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Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Rethinking the LSAT in Law School Admissions
When it comes to standardized tests, everyone's got a lot of opinions. For decades, the LSAT has been a prerequisite for entry to law school. In recent years, however, it has-like many other aptitude exams-come under fire for being a less capable predictor of academic success than once thought. Results skew along socioeconomic lines, raising questions about access and diversity in higher education.
Still, when a handful of prominent law schools across the country-among them Harvard and Columbia-recently dropped the LSAT requirement for entering law students, people noticed. Like the SAT for undergraduates, a high LSAT score is a golden ticket to entry. Top scoring students are wooed by the best schools in the country. All things being equal, an LSAT score allows any student to know where they'll land in terms of admission.
Detangling the LSAT from law school admission will be a complicated process, but there are compelling reasons for doing so. Most significantly, numerous studies have indicated that the LSAT is not an accurate predictor of law school GPA or performance on the bar exam. This isn't to say that there isn't correlation in this data points, merely that they are not exhaustively probative.
Accepting the GRE instead, is sending a different message to potential law students. The GRE is the standard-bearer for entry to most graduate programs in the U.S., (aside only from law, business and medical school). Arguably, it is a friendlier test. Because it can be used to access such a broad range of graduate programs, law schools would potentially catch incoming students who might not otherwise have considered law as a field.
The LSAT, of course, also offers measurable structure. It gives students a strong sense of whether or not they are up to the substantial task of law school. But while it's possible that some law schools will follow Harvard's lead in making the LSAT optional, it will likely take years for this testing landscape to see major topographical changes.
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