Rules Change Could Threaten LSAT Dominance

ABA panel would loosen procedures for law schools using other tests, but hurdles would still remain.

April 23, 2018

The push to end the dominance of the LSAT in law school admissions scored a big win last week. But the fight over the issue is far from over -- and some portrayals of last week's news may have overstated its immediate implications.

In short, a committee of the American Bar Association recommended that the ABA's accrediting arm no longer stipulate the use of the Law School Admission Test in admissions as the required norm. Currently, law schools that conduct "validity testing" (meaning a look at whether tests predict success of admitted students once enrolled) on an alternative test can give applicants the option of using that test. In the past year, a growing number of law schools have announced that, based on such testing, they are offering applicants the option of submitting Graduate Record Examination scores instead of LSAT scores.

Among the more than a dozen law schools that have conducted their own studies so that they can offer the GRE as an option are such leading institutions as the law schools of Harvard, Georgetown and Northwestern Universities.

But conducting such validity testing can be time-consuming and expensive, and not every law school wants to do the work. That's why the possible ABA change is significant.

The panel recommended that law schools that don't want to rely on the LSAT may use other tests that an ABA panel has found to be "valid and reliable." In theory this would pave the way for the GRE (or some other test) to earn such a designation, which would allow other law schools to modify admissions policies without doing individualized validity testing. But the ABA would still have to first conduct its own study of the GRE to declare the test "valid and reliable."

So even if the full ABA adopts the rules change (which it hasn't yet), there would need to be another process before law schools could more speedily use tests other than the LSAT.

Still, champions of diversity in law school testing were pleased by the news. The University of Arizona was ahead of others in offering the GRE as an option for law school admissions, beginning to do so in 2016.

Marc Miller, the dean at Arizona, issued a statement in which he said, "This recommendation recognizes that a one-size-fits-all admissions approach prevents law schools from opening their doors to the widest pool of students capable of success in law school and on the bar."

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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