Law School Q&A: LSAT, GRE Application Strategies

Law school applicants who took both the LSAT and the GRE are still required to submit their LSAT scores. (Getty Images)

Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a monthly feature that provides law school admissions advice to readers who send in questions and admissions profiles.

If you have a question, email us for a chance to be featured next month.

This week, I will discuss the shifting landscape of LSAT policies and how to craft an LSAT addendum in light of receiving testing accommodations.

I am registered for the September LSAT and plan to submit my law school applications this fall. I just heard that several schools are now accepting the GRE instead of the LSAT. My practice LSAT test results have not been as strong as I hoped, and I’m worried I won’t be competitive at the schools on my list. Should I ditch my LSAT plans and sign up for the GRE instead? -Multiple Test Options

Dear Multiple Test Options:

The plot thickens on the GRE vs. LSAT debate. Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law and Georgetown University’s law school recently announced that they will follow the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and Harvard Law School in accepting GRE scores in lieu of the LSAT.

[Read more about the GRE vs. LSAT.]

Diversity in applicants is one frequently cited reason for this shift to allowing prospective graduate students apply to law school without having to sit for a second entrance exam on top of the GRE.

More law schools may jump on the bandwagon. In June, the deans of several law schools – including the University of Southern California, the University of California—Irvine and George Washington University – sent a statement to the American Bar Association asserting that the GRE serves as a valid and reliable alternative assessment to the LSAT. The statement advocates for law schools to retain more autonomy to innovate their admissions policies.

In spite of the GRE trend, you shouldn’t yet discount the LSAT. First, the majority of law schools require an LSAT score. Unless you are only planning to only apply to one of the four law schools currently accepting the GRE, continue your LSAT preparation.

Second, the Law School Admission Council is innovating to compete with the GRE. In May, LSAC appointed Kellye Testy, former dean of the University of Washington, as its new president and CEO.

Among the changes Testy has implemented are increasing the LSAT’s frequency and piloting a digital format. These policy changes demonstrates LSAC’s commitment to making the LSAT accessible to a diverse group.

Third, there is uncertainty as to what the GRE means to admissions chances. The LSAT has been the longstanding admissions test. Applicants have extensive information on the median range of scores among enrolling students, and LSAC offers guidance, including an LSAT Score Search, to help applicants assess their chances of admission.

There is not enough data available to determine what qualifies as a competitive GRE score in terms of law school admissions results.

Finally, understand that you must report your LSAT score as long as it is valid. Even the University of Arizona states on its website that applicants cannot replace an LSAT score on record with a GRE score.

If you believe you can significantly improve your LSAT score, then you should take the September exam. Include an addendum to explain why your first score is unrepresentative.

[Know when and how to write a law school addendum.]

However, if you do not believe you will improve, do not retake the exam and avoid the risk that your score may decrease.

You can prepare for the GRE and submit that score to a law school that accepts it, but your time may be better spent strengthening the rest of your application materials.

Remember, you are more than your LSAT score. The fact that law schools are expanding their admissions criteria suggests they think so too.

I am currently trying to work on law school application materials while I wait for my June test results. I wanted to know if I should be worried about the weight of different scores.

I have two scores, one of a 148 and a second of 149 after taking some time off with work experience and being granted accommodations. I was practice testing in the low 160s right before June. I was getting worried about what to write in my addendum because it’s a paradox, right? But do you think I should include in the addendum that I received extra time? I think this would defeat the purpose of the accommodation score not being flagged, though, if I were to deliberately state that I received extra time. Any suggestions are welcomed. -LSAT Paradox