Aaron N. Taylor (Saint Louis; Director, Law School Survey of Student Engagement), The GRE Is No Diversity Tool:
In February, the University of Arizona College of Law announced that applicants for admission could submit Graduate Record Exam scores, in lieu of scores from the Law School Admission Test. The announcement made waves because for decades LSAT scores have been a requirement for law-school candidates.
The ABA, the primary accreditor of law schools, requires law schools to use a “valid and reliable admission test” to aid in selecting students. However, no particular test is stipulated. Arizona argues that the GRE is as good a predictor for law school success as the LSAT, which may be true.
But what is interesting, and perhaps disingenuous, is the school’s claim that accepting GRE scores will promote student-body diversity “in all its forms.” This is because if the GRE is misused in the same manner as the LSAT, the admissions process will remain inequitable, at the expense of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity.
The LSAT is designed to be a partial predictor of first-year performance in law school. Data from the Law School Admission Council show that the test predicts about 36 percent of the variance in first-year grades. This means that almost two-thirds of the variance is predicted by other factors. Similarly, in a recent study, a 6-point score difference between two LSAT scores accounted for only a 0.1 difference in law school grade point average. These data demonstrate that the outsized role the LSAT plays in influencing which law school a student attends and how much that student pays is unjustified.
Overreliance on the LSAT has a tangible and harmful effect on diversity in legal education. The average score for black LSAT-takers is 142 — 11 points lower than the average of 153 among white and Asian test-takers. ...
Even more disturbing, in a study I conducted on enrollment trends, I found increasing racial and ethnic stratification in legal education. ... Moreover, data from the Law School Survey of Student Engagement suggest LSAT-driven scholarship policies are contributing to increasing disparities in student debt. ...
The GRE shares two troubling similarities with the LSAT: score trends are typified by racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities, and schools often misuse the test in the admissions process. ...
If law schools were truly interested in fostering diversity in all its forms, they would fundamentally alter the manner in which they use admissions tests, not merely tinker with the tests they misuse. ... Merely allowing law-school applicants to submit GRE scores might be a boon for some law schools, in the form of more applications. It might be a boon for the Educational Testing Service. It might even be a boon for applicants who score highly. But it will not be a boon for racial, ethnic or socioeconomic diversity.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- Is Wake Forest Law School's Offer To Pay Students To Take The GRE A U.S. News Rankings Ploy? (Jan. 30, 2016)
- Christine Hurt (BYU), Could The GRE Replace The LSAT? (Feb. 6, 2016)
- Arizona Is First Law School To Admit Students Based On GRE Instead Of LSAT (Feb. 11, 2016)
- WSJ: Law Schools Replace LSAT With GRE To Goose Enrollment (Feb. 23, 2016)
- The First Two Law Schools to Drop the LSAT Could Be Just the Beginning (Feb. 25, 2016)
- The Empire Strikes Back: LSAC Threatens To Expel University Of Arizona Over Use Of GRE In Law School Admissions (May 1, 2016)
- 148 Deans Demand LSAC Rescind Threat To Expel University Of Arizona Over Use Of GRE In Law School Admissions (May 5, 2016)
- The Antitrust Implications Of LSAC's Threatened Expulsion Of University Of Arizona Over Use Of GRE In Law School Admissions (May 8, 2016)
- LSAC Backs Down (For Now) On Threat To Expel University Of Arizona For Use Of GRE In Law School Admissions (May 9, 2016)