In a survey released this week by Kaplan Test Prep, a majority of law school admissions officers backed the American Bar Association making some kind of judgment on the question of which test — the Law School Admission Test or the Graduate Record Exam, which has been gaining a foothold in law school admissions — is preferred. Of nearly 120 law schools polled by Kaplan, 61% say the ABA should issue a statement on whether law schools are permitted to allow applicants to submit GRE scores as an alternative to LSAT scores, long the only exam accepted for admission into most law schools, while 27% say it should not and 13% are unsure.
The ABA accredits the nation’s more than 200 law schools. The poll of 119 schools, including 18 of the U.S. News and World Report top 30, was conducted by phone in April and May 2017 and comes as representatives from the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar gather this week in Chicago to consider whether to wade into the matter. Admissions officers who participated in Kaplan’s survey gave a hint of the acrimony surrounding the issue when they shared strong opinions — both pro and con — about the possibility of ABA involvement.
“They need to pick a side,” one officer said. “I feel the process should be fairly unified. I want the ABA to be more definitive so we are playing from the same book.” Said another admissions officer who opposed ABA involvement: “They are notorious for making decisions in a vacuum without getting input from law schools. They don’t have a good understanding of what they are regulating. Most don’t have experience in higher education or law school administration.”
ABA MULLS CHANGE TO RULE ALLOWING TEST DISCRETION
Last year the University of Arizona College of Law announced became the first school to allow applicants to submit GRE scores in place of LSAT scores, a move that earned no rebuke from the ABA. However, the issue achieved a new level of urgency — and scrutiny — in March when Harvard Law School joined Arizona in announcing it would also accept GRE scores. The move was seen as possibly opening the floodgates to other schools accepting the GRE in place of the LSAT; in the near term, it was almost certainly the catalyst for an increase in the number of times the LSAT is administered annually (from four to six), as well as the removal of the cap on the number of times the test can be taken in a two-year period (which had been three).
The ABA this week is holding a hearing on a proposed change to Section 503 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law School, which requires a law school to use the LSAT in the admissions process unless the school can prove another test is reliable “in assessing whether or not an applicant is capable of completing the rigors of law school.” Proposed changes would take that discretion away from individual schools and place the power solely in the hands of the ABA. What the ABA decides could have long-lasting effects on the law school admissions landscape and applicants, said Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep, in a news release.
“The American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is set to debate one of the most controversial amendments to its Standards in years,” Thomas said. “If the ABA adopts its proposed amendments to Standard 503, it will immediately stifle law school attempts to circumnavigate the current LSAT requirement and at least temporarily halt schools’ desire to use the GRE for admissions purposes.
“However, incorporated into the proposed changes is a call for a process for the ABA to vet admissions exams other than the LSAT, which may set the stage for a sweeping ruling allowing law schools to accept the GRE in the future. Rejecting the proposed amendments will likely result in trickling adoption of the GRE.”