For many years, the law school application process has started with the LSAT.  Administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the LSAT remains the standard for most law school admissions and remains one of the primary law school requirements.

In recent years, however, a growing number of law schools—ranging from the most exclusive to the much less established—have begun accepting the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), an exam which is more commonly associated with applying to MBA and other graduate programs outside of law and medicine.

In 2016, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law became the first to use the GRE. Today, 17 of the more than 200 law schools in the US accept (or soon will accept) the alternative exam.  

The GRE is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a nonprofit measurement research organization.

According to ETS, the following law schools accept GRE General Test scores for admission to their J.D. programs.

Law Schools that Accept the GRE General Test:

  • Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School
  • Brooklyn Law School
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Columbia Law School (beginning in September 2018)
  • Florida State University College of Law
  • George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School
  • Georgetown University Law Center
  • Hamd Bin Khalifa University Law School
  • Harvard Law School
  • John Marshall Law School
  • Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  • Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law
  • John’s University School of Law
  • Texas A&M University School of Law
  • University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law
  • University of Hawai’i at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Wake Forest University School of Law (beginning in fall 2018)
  • Washington University School of Law (beginning in fall 2018)
  • Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

This list of law schools is likely to grow, as an ABA committee recently recommended eliminating altogether the accreditation standard mandating that schools use a standardized test in admissions, effectively eliminating the LSAT’s status as the only test specifically allowed by the ABA.

If approved by the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and the ABA’s House of Delegates later this year, this change would open the door for schools nationwide to use the GRE.

Section 503, the existing accreditation rule at issue, allows law schools to admit up to 10 percent of their entering class from among applicants who don’t have an LSAT score so long as they meet certain criteria (such as being an undergraduate at the law school’s home campus or enrolling in a joint degree program). The rule also allows schools to use an alternative test if they can prove that test is “valid and reliable,” in assessing law school performance.

The committee’s recommendation will then go to the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education, where it could be voted on next month. Any changes adopted by the council would then have to go before the ABA’s House of Delegates for final approval.

Standard 503 has been hotly debated since law schools began using the GRE in law school admissions, and uncertainty over the ABA’s position on the GRE has led many law schools to hold on allowing applicants to submit GRE scores.

LSAT vs. GRE

With more law schools accepting the GRE, it is helpful to understand some of the key differences between the GRE and the LSAT to determine which one (or both) to take. As you begin applying to law school, should you opt for LSAT registration or GRE registration?  How difficult is the LSAT compared to the GRE?

It is helpful to first understand what each test covers:

LSAT Structure

According to LSAC, the LSAT consists of:

  • Reading comprehension questions measure the ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those commonly encountered in law school.
  • Analytical reasoning questions measure the ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw logical conclusions about that structure.
  • Logical reasoning questions assess the ability to analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments as they occur in ordinary language.

The LSAT is formatted as follows:

  • Five 35-minute sections of multiple choice questions (of which only four are scored).
    • The sections include one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, two logic reasoning sections, and one unscored section.
  • One unscored, 35-minute writing sample.

GRE Structure

According to ETS, GRE examinees are tested on the following:

  • Verbal Reasoning – Measures ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts.
  • Quantitative Reasoning – Measures problem-solving ability using basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.
  • Analytical Writing – Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, specifically your ability to articulate and support complex ideas clearly and effectively.

For the computer delivered GRE, the exam is broken down as follows:

  • Verbal reasoning – Two 30-minute sections with 20 questions per section.
  • Quantitative Reasoning – Two 35-minute sections with 20 questions per section.
  • Analytical writing – One section with two separate 30-minute writing tasks.

Key Differences Between the LSAT and the GRE

The biggest difference between the LSAT and the GRE is math. Half of the GRE score is based on math abilities. The GRE also tests you on a large amount of vocabulary.

In addition to differences in the materials tested, there are three other major differences between the LSAT and GRE:

  1. The LSAT is paper-based exam, while the GRE is computer based.
  2. The GRE is adaptive, adjusting the difficulty of questions based on your performance.
  3. The LSAT is only offered a few times a year, while the GRE can be taken at any time.

Effect’s of the GRE’s Growing Acceptance

As GRE acceptance by law school admissions continues to grow, it is not surprising that there is some debate over the merits of this trend.

Supporters of the GRE contend that without the LSAT requirement, law schools could experiment with new ways of admitting students and tap into new pools of potential applicants.  With the number of applicants continuing to to be a serious concern for many law schools, this change could be positive as it serves to lower barriers for an applicant. And some argue that the change could open the doors of law schools to more STEM-focused students, which could also affect the composition of law school classes.

On the other hand, many argue that the exam is the gold standard in law school admissions and that it offers the best predictor to schools and to applicants of the likelihood of success on campus. This objection may be overcome if it can be shown that GRE scores do, in fact, rival LSAT scores as a predictor of law school success and bar passage.

LSAT GRE COVERSION TOOL

In its continued effort to attract law schools and law school applicants to consider accepting or taking the GRE, ETS has created a tool to give a rough conversion between GRE scores and LSAT scores. Some point to the large margin of error (± 5-point) as an indicator that that the tests are not commensurable.

However, most agree that the tool is not without its merits, as it is based on the same data behind the national validity study the ETS published last year. Essentially, when you use this tool, you have access to the same information relied on by ETS and the by law schools. In addition, the tool is based on data from roughly 1,600 applicants who took both the LSAT and the GRE. Therefore, you can get a relatively good sense about how you might expect to do on the LSAT if you already know your GRE scores.

The table below provides a few sample combinations of GRE Quantitative and Verbal scores that, according to the ETS conversion tool, would likely yield common target LSAT scores.

LSAT to GRE Conversion Table

GRE Quantitative GRE Verbal LSAT Score (Common Targets)
137 130 135
130 135 135
150 130 140
136 139 140
143 130 145
130 151 145
170 134 150
130 159 150
170 140 155
130 165 155
169 147 160
132 170 160
170 153 165
143 170 165
170 161 171
156 170 171
169 168 176
166 170 176

For a more detailed look at the data behind the tool, see Powerscore’s Score Conversion Matrix, which shows how GRE scores can be converted into LSAT scores (and vice versa).

Whatever test you decide to take, it’s critical that you get the best study materials that can pave the way to your ultimate success. I’ve broken down all the top study options for both the GRE and the LSAT to help you get started. Best of luck!

Best GRE Prep Courses

Best GRE Books

Best LSAT Prep Courses

Best LSAT Books

 

 

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