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Law schools are not accepting dif­ferent test scores. | Pexels

Future law stu­dents, take note: admis­sions stan­dards are becoming more flexible.

Around 14 of the nation’s 200 law schools already allow or plan to allow next year the option of taking the Graduate Record Exam­i­nation (GRE) in place of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). These include law schools at Harvard Uni­versity and Georgetown Uni­versity. More are fol­lowing the trend: a recent survey by Kaplan Test Prep shows that about 25 percent of law schools are planning to accept the GRE some time in the future.

Hillsdale stu­dents and pro­fessors have mixed opinions about the impli­ca­tions of the new admis­sions standard. Senior Jacob Weaver took the LSAT twice and was accepted to the Uni­versity of Michigan Law School. He said if he could have, he would have taken the GRE, both because it pro­vides instant scores, com­pared to the LSAT’s four-to-six-week turn­around, and because one can use the test to apply to both graduate schools and law schools.

“If I invest a year of my life and $1,000 into studying for the LSAT, I’m pretty much going to law school,” Weaver said. “You’re pretty pigeon­holed at that point.”

It can be dif­ficult to objec­tively compare the two tests because of dif­fer­ences in test structure and scoring. The LSAT con­tains five sec­tions: one reading com­pre­hension, one ana­lytical rea­soning, two logical rea­soning — all of which are com­bined into one score — and one unscored writing section. The GRE, in con­trast, con­tains three sec­tions: ana­lytical writing, verbal rea­soning, and quan­ti­tative rea­soning, which are all scored sep­a­rately.

Pro­fessor of Business Law David Paas does not think one test is nec­es­sarily harder than the other. Paas, who received his law degree from the Uni­versity of Nebraska and worked as a lawyer for five years afterward, took both the GRE and the LSAT and said they both test a lot of the same things, with the exception of the GRE’s quan­ti­tative section.

“I think the math section of the GRE is tough because most law stu­dents are not math kids,” he said. “I had a math minor as an undergrad. I found the LSAT logic games to be more of a struggle.”

Junior Anna Perry, who serves as Pres­ident of the Fed­er­alist Society, Hillsdale’s pre-law club, plans to take the LSAT during her senior year and take a gap year after college.

“People who are really quan­ti­ta­tively inclined could high­light, ‘I have a really high score in this area,’ and it could be an advantage to them to be dif­ferent,” she said. “Usually people who are going to law school are more, I guess, qual­i­ta­tively inclined — they’re more into reading, writing, the logic of argu­ments and so forth.”

Senior Kara Schmidt took the LSAT even though she applied to Georgetown, which accepts the GRE. She said she doesn’t think she would have chosen dif­fer­ently, even if she had known about the new devel­opment beforehand.

“The LSAT tests one’s ability to identify assump­tions and cruxes of argu­ments, as well as to infer things from other facts and to follow another’s argu­ments,” Schmidt said in an email. “I am nat­u­rally good at these skills, which is why I want to become a lawyer. Since this is all the LSAT tests and I think the GRE tests other skills as well, I would prefer LSAT.”

The Edu­ca­tional Testing Service released a survey of 21 schools which have accepted the GRE and deter­mined that the test is a reliable deter­miner of success in a student’s first year of law school.

Weaver said it will be inter­esting to see what happens as the tests begin to compete with one another.

“It’s the big question: ‘Is the LSAT truly what makes a good of what law school can­didate?’” Weaver said. “And I think we’re going to find that out. Because if people who take the GRE and come in and do just as well as the people who took the LSAT or blow the people who took the LSAT out of the water, then maybe for the last 25 years or so we’ve been testing the wrong things for law school.”

One benefit for law schools in accepting the GRE would likely be higher enrollment from stu­dents with science, tech­nology, engi­neering, and math (STEM) back­grounds, who could con­tribute to more spe­cialized legal fields, such as patent law. Paas and Perry also noted that accepting the GRE would likely increase general enrollment numbers, not just those from STEM back­grounds.

“The number of appli­ca­tions to law school has fallen dras­ti­cally over years,” Paas said, “pri­marily because we already have too many attorneys and too many people grad­u­ating from law school. I think law schools are looking for ways to boost their enrollment, and the GRE might help on that.”

Weaver sug­gested the com­pe­tition pro­vided by the GRE would cause the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) to reduce costs and to return scores more quickly.

“I think the com­pe­tition that’s going to be opened in the mar­ket­place is going to make them better and pos­sibly reduce prices which would be fan­tastic. The GRE people and the LSAT people are now com­peting for stu­dents. LSAC is going to have to make the LSAT more com­pet­itive, because I think the GRE gives a lot more advan­tages than just taking the LSAT.”

Perry said it might take some time for stu­dents to adjust to the new devel­opment.

“That will have to be a culture change,” she said. “People will have to realize that it’s an option before it starts picking up.”