For years, law schools were wedded to the LSAT. Like any marriage, it had its ups and downs, but it was a bedrock relationship. The LSAT, after all, was the test developed for law schools. The LSAT pledged to help law school assess the lawyerly mettle of applicants; law schools promised to use the LSAT as its primary means of applicant appraisal. Through these vows, a mutually beneficial partnership was forged.
But, as stories as old as time have told us, the heart wants what it wants. As the LSAT and law schools hit a rough patch of dwindling applicant pools, some law schools began seeking romance outside the homestead. Law schools began gazing towards the LSAT’s neighbor, the GRE. They saw in the GRE the saw a slightly more free and easy alternative to their spouse. They imagined a road not taken, a life not lived. Some, in fact, imagined taking that road now. The University of Arizona, in particular, couldn’t contain itself — its fiery passion for the GRE perhaps stoked by the sweltering heat of Tuscon, Arizona. It became the first school to step out on the LSAT. A messy fight ensued, but when Harvard Law — a respected pillar of the law school community! — declared it too would tryst with the GRE, the LSAT realized it might be permanently sharing its partner’s affections with the GRE.
Since then, many law schools have been either making flirty eyes towards the GRE, if not outright proposing an extra-marital affair. This year, ago both UCI and Bama Law made their dalliances with the GRE public. And earlier this summer, Yale — whose relationship with the LSAT has in part taken it all the way to the top spot of the U.S. News & World Report rankings — tweeted that it too will become a polyamorous law school. For those keeping track of these affaires de cœur at home, here’s a full list of all the schools accepting the GRE or another non-LSAT test, in the order of their U.S. News rankings:
• Yale Law School (#1)
• Harvard Law School (#3)
• Columbia Law School (#5)
• New York University School of Law (#6)
• University of Pennsylvania Law School (#7)
• Northwestern School of Law (#10)
• Cornell Law School (#13)
• Georgetown Law Center (#14)
• UCLA School of Law (#15)
• USC Gould School of Law (#17)
• Washington University in St. Louis School of Law (#18)
• University of California, Irvine School of Law (#23)
• Alabama Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law (#25)
• Wake Forest School of Law (#31)
• BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School (#39)
• University of Arizona James E. Rodgers College of Law (#39)
• Florida State College of Law (#48)
• Cardozo School of Law (#52)
• SMU Dedman School of Law (#52)
• Penn State Law at University Park (#64)
• Brooklyn Law School (#71-Tie)
• Penn State Dickinson Law (#71-Tie)
• St. John’s School of Law (#77)
• Texas A&M School of Law (#83)
• Chicago-Kent College of Law (#87)
• Florida International University College of Law (#91)
• University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law (#91)
• Buffalo School of Law (#104)
• Pace Law School (#122)
• John Marshall Law School (#146)
(The University of Chicago (#4) and University of Georgia (#27) will waive the LSAT requirement if you’re getting a dual degree program; Berkeley Law (#10) will let applicants in concurrent or combined degree programs and specialized practice fields like patent or energy law use a GRE score).
So there are quite a few schools that are accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT now — it’s like its the swinging 70s in law school, to further that already strained metaphor. Expect this number to grow, too. Making a public announcement that your law school will accept the GRE is a no-brainer for law schools. They’ll get their schools’ name in the news, make statements that espouse unassailable ideals like diversity and accessibility and inclusion and innovation, and maybe slightly increase the quality of their applicant pools. If I were a law school dean, and my school could afford the testing process required by the ABA’s Standard 503, I’d make this announcement in a heartbeat. Even though I love the LSAT — enough to start this blog post with some weird fanfic equating the LSAT to a spurned spouse.
But we’re not here to strategize as hypothetical law school deans. We’re here to talk about what this means for you as a future law school applicant. What does it mean now that a bunch of law schools are letting applicants in with a GRE score? Is that dramatically going to change the applicant field? Should you get in on some of the GRE action?
If you’ve already taken the LSAT and are going to use that score apply to law schools, and you’re worried that an influx of GRE-takers might make the field way more competitive, fret not. Admissions consultant Mike Spivey recently spoke to a bunch of deans of schools that are accepting the GRE, and the general take-away is that there aren’t that many applicants applying to law school with the GRE. A “fairly small volume,” according to Wake Forest’s dean. At Harvard — that bellwether of GRE acceptance — only 18 out of 566 students in its entering class in 2018 had a reportable GRE score. And that number likely includes some who had both an LSAT and a GRE score. And Harvard has the most students admitted with the GRE. USC, George Mason, Washington at St. Louis, and Cardozo each admitted just one student with a GRE score. So any effect GRE may be having on the admissions field is really small, at least for now.
But what if you’re studying for the LSAT, but want to keep your options open? Maybe try out the GRE instead of, or in addition to, the LSAT? Is that a good idea? It’s a great question; as is true for all great questions, the answer is “it depends.” Studying for the GRE isn’t uniformly easier or harder than studying for the LSAT. It tests skills that are different from, but somewhat adjacent to, the skills the LSAT tests. Plus, it has math. Maybe the GRE skills are slightly more in your wheelhouse, maybe your skills are better suited for the LSAT. If you haven’t started studying either, it may make sense to try out both exams, and see which one is your cup of tea. For what it’s worth, a former Blueprint instructor and supreme standardized test-knower thinks the GRE is an exceedingly stupid test.
If you’re open to taking the GRE though, you shouldn’t assume that you can prove your fealty to the legal profession by taking both the GRE and the LSAT, or that you can rescue a so-so LSAT score with a high GRE score. We’re still in the admissions-offices-are-getting-the-hang-of-how-to-deal-with-the-GRE-phase of things, but in that Spivey article, one of the few points of agreement amongst deans was that admissions officials will not draw inferences — positive or negative — about your choice of test. They won’t think you’re less committed for taking the GRE instead of the LSAT, and they won’t think you’re more committed if you take both.
You should also be aware of the fact that if you take the LSAT, the admissions offices will see any and all LSAT scores you received in the last five years. Even if you’ve taken the GRE and would prefer the law schools to just judge you based on that. In fact, some law schools, like Wake Forest and Chicago-Kent won’t allow you to apply with the GRE if you have a reportable LSAT score. If you are able to apply with both, some schools, like UCLA, BYU, and USC, claim that they’ll evaluate you based on both scores. At other schools, it seems like the LSAT score will weigh more heavily in their decision. Some schools, like Harvard, claim they’ll even consider your GRE Quantitative (read: math) score. And what if you try out the GRE, and get a substandard score? Can you just hide that from law schools? As in, not report it to schools you apply to? Well, multiple deans in that Spivey article claim that hiding reportable GRE scores may raise red flags regarding your character and moral fitness.
Since you can’t just take both tests and apply with the better score, there really aren’t any advantages to taking both tests. So we recommend just choosing one, and dedicating all your effort into it. We’d recommend the LSAT, since it is still the only exam accepted by all 203 ABA-accredited law schools. But this is your path, and thus your decisions to make. Try both out, pick one, and then fully commit to it. Because unlike law schools and the LSAT, your commitment should be unwavering.