By Sarah Watson
Despite four prominent law schools in the nation that now accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT from applicants, the University of Iowa will not make the transition — yet.
Traditionally, law schools have only accepted the LSAT, an exam that tests students’ aptitude for law studies. However, the American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, doesn’t specifically require students to take the LSAT, only a test that is “valid and reliable.”
For the fall of 2017, five law schools have begun accepting the GRE from applicants: Harvard Law School, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Georgetown Law, and the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law.
The GRE is an aptitude test required when applying for other graduate programs but, traditionally, not law schools.
There are no data on how students who apply with GRE will compare with students who apply with the LSAT, Jeff Thomas, Kaplan Test Prep’s executive director of pre-law programs, said.
However, the UI law school will not make that transition in the near future.
“The University of Iowa College of Law has not undertaken a study of our students to determine whether the GRE would be ‘valid and reliable,’ ” law Dean Gail Agrawal wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Therefore, at present, the College of Law is not accepting the GRE score in lieu of an LSAT score from applicants for admission.”
The most prevalent reason for the transition for the four schools is to encourage more students to apply for law school after years of declining numbers of applicants.
In 2010, approximately 170,000 students took the LSAT; in 2016-17, that number was a little under 110,000.
“With fewer students sitting to take the LSAT, law schools are getting fewer applicants than they did in the past,” Thomas said. “Because there are so many folks that take the GRE, they figure that if they can offer the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT, they might get more applicants for their school.”
Second-year UI law-school student Cara Donels said she would have taken the GRE if UI had accepted it.
“I was a biology major, so the GRE would have been applicable to more fields, so I would have had more options,” she said. “Instead, I just took the LSAT.”
The UI law school has faced declining enrollment for the last 10 years, except from 2016 to 2017, when the college had an uptick in applicant numbers, from 1,217 to 1,530.
In a survey of 128 law schools done by Kaplan Test Prep in April, 25 percent of the schools said they plan to accept GRE scores in lieu of LSAT at some point in the future.
Thomas said that he recommends students to take the LSAT if they know they want to apply to law school.
“There is no reason to sit and prepare for two different exams,” Thomas said. “So the LSAT is still the test that students should take to apply to law school, even though this news suggests there are some schools accepting the GRE.