TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, June 6, 2016

Poll:  Majority Of Law Schools Are Not Racing To Follow Arizona In Replacing LSAT With GRE

Kaplan Test Prep Survey, The GRE® Tries to Break the LSAT’s® Lock on Law School Admissions, but Most Admissions Officers Are Cool to It (pie charts here):

A majority (56 percent) of law schools have no plans to adopt the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law’s controversial new policy allowing applicants to submit GRE scores instead of LSAT scores, according to a recently conducted Kaplan Test Prep survey of admissions officers at 125 law schools across the United States.* Just 14 percent say it’s something they plan to adopt, while 56 percent say it’s something they don’t plan to do. The remaining 30 percent say they are unsure. The University of Arizona’s law school announced their decision to begin accepting the GRE earlier this year after conducting research with Educational Testing Service, the GRE’s administrator. The validity of this research is now being evaluated by the American Bar Association, the organization that accredits the nation’s 200 plus law schools.

GRE

“Right now, there doesn’t seem to be any great enthusiasm by law schools to adopt the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT, which isn’t too surprising considering that law schools tend to be judicious, wanting to see all evidence and research before making an important decision like this,” says Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “What’s particularly interesting is that nearly a third of law schools say they are unsure if they will accept the GRE, as opposed to simply being against it, which suggests that the pro-GRE movement has room to grow. We’ll be watching developments closely so that pre-law students have the most accurate and up-to-date information to make good decisions.”

In a recent interview that Marc L. Miller, the dean of the University of Arizona’s law school, gave to Bloomberg Law, he stated the reason behind the admissions change was to find “a greater number of high-quality applicants with the widest range of life, educational, and professional backgrounds.” Results from Kaplan’s survey support this view. Eight in 10 admissions officers say that law schools that accept the GRE might do so because they “want a more diverse pool of applicants and students.” But admissions officers say there are other, less altruistic reasons law schools may allow applicants to submit GRE scores. Eighty-four percent say law schools that adopt the GRE may do so because they are “concerned about filling seats because of dropping/stagnant application numbers.” And 70 percent say it could be because U.S. News & World Report doesn’t yet factor GRE scores of accepted students into their rankings — this would allow law schools to admit potentially less qualified students without immediate consequences.

The survey also found that while 70% say the LSAT is the “more appropriate test” for admissions, 53% law schools don’t want the American Bar Association to explicitly mandate that law schools can only accept the LSAT; 38% would favor this, while 9% are uncertain.

Above the Law, Law Schools Reveal Their Future Plans For The LSAT And GRE:

While noting the pressure that law schools are under to fill their classes, Thomas was struck by the quality of law school admissions personal and their genuine desire to expand opportunities for potential law students. He said that when admissions professionals go through applications they come across candidates who they feel may be well-qualified or who they want to take a chance on but they simply cannot admit them because of testing thresholds. Making a change to the GRE may allow schools to bet on these students, and they may indeed thrive in the law school environment.

But they may not thrive, or they may find themselves ill prepared to pass the bar exam. In recent years, as law schools have lowered their admissions standards, there has been a correlation to sharp dips in bar passage rates. Indeed, Erica Moeser, head of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), puts the blame for declining bar passage rates squarely on lower law school admissions standards.

Yes, the LSAT may prevent some people from getting into law school, but if those people find themselves unable to pass the bar exam at the end of law school, is that a bad thing? Perhaps their dreams will be crushed, but at least they won’t have accumulated six figures in educational debt before they realize being a practicing attorney is just not in the cards for them. As Thomas said, “The LSAT is a harder test, no doubt about it. It’s a significant barrier to entry, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

All of these interests are what schools, and the ABA, must consider when evaluating the usefulness of the GRE as a law school admissions test. Given the conservative and risk-adverse nature of legal education as a whole, it seems even if they are coming, the seas of change will take some time to get here. Which means, at least for now, the LSAT remains king.

Inside Higher Ed, An Unlikely Campaign to Move Beyond GRE Scores

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/06/pollmajority-of-law-schools-are-not-racing-follow-to-replace-lsat-with-gre-.html

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Comments

It would be interesting to see where in the "pecking order" are the 14% of schools that probably will or definitely will use the GRE. My guess is that all or nearly all are bottom-feeders.

Posted by: Old Ruster from JDJunkyard | Jun 6, 2016 2:53:38 PM