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LSAT or GRE for Law School:  Not an Easy (or Cost-Free) Choice for Law School Applicants

Karen Sloan recently published a helpful summary of the debate between the LSAT and GRE for law school admissions. As of now, 17 law schools indicate they will accept a GRE score rather than an LSAT score, and more may well follow.

What is clear is why: law schools want to maintain their admissions numbers (read: their revenue) and want to have maximum flexibility to do so without taking a law school “rankings” hit when they do it.

There is no requirement that law schools report a GRE score to the American Bar Association, and the ABA is not currently considering such a rule as far as I know. So, what accepting the GRE allows law schools to do is to accept people they want to accept while still maintaining a median LSAT score that will avoid damaging their rankings.

I suppose that is ok if you are a law school applicant (more on that later) but to be clear: the reason law school want this is so that they can keep admission revenue high while appearing to be as “competitive” as they have been in the past.

The people—other than law schools and their revenue—that this helps fall into two categories. First, people who for whatever reason just can’t get around on the LSAT but who otherwise enormously attractive to law schools. (And who are willing to limit their options to just a few schools.) There are not that many of those people since the LSAT is, in my view, a bit more rigorous—and therefore more predictable and somewhat easier—test than the GRE (I’ve taken both and did well on both, but especially appreciated the limited universe that the LSAT tested, which meant it was a lot easier to study for, and less culturally bound).

In any case, though, there are a few people in that first category—tremendously attractive but with a bit of a block about the LSAT. That’s good.

The second category is less savory—those who didn’t do particularly well on either the LSAT or the GRE, so who (if their scores were reported) would make a law school look less competitive. In other words, they are people who would likely not get into a given law school otherwise but that a law school can now accept—and whose money they will get—while maintaining “deniability” that their admissions standards have declined. A nice sleight-of-hand and purely a revenue generator.

That brings up a final point—and the most important for law school applicants. By and large, my admissions clients who have applied solely on the basis of the GRE have been considerably less successful at obtaining financial aid at comparable institutions with comparable application packages than my LSAT and admission clients (even if their percentiles on the two tests are also quite similar). This is a small sample size but it’s nonetheless worrying. What it tells me is that the GRE is just a revenue generator, and that if you’re applying on the basis of the GRE, at least right now, your chances of significant merit-based financial aid are lower.

That conclusion—that the high-flown philosophical pronouncements from law schools are really mostly about law schools’ revenues—is unfortunate but also unsurprising. If you’re a law school applicant, you need to be aware that taking the option of taking the GRE or LSAT is not a cost-free choice.

by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on April 22, 2019.

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