Law school admissions: taking the GRE or the LSAT (or both)

GRE LSAT

Take the GRE or LSATIncreasingly, law schools are rethinking the LSAT as the best (and only) metric of law school success. Its predictive value has long been questioned, and law school deans often publicly question how useful a tool it is (and then proceed to use it, powerfully, anyways).

A few years ago, Harvard started an experiment: what about accepting the GRE, the test used by most graduate admissions programs (although many of those programs are doing away with testing requirements altogether, like Harvard’s English PhD program). A number of other schools followed suit.

There are many benefits to the GRE:

  • It is offered pretty much every day, compared to the traditional four times per year of the LSAT (the LSAT has added more dates in recent years, in part a response to falling registration rates).
  • It will feel more familiar to you. It is more like the SAT. No logic games or logical reasoning passages; more straightforward reading comprehension than the LSAT.
  • You get your score immediately.
  • There is a more traditional math section, meaning it is both slightly easier to study for and evens the playing field a bit for STEM students interested in law (although STEM students tend to do very well on the LSAT as well).
  • It is slightly shorter.
  • It is completely automated and proctored at various testing centers, reducing proctor variation and student stress.
  • It is slightly cheaper to register for.
  • It provides students who struggle with the LSAT but really want to go to law school a good alternative.
  • All things equal, for most students, it is slightly easier. When determining which to take, ask yourself if you are willing to only apply to a handful of schools. The answer is almost always going to be no – unless you really see no hope for improvement on the LSAT, have an element to your profile that you feel makes you a sure bet at a certain school (I’ve seen this perception go wrong many, many times), or just aren’t that committed to going to law school, the question is always going to be does it make sense to take the GRE in addition to the LSAT.

 

The problems with this approach, though, is that we don’t know how the GRE is evaluated compared to the LSAT. Is a perfect score on the GRE equivalent to a perfect score on the LSAT? The law schools have released little information as to how they are comparing the two tests, meaning taking the GRE is risky. We also don’t know how long these GRE pilot programs will last – the law schools could pull the plug at any minute, making your GRE studying investment useless, especially if you are planning to apply down the road.

My advice – take a practice test for both, after studying a bit for both.

Definitely continue with the LSAT – it gives you a much broader range of options and, in my opinion, is considered to be a more reliable test by law schools. If your GRE score is better than your LSAT score, though, and you have the bandwidth to take two tests, there is no reason not to take it and send it along with the LSAT.

It can show versatility, and a deep commitment to the process. Law school admissions deans have publicly said they are happy to look at both scores, and the dean of admissions at Yale, which does not take the GRE, recently encouraged applicants to send their GRE scores along with the LSAT (Yale is likely considering whether to accept the GRE, and is probably trying to see how many applicants would submit GRE scores, and how high they are compared to applicants’ LSAT scores).

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