Key Differences Between LSAT and GRE
With 20 law schools in the U.S. now accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT, many applicants may be wondering which test is right for them.
Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, recently discussed a few key differences between the two exams.
In terms of how the test is administered, the LSAT is a traditional paper exam whereas the GRE is administered on a computer.
GRE test takers should also be aware that the computerized exam is a personalized test — meaning that the difficulty of questions increases when test takers answer questions correctly.
“The test changes at the question level, and you have to answer the question in front of you before you can view the next question,” according to Kaplan Test Prep. “Answer a question correctly and you get a harder question — and your score goes up. Get a question wrong and you get an easier question — and your score drops.”
Will Haynes, an Ohio-based test prep tutor manager for The Princeton Review, tells US News that the computer-adaptive format of the GRE may negatively influence test-takers.
“This can really change a student’s approach or strategy and can mess with their psyche, not to mention there are random, unknown experimental sections that don’t count,” Haynes tells US News.
Administration, Limits, and Scores
A number of law schools have begun embracing the GRE in order to reach a wider applicant pool. And that has a lot to do with how many times the test is administered in a year.
The GRE is offered year-round. On the other hand, the LSAT is only offered six times per calendar year, according to US News.
While the GRE is more widely offered, there is a limit to how many times applicants can take it.
Applicants can take the GRE once every 21 days and up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period, according to the Educational Testing Service (ETS). With the LSAT, there is no longer a limit to the number of times you can take the exam.
When it comes to score, the GRE offers test-takers the option of only sending their best score to law schools. But with the LSAT, the options are limited.
“If you are considering retaking the test, keep in mind that law schools will have access to your complete test record, not just your highest score,” LSAC’s website reads. “Law schools are advised that your average score is probably the best estimate of your ability — especially if the tests were taken over a short period of time.”
Additionally, since the GRE is computer-administered, scores are available to view immediately upon completion of the exam.
Experts say the GRE tests more general knowledge and focuses on skills such as critical thinking.
The LSAT, on the other hand, is much more specialized to focus on legal knowledge and skills such as logic.
“The LSAT really stands out when it comes to the Arguments (Logical Reasoning) section and the dreaded Games (Analytical Reasoning) section,” Haynes told US News. “The arguments section contains a number of questions that test how arguments are put together, what assumptions are involved, and what strengthens/weakens an argument. This kind of logical thinking would actually be important when practicing law.”
If you’re strong in math, however, it may be a wise decision to try taking the GRE, which includes quantitative reasoning sections.
With a number of differences, the LSAT and GRE are made for different test-takers. But which exam do admission officers prefer seeing? Either, according to Jessica Soban, associate dean for strategic initiatives and admissions at Harvard Law School.
“We are not in any way discouraging or encouraging one test versus the other,” Soban told The Economist.