Kaplan Test Prep Survey: Law Schools’ Opinions Vary on Whether the American Bar Association Should Insert Itself into the Growing Admissions Competition Between the LSAT® and GRE®

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New York, NY (July 13, 2017) — As representatives from the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar gather this week in Chicago to consider whether or not to wade into the burgeoning efforts of the GRE to gain a foothold in law school school admissions, a new Kaplan Test Prep survey shows law schools with diverse views on the issue*. Of the nearly 120 law schools polled, 61 percent say the ABA should make a statement saying that law schools are either permitted or not permitted to allow applicants to submit GRE scores as an alternative to scores from the LSAT, long the only sanctioned law school admissions exam. Twenty-seven percent say it should not; and 13 percent are unsure.

The law school admissions officers who participated in Kaplan’s survey shared strong — and varied — opinions about the possibility of the American Bar Association, which accredits the nation’s 200+ law schools, jumping into the fray. Admissions officers who favor the ABA’s involvement said::

  • “They need to pick a side…I feel the process should be fairly unified. I want the ABA to be more definitive so we are playing from the same book.”
  • “It would make it easier for all of us to have a concrete statement.”
  • “The ABA is the accrediting body of law schools. It would be helpful to get their sense on the validity of the GRE.”

Admissions officers who are against the ABA’s involvement said:

  • “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.”
  • “I don’t think blanket statements are a good idea. I think the ABA is right to come up with a process. There needs to be a rigorous validation process in place.”
  • “We need some flexibility to determine whether the GRE will work and this will require a bit of research. I wouldn’t want the ABA to issue a blanket statement.”

The issue first arose in 2016 when the University of Arizona College of Law announced that it would begin allowing applicants to submit GRE scores. The school said that based on research it conducted with the exam’s test maker that “for students in Arizona Law’s JD program, performance on the GRE General Test is a valid and reliable predictor of students’ first-term law school grades.” At the time, the ABA took no hard action. The issue took on a new sense of urgency in March 2017 when top-ranked Harvard Law School also announced it would begin accepting GRE scores. This led to a number of other law schools publicly saying that it was only a matter of time before other law schools also made the move.

What the ABA decides could have long-lasting effects on the law school admissions landscape and applicants. This week, it’s holding a hearing on a proposed change to Section 503 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law School. Section 503 currently requires a law school to use the LSAT in the law school admissions process unless an individual school can prove another test is a valid and reliable test to assist the school in assessing whether or not an applicant is capable of completing the rigors of law school. The proposed changes would no longer allow schools to determine if an alternate test is valid and reliable, instead placing that power solely in the hands of the ABA.

“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. 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,” said Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “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. At Kaplan, we’ll be tracking the issue closely to ensure that students have the most accurate and up-to-date information possible to make informed decisions.”

*Based on the results of a Kaplan Test Prep survey conducted by phone in April-May 2017 of 119 law schools, including 18 of the top 30, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

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Kaplan Test Prep (www.kaptest.com) is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry. With a comprehensive menu of online offerings as well as a complete array of print books and digital products, Kaplan offers preparation for more than 100 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school, as well as professional licensing exams for attorneys, physicians and nurses.  Kaplan also provides private tutoring and graduate admissions consulting services.

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