By Stephanie Desiato • October 26, 2018•Law School, Pre-Law
You have probably heard about the GRE, or the GRE General Test, which is the standardized test used by many graduate schools for admissions. What you may not have known is that at least 27 law schools are currently accepting GRE scores from applicants, in lieu of the Law School Admission Test (“LSAT”), which is offered by the Law School Admission Council (“LSAC”). Of course, these schools also continue to accept LSAT scores from applicants for admission.
“The GRE General Test is a valid and reliable tool for informing law schools’ admissions decisions,” said David Payne, Vice President & COO of Global Education of the Educational Testing Service (“ETS”), a nonprofit organization that writes and administers the GRE. “Furthermore, the skills assessed by the GRE test fit closely with the skills associated with success in law schools. Its use can open more pathways to law schools, increasing diversity in all its forms, and making it easier for students to pursue joint degrees.”
If you are thinking about applying to law school, here is some basic information about the GRE to help you decide whether taking it is the right choice for you. But don’t forget to check whether the school of your dreams accepts the GRE.
The GRE General Test is made up of three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. According to ETS, the Verbal reasoning section assesses the student’s ability to analyze and draw conclusions from discourse as well as extract an author’s intent. Like the LSAT, the reading passages are based on various substantive areas. The GRE uses humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences for its reading passages.
The Analytical Writing section requires students to complete two tasks, Analyze the Issue and Analyze an Argument. Unlike the LSAT, the writing is scored. First, a trained reader uses a six-point holistic scale. Then, a computerized program scores the essay based on essay features related to writing proficiency.
Where the GRE significantly diverges from the LSAT is in the Quantitative Reasoning section, which tests students in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis; in other words, MATH. While I’ve often heard the sentence “I don’t do math” in the halls of a law school, the GRE may open the doors of the hallowed halls of law schools to students with a different set of academic strengths. Any math-averse test takers may be comforted by the fact that test center provide calculators to test takers.
Score reports contain a separate score for each of the three sections, as opposed to one overall score on the LSAT score report. The scoring for each section of the GRE is scaled and are reported in a range of 130-170, in 1 point increments, for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections. The scored scale for Analytical Writing is on a scale of 0-6 in half point increments.
The GRE is administered at more than 1,000 test centers in more than 160 countries. Testing is offered in both computer and paper formats. However, in areas where computer testing is available, paper testing is not. Computer testing is offered year round, while paper testing is offered up to 3 times per year at each location. Another bonus of the computerized format is that test takers can see their unofficial scores for Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning at the test center after completing the test. The official, complete score becomes available in the test taker’s account and scores are sent to the selected score recipients in about 10-15 days.
Recently, LSAC announced another increase in the number of times per year the LSAT is offered. Starting in 2019, it will be offered 9 times per year in North America. In addition, LSAC will begin transitioning to digital testing in July 2019, and the exam is expected to be fully digital in North America starting in September 2019. For the July 2019 exam only, students will have the option to see their scaled score before they decide whether to cancel it. If those students do cancel their scores, they will be offered the opportunity to retake the test free of charge through April 2020..
The fee to take the GRE is currently $205 in the United States as compared to $190 for the LSAT.
Data is not yet available to conclude whether the GRE is an accurate predictor of success in law school or the practice of law. However, for more information about the validity of the GRE for law school admissions use, see this article by Klieger, Bridgeman, Tannenbaum, Cline, and Olivera-Aguilar https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ets2.12213.
Although the long-term academic and career outcomes of law school students who gained admission through the GRE are yet to be seen, there seems to be some immediate benefits to be had. As GRE scores are already accepted for admission to some graduate programs in various fields of study, students can also apply to law school without taking an additional standardized test. This can save time and money if a student is still deciding which career path is the best fit. Law schools may also see an increase in applicant numbers as a result of availing themselves of this pool of potential applicants. This may result in law schools becoming more selective if their class sizes remain the same. So, whether you are planning to take the GRE or the LSAT, make sure to adequately prepare!
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