The law school admissions game is officially shaken up! In recent years there’s been slow, but steady, movement of law schools announcing they’d accept the GRE as part of the admissions process in lieu of the LSAT. The only problem with that is the American Bar Association, the body responsible for law school accreditation, was conspicuously silent on whether that was okay. See, ABA accreditation Standard 503 mandates that law schools require admissions testing and that the test used be “valid and reliable.” Several law schools did their own studies affirming the validity of the exam. So has the Educational Testing Service — the makers of the GRE — though their pro-GRE findings are less surprising. But whether the ABA agrees that the GRE meets that standard was an open question.
That is, until today. In ABA Council meeting notes, the following was announced:
In closed session, the Council also voted to permit law schools to accept GRE test scores from applicants in lieu of an LSAT score under Standard 503. The Council reminds schools that the use of test scores to make admissions decisions is subject to Standard 501(a)’s requirement that a school adhere to “sound admission policies and practices,” and that a law school may not admit applicants who do not “appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.” The Council also reminds schools that although Standard 503 does not prescribe the weight that law schools must give to an applicant’s test score, it does require law schools to use admissions tests in a manner consistent with the test developer’s current guidelines regarding the proper use of the results.
The process of approval for the GRE began years ago, so it’s nice that the ABA has finally decided to make their position known.
And even though about a third of ABA-accredited law schools accept the GRE, this could open the flood gates — both in terms of law schools changing their admissions criteria and for prospective law school students willing to take a test besides the LSAT. As Jeff Thomas, executive director of legal programs at Kaplan says:
“The American Bar Association announcing that the GRE is in compliance with its admissions standards may finally open the floodgates for this exam to truly be a viable alternative to the LSAT, with some caveats. Until now, only a trickle of applicants have taken the GRE route, but this latest news might turn that into at least a steady stream if every law school — right now it’s only about one third of all law schools — says that not only will they accept GRE scores, but also that applicants who submit GRE scores will not be at an admissions disadvantage compared to applicants who submit LSAT scores. That’s been a concern among some applicants, we know, and a prior Kaplan survey among law schools found that even among law schools that accept scores from both tests, many have a preference for the LSAT. If there is a perceived bias, it’s hard to see how the GRE will truly take off. 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. It will likely take a few admissions cycles to really measure its impact though.
We will be watching closely to see how the ABA’s blessing of the GRE plays out in the admissions cycle.
For those keeping track, below is the list of law schools currently accepting the GRE.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).