the GRE and LSAT data in making admissions decisions. 

Continued Uncertainty in the Admissions Process

It is not yet clear whether it’s easier or harder to gain admission to law school with a GRE score compared to an LSAT score. Though many law schools are now accepting GRE scores, the amount of applicants that are admitted with only a GRE score, and no LSAT score on file, remains low. (Keep in mind that this may simply be because fewer people are applying with GRE scores and the large majority of applicants take the LSAT, as of now.) This, however, is likely to change in the future as more schools accept the GRE and students admitted with the GRE prove that it is an accurate and reliable predictor of law school success.

Schools that Accept the GRE and the LSAT

The list of schools that accept the GRE is constantly growing. However, it is still not universally accepted across all law schools. Do your research to ensure that the law schools you plan on applying to will accept the GRE before taking it. If your target school does not accept the GRE then you are required to also take the LSAT, which might delay your application process.

See a list of law schools that currently accept the GRE and the LSAT below (as of August 2019):

 

  • American University Washington College of Law
  • Boston University School of Law
  • Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School
  • Brooklyn Law School
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Columbia Law School
  • Cornell Law School
  • Florida International University College of Law
  • Florida State University College of Law
  • George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School
  • Georgetown University Law Center
  • Harvard Law School
  • John Marshall Law School
  • Massachusetts School of Law 
  • New York University School of Law
  • Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  • Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law
  • Penn State Law
  • Pepperdine School of Law
  • Seattle University School of Law
  • Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law
  • St. John's University School of Law
  • Suffolk University Law School
  • Texas A&M University School of Law
  • University at Buffalo School of Law
  • University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law
  • University of California, Davis School of Law
  • University of California, Irvine School of Law
  • University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
  • University of Chicago Law School
  • University of Dayton School of Law
  • University of Hawai’i at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law
  • University of New Hampshire School of Law
  • University of Notre Dame Law School
  • University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • University of Southern California, Gould School of Law
  • University of South Carolina School of Law
  • University of Texas at Austin School of Law
  • University of Virginia School of Law
  • Wake Forest University School of Law
  • Washington University in St. Louis School of Law
  • Yale Law School
  • Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

 


Rachel Margiewicz is the director of prelaw services with JD Advising, a law school and bar exam preparation company offering services ranging from LSAT tutoring and application assistance to bar exam tutoring, courses, and seminars. She is a licensed attorney who spent five years working in law school admissions, successfully coaching applicants through the admissions process.

You can follow her and the JD Advising team on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn. Additional resources, including daily blog posts, are available at www.JDAdvising.com


 

 

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