Even if law schools decide to abandon the Law School Admission Test, prospective lawyers will keep taking it, according to a new Kaplan Test Prep survey. The survey of more than 350 aspiring lawyers, released today (July 12), finds that even if law schools opt out of requiring applicants to take the standardized test for admissions, 73% said they would likely submit an LSAT score anyway to gain a competitive advantage over those who don’t. This comes as the American Bar Association, which accredits the country’s 200-plus law schools, is set to meet in Chicago in August to decide the future of admissions testing for law schools: either to still require a “valid and reliable” exam or not require one at all, leaving it up to the individual law schools to decide what’s best for them.
It also comes as more and more law schools opt out of requiring the LSAT.
“There’s some strategic thinking going on among these pre-law students,” says Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs for Kaplan Test Prep, a global provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools, and businesses. “In an admissions process that’s becoming increasingly rigorous because of a recent surge in applicants, aspiring attorneys will continue to look for every competitive advantage possible. For generations, that competitive advantage has been a high LSAT score.”
The survey of 359 pre-law students who took a Kaplan LSAT preparation course was conducted by email in June 2018.
NO LSAT ‘MIGHT LOWER THE OVERALL QUALITY OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION’
According to Kaplan, students surveyed who favor requiring a test in the admissions process focused on a high LSAT score acting as an equalizer and the exam serving as a reasonable barrier to prevent less qualified applicants from getting in.
“Without the LSAT being so important I probably wouldn’t have gotten into a great law school,” one respondent says. “But because of the LSAT, I can show merit without needing to be able to afford a fancy school. In my opinion, tests like the LSAT really level the playing field for students like me.”
Another writes: “Many of the skills developed for the LSAT are vital to your future success as a potential lawyer … (Abolishing the requirement) might lower the overall quality of the legal profession. Attempting to lower the standards can be detrimental.”
“The LSAT is a very challenging test that students need to work hard to study for. I feel like it ‘weeds out’ the people who will not make it in law school. I believe that (not requiring a test) will result in more students not graduating or dropping out.”
TEST SCORES ‘IMPORTANT FACTORS IN LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS’
Kaplan found that pre-law students who are against standardized testing in the admissions process often cited issues around fairness and access, with one calling their use “very limited.”
“While we won’t know the future of admissions testing in law school for another few weeks, we think that even if the requirement is abolished, law schools will stick with some sort of test for a few reasons,” Thomas says in a news release announcing the survey findings. “First and importantly, the ABA is cautioning that should a law school choose not to require a standardized test and then find themselves admitting students incapable of graduating, the school would risk being out of compliance with ABA rules and losing their accreditation. Second, law schools find a standardized test helpful in that it’s the common yardstick they use to measure applicants who come from colleges of varying competitiveness. An ‘A’ at an Ivy League school, for example, is not the same as an ‘A’ at a lower ranked, less well-known school.
“Third,” Thomas adds, “test scores are important factors in law school rankings calculations, which are heavily relied upon by students in deciding where to attend. Schools will continue to prefer high scores in as much as they boost their place in the rankings.”