Harvard Law Accepts GRE as Alternative to LSAT: Big News (Or Is It?)

The LSAT has enjoyed a monopoly over law school admissions testing for a long, long, long time. Last year, the University of Arizona announced that it would accept Graduate Record Exam (GRE) results in addition to LSAT results in admissions decisions. Recently, Harvard Law School announced a “pilot program” to do the same thing.

Some of my clients, including former clients who went to Harvard Law, mused about this development with me. How big a deal is it? Arizona is a fine law school; Harvard’s pilot program seems to signify something far bigger.

But does it? In the short run, no. In the long run, maybe.

For right now, if you’re thinking about going to law school and you’re going to apply to any schools other than Harvard and Arizona, the change means nothing. You’ll still have to take the LSAT. There’s a very small subset of people for whom the change might make a difference, namely those who had already taken the GRE and were happier with that score than with their LSAT score. And who only want to apply to Harvard and/or Arizona. Otherwise, you still have to take the LSAT.

I’m a good example. I was a college professor when I made the decision to go to law school, so had taken the GRE. I’d still have taken the LSAT simply because I wanted to cast my net wider. And although I was pleased with my GRE score, I did better on the LSAT, scoring a 180, for the simple reason that the LSAT is a more predictable test, so I could prepare for it more efficiently.

So, for the short-term, Harvard’s pilot program doesn’t mean much for applicants. It may mean more in the long-term, but only if a few things happen. First, other schools would have to join with Harvard and Arizona. Harvard’s action makes that somewhat more likely. Second, the law school ratings system would have to incorporate GRE scores in their rankings. Schools worry about rankings—they are convertible into prestige and therefore money—and if a lot of applicants (even at Arizona and Harvard) decided not to take the LSAT, those schools would have to be confident that they weren’t going to be dinged in the rankings as a result. Thus, even the medium-term impact of Harvard’s decision isn’t obvious. But it’s worth staying tuned for.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on March 21, 2017.

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