Tuesday, August 8, 2017

GRE or LSAT? Careful: More Options for Schools Means More Options for Students, Too

TaxProf Blog has been passing along the news of law schools choosing to allow applicants to substitute the GRE in place of the LSAT. The most recent post: Georgetown Is Fourth Law School To Accept GRE For Admissions, Finds It Is Just As Accurate As LSAT In Predicting 1L Grades; LSAC Disagrees, Says 'The Rest Of The Top 14 Will Go Like Lemmings Off The Cliff'.

As to the substance of the matter, I don't feel too strongly.  It is my suspicion that combining grade point average with any standardized test (including GMAT and MCAT, along with GRE and LSAT) would do a reasonably good job of predicting success in law school. Sure, the MCAT  would likely be less on target, but probably not that much, especially when we're talking about highly selective schools like Georgetown and Northwestern.  

The value of competition in the testing marketplace does seem valuable to me in a few ways..  For one thing, the LSAT is still administered like it is 1989 (as Christine Hurt noted a while back). There would be value in making the LSAT more accessible, and it is is at least plausible that the highly limited access to the LSAT is negatively impacting the number of students choosing to apply to law school.  LSAC would be well served to catch up with the other tests (that are now offered with more regular testing dates and sometimes online) to give prospective law students more options. 

In addition, I think there is value in letting students have options.  I know there are some concerns that students taking the GRE might apply to law school without really thinking it through because it's easy, but I think that risk is limited.  For one thing, just taking the LSAT doesn't mean someone thought that hard about law school. It just means that planned ahead.  A little. There would be flaky GRE-taking law students, but there'd be highly motivated GRE-taking students who were thinking about a master's degree but would be great law students.

One thing some schools might be missing, though, is that the GRE thing swings both way. That is, if the GRE is acceptable for law school applications, students planning on law school might now choose to take the GRE and end up considering other kinds of graduate programs.  Schools looking to expand their pool may be creating competition in places that did not exist before (or was much milder).  

Ultimately, I support creating more options for students so that they can make better decisions about their future.  As long as the testing option (LSAT, GRE, etc.) serves as a reasonably good predictor of law school and bar passage success (and I think that is still an open question), I am okay with it.  I hope schools that chose to accept the GRE are doing so with an expectation that the admitted students will do well, and I hope schools monitor their students so that adjustments can be made if success rates are not as anticipated.  That, to me, is the biggest issue: whatever we do, we need to make sure we're delivering on our educational promises, regardless of how we assess our potential students' likelihood of success.  



Joshua P. Fershee, Law School, Teaching | Permalink


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