In 2016, the Arizona School of Law made history when they began to allow prospective students to apply using GRE scores in place of the LSAT. After conducting a study into the reliability of GRE scores for predicting law school performance, Arizona found that the GRE was a “valid and reliable” predictor of first-term law school grades. Now, over 23 US law schools accept GRE scores.
So the big question is: LSAT vs GRE—which one do law schools prefer?
Should Law Students Take the GRE or the LSAT?
With names like Harvard, Northwestern, and Columbia Universities on this list, the debate over whether prospective law students should take the LSAT vs GRE has heated up. Accessibility, suitability, and expenses are all factors in determining which entrance exam is best for each individual student, but which is the better choice overall?
Which schools accept the GRE, and why?
First, let’s look at which law schools are open to GRE scores. As of now, 23 of the 205 American Bar Association-approved law schools accept GRE scores as an LSAT substitute. These include:
- Brigham Young University Law School
- Brooklyn Law School
- Columbia Law School
- Cornell Law School
- Florida State University College of Law
- George Washington Law School
- Georgetown Law
- Harvard Law School
- Illinois Institute of Technology College of Law
- John Marshall Law School
- New York University Law
- Northwestern University School of Law
- Pace University School of Law
- John’s University School of Law
- Texas A&M School of Law
- University of Arizona College of Law
- University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
- University of Hawaii School of Law
- University of Pennsylvania Law School
- University of Southern California Law School
- Wake Forest School of Law
- Washington University School of Law
- Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law
As you can see, there are some heavy-hitters on this list. One of the main reasons that the GRE is becoming a popular choice for law schools is the incredible amount of versatility and accessibility that it offers. The reasons for this are numerous, but here are some of the most salient:
GRE administered more often
The GRE can be taken on almost any day of the year at one of over 1,000 nationwide test centers. In comparison, the LSAT is only offered four times in a calendar year.
GRE offers faster turnaround
As a computer-based exam, the GRE registers and reports students’ scores immediately upon completion of the test.
GRE is taken by students from many disciplines
From science and math to the humanities, most prospective graduate students will be taking the GRE regardless of their specific program. By accepting the GRE as an LSAT replacement, law schools are able to widen their net and attract more diverse students.
Comparing LSAT vs GRE Formats
As mentioned above, one of the key distinctions between the LSAT vs GRE is that the GRE is a computer-based test, whereas the LSAT is administered by way of traditional pen and paper. This has a great impact on score turnaround but also appeals to different learning and test-taking styles.
Some applicants may find that they are simply more comfortable with a physical exam, feeling more in control of their ability to brainstorm and work through problems. There are many differences between the GRE and LSAT, some stemming directly from this fundamental disparity in formatting.
The GRE is a personalized adaptive exam. This means that a student’s accuracy when answering questions towards the beginning of the exam will determine how difficult later questions will be. In short, do well, and the questions get harder; answer incorrectly, and the difficulty will adjust accordingly.
The LSAT, on the other hand, is always a predetermined exam. Each testing session features questions that are set in stone and student performance does not factor into their difficulty.
Comparing LSAT vs GRE Sections
The LSAT exam is made of six timed sections, five multiple choice sections, and one writing section. Students are given 35 minutes to complete each section and the test is geared toward assessing reasoning and analytical skills.
Of the multiple-choice sections, one is unscored and meant for gauging potential questions for use on future exams. While it can be unsettling to know that one section will not be graded, students are not told which section is unscored until after results are returned. Of the four graded sections, two are logical reasoning (games), one analytical reasoning, and one reading comprehension.
The final section, the writing sample, presents students with two opposing positions and asks them to choose and defend one side. The goal here is to assess a test taker’s argumentative writing, language skills, and clarity. While unscored, responses are sent as part of law school applications.
The GRE has six sections: two verbal reasoning, two quantitative reasoning, and two analytical writing sections. Altogether, the test lasts about 3 hours and 45 minutes. Much like on the LSAT, the GRE verbal sections are meant to test a student’s ability to extract and synthesize information. In the analytical writing sections, students are tasked with evaluating the structure of a presented argument in addition to crafting an argument of their own.
The GRE tests math skills. This particular difference can be seen as either positive or negative, depending on each student’s history and preferences. Seeing mathematics questions on an entrance exam can be troubling for students with humanities backgrounds, who may not have directly dealt with math in years. This is no secret, however, and many of the top GRE prep courses focus specifically on not only refreshing students’ mathematical knowledge but teaching helpful strategies for tackling these questions efficiently.
The LSAT focuses instead on what the test calls “logic games.” These types of questions are like puzzles, requiring students to set up unique situations and establish their own rules for solving the problems. This tends to be where students get tripped up the most on the LSAT; luckily, the majority of LSAT prep courses provide students with tips and in-depth strategies for tackling these game questions.
Is the GRE the Right Choice?
The GRE is a widely-used entrance exam that is accepted by graduate programs in a number of disciplines. This is perhaps the most salient reason why the GRE is an appealing option for many law schools and prospective students.
According to a statement from the Harvard School of Law, many prospective law students are also looking at other types of programs, and they take the GRE while considering their various options. The Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow believes that students, schools, and the field of law in general benefit greatly from a diverse pool of students “in terms of academic background, country of origin, and financial circumstances.” Alleviating the financial burden of applying is a big part of this.
Let’s quickly recap the positives and negatives for choosing to take the GRE over the LSAT exam as a prospective law student:
|Offered more frequently
|Only accepted by 23 Law Schools
|More Career Options
|Can take 5 times each year
|Choose what scores to send
|Tests on Mathematics
|No games section
Why Stick with the LSAT?
The LSAT remains the primary entrance exam for the vast majority of law schools. Although the GRE is growing in popularity and may continue to do so, that doesn’t change the fact that the LSAT is the only test currently accepted by ALL law schools. If law school is the only career option you are considering, then taking the LSAT is probably the right choice as it allows for your performance to fully dictate where you apply.
The LSAT exam comes with its own list of positives and negatives, and the right choice will depend on each student’s learning style and career interests. Here’s a quick comparison of some benefits of the LSAT vs GRE certification:
|Accepted by all 205 ABA-Approved Schools
|Accepted only by law schools; not interdisciplinary
|No Math Section
|Tricky Logic Game questions
|All Scores are submitted
LSAT vs GRE: Which to Choose?
As with all application questions, your individual needs as a student and unique professional goals are the most decisive factors when deciding between the LSAT vs GRE.
If you are a student who has had your eye on law school for years, engages in a debate team, studies pre-law, and envisions a future in a private practice or top firm, then the LSAT is likely the test for you. It is also important to factor in your school of choice; if you are committed to a dream school that is not on the list of 23 now accepting GRE scores, then the LSAT is the test for you.
Otherwise, if you are someone who is still weighing multiple career paths, consider putting your whole effort into the GRE and submitting your score to one of the law schools.