The GRE as a possible substitute for the LSAT

4. If either the ABA or the law schools continue to require a “valid and reliable  admission test” what test or tests should  be required? Should  the LSAT be the only game in town?

The general requirement of a “valid and reliable admission test” is not a specific requirement  to  use  the LSAT.  (It is true that the ABA rules require a law school to demonstrate that another test is valid and reliable.) I predict  that there will be  competitors to the LSAT– and it is high time.

Competition in the testing industry

It is interesting to see that LSAT itself, has begun to compete in the testing market in India. Some law schools in India are now accepting a modified version of the LSAT as part of their admissions process.

Closer to home (and abroad), the GRE has started to compete with the GMAT to be used as a substitute for the GMAT in the MBA admissions process.  In the 1990s the Graduate Management Admission Council decided  that it would no longer  work with the Educational  Testing Service (ETS) to develop and administer  the GMAT. After a relationship of approximately 50 years, The Graduate Management Admission Council awarded  the contract to Pearson Education. That decision cost ETS substantial revenue. My law school Trusts professor once made the point that:

“Equity follows the money.”

ETS needed to make up this lost revenue. When GMAT left ETS, ETS began
marketing the GRE (which is a  very similar  test) to the business sschools. Many applicants to MBA programs now  consider  whether  to take the GMAT or GRE. Given the success that GRE  has had in selling the test to the business schools, GRE  is a  likely  and credible competitor to  the LSAT. The “Revised GRE” will take effect on August 1, 2011 )resulting in a major improvement to the GRE and changing the focus of GRE preparation).

I suggest the following reasons:

–       the ABA requires that law schools admit (in most  cases) students with a Bachelors degree. Therefore, like a graduate degree, a J.D. requires completion of a bachelors degree. The GRE which stands for “Graduate  Record  Examination” is a test  that is designed specifically for  graduate school  admissions. Why not use it for law
school  admissions?
–       The GRE is a much more modern test with greater flexibility in the
administration.
–       The GRE tests  many  of  the same skills and uses many of the same question types that LSAT either uses or has used.

Examples include:

A.      Both the GRE and the LSAT require a writing sample. Writing is a very important skill for law  students. The GRE writing test is much more  sophisticated and yields a score.
B.      Both the GRE and the LSAT have Reading Comprehension questions. In
addition  to the basic format (which is  on the LSAT), the Revised GRE will have a greater variety of  reading tasks yielding a score  based on a greater  cross section of abilities.
C.      The “Revised GRE” which takes effect on August 1, 2011 is  “section adaptive”. This allows  for the possibility of creating a test  that is more  suited  to each individual  applicant.
D.      The scoring scales are similar. The LSAT is reported  on a scale of 120 – 180. The Revised GRE is reported on a scale  of 130 –  170.
E.      The current LSAT (as you know) includes a significant  component of Analytical  Reasoning (LSAT Logic  Games). Interestingly  the GRE included this  Analytical Reasoning  question format for a  long period of time. GRE could  easily resurrect Analytical  Reasoning as an Law School  Admission Test specific  module.
F.      Both the GRE and LSAT are tests of reading and reasoning in context. The GRE tests  a much broader  cross section of skills. The obvious addition is the Quantitative  Reasoning component.  One of the GRE quantitative question types is called Quantitative  Comparisons. (This question format was  on the LSAT for  the period  leading up to June of 1982.) (The LSAT has taken many formats and had many question types over the years.) The second GRE quantitative  comparison question format (Problem Solving) includes Graphs and Data  Interpretation. This was also tested  directly on the LSAT.

–        GRE has recently introduced a Personal Potential Index. If this measures what it purports to measure it could give the law schools information about a broader set of skills and attributes (http://www.ets.org/ppi) It is described as:

“ … an innovative, web-based tool that allows evaluators to provide reliable applicant-specific information about six key attributes that graduate deans and faculty have identified as essential for graduate study: knowledge and creativity, resilience, communication skills, planning and organization, teamwork, and ethics and integrity”

(In 2009 Professor Sheldon Zedeck of Berkley completed a study that suggested that the LSAT is a test of only cognitive skills and did not test many qualities that were equally relevant to success as a lawyer. He developed a test that he argued is a better test than the LSAT.)

- GRE  scores are more flexible. GRE  test  takers  receive the following three  scores: a  GRE writing score, a  GRE verbal score and a GRE quantitative  score. Law schools  would  be  able to use  all of some of these  scores. Those schools  that  thought the GRE quantitative score was  not important (the only career  open to those who can’t do math is  law) could  ignore that score.

– Many law  schools have  joint  degree  programs – J.D. and an M.A. Graduate  programs often require the GRE. Why, given that both the GRE and the LSAT  measure reading and reasoning, should  applicants be required to take  both tests. It is interesting that the Northwestern school of law, will allow applicants to the joint J.D./M.B.A. program to submit only a GMAT test score. This has apparently been approved by the ABA. At a minimum applicants to joint programs (which require the GRE) should be able to submit only the GRE.

Amazingly, there is an old Facebook group (doesn’t seem to be active anymore), which is called:

The LSAT is harder than GRE

(One could use the existence of this group as an argument either way on whether the GRE would be a good substitute for the LSAT.)

In conclusion:

“Is there anything about the LSAT that makes it sacrosanct?”

After more than thirty years  of teaching Toronto LSAT Preparation Courses and pre-law counseling – I don’t think so.

John Richardson – Admitted to the Bars  of Ontario,  New York and Massachusetts