In 2017, a year after the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law tested the waters, a few law schools began an experiment to start accepting the Graduate Record Examinations as an alternative to the Law School Admission Test. Since the GRE is more frequently administered and more widely used than the LSAT, those law schools hoped that accepting the GRE might broaden their applicant pool. Perhaps more graduate school applicants might consider tossing in a law school application as well.
The experiment proved successful, and more law schools joined along. Today, about 70 law schools in the U.S. and abroad accept the GRE. Educational Testing Services, the nonprofit organization that designs and administers the GRE, keeps a current list online of law schools that accept the GRE.
A driving force behind the rapid acceptance of the GRE among law schools is a validity study that ETS conducted, which followed the academic careers of students at 21 diverse law schools who had applied using their GRE scores. The national study concluded that GRE General Test scores were just as reliable as LSAT scores in predicting academic performance in law school, giving law schools the evidence they needed that the GRE measured strengths relevant to success in the law school classroom.
Both the LSAT and GRE are demanding standardized tests, but they differ in significant ways, including format, content and availability. Applicants considering using GRE scores to apply to law schools should consider the following advice:
— Plan to take the GRE or LSAT, but not both.
— Compare GRE scores to LSAT scores by percentile.
— When in doubt, ask law schools for guidance.
Plan to Take the GRE or LSAT, But Not Both
Many law school applicants see the GRE as a fallback option if they don’t do well on the LSAT. Unfortunately for them, most law schools that receive both GRE and LSAT scores from an applicant will give more weight to the LSAT score.
There is a simple reason for this. Statistics comparing law school competitiveness are based on reported LSAT scores, and law schools are obligated to report the highest score they receive from each accepted applicant. This is why law schools gladly accept multiple LSAT scores.
[Read: What Is a Good LSAT Score?]
Law schools aim to evaluate each applicant holistically, so they won’t disregard high GRE scores submitted by an applicant with low LSAT scores. However, accepting that applicant affects the school’s median LSAT score, which can affect its rankings and reputation.
To avoid this situation, choose between the GRE and the LSAT before taking an administered test. If you are undecided, try taking practice tests for each one, which are freely available online.
Compare GRE Scores to LSAT Scores by Percentile
Because law schools have widely accepted and reported applicant LSAT scores for decades, there is abundant data on an applicant’s likelihood of admission to each school based on his or her LSAT score. Since the GRE has only recently become accepted and fewer applicants submit GRE scores, there is little data available correlating GRE scores with law school acceptance.
As a rule of thumb, law schools tend to compare GRE scores to LSAT scores based on percentile. If your GRE score is in the 90th percentile, consider it roughly equivalent to a 90th-percentile LSAT score, generally around 165. ETS provides a tool to convert GRE scores into equivalent LSAT scores.
However, law schools may differ from one another in how they look at GRE scores. The GRE has three different scored sections: analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. Some law schools may consider some of these sections more important than others, while other schools may focus on the overall score.
For example, one school may consider writing more relevant to law school than math, while another school may consider both relevant to the modern practice of law.
In contrast, law schools look only at overall scores on the LSAT.
When in Doubt, Ask Law Schools for Guidance
Since the GRE has been accepted by law schools for only a few years, it can be hard to find conclusive information online about that. For example, most law schools that accept the GRE do so universally, but some accept it only in certain cases. Law schools may change their policies on accepting the GRE from year to year.
If you are unsure how a law school might consider your GRE score, contact the admissions department to confirm they accept the GRE and ask how they weight GRE scores. Since many law schools are still working these questions out, they may not be able to give a precise answer, but it never hurts to ask politely.
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Advice for Law School Hopefuls Thinking of Taking the GRE originally appeared on usnews.com