As the number of applications for law schools decline nationwide, some universities are considering a shakeup to their admittance process.
Fourteen universities now allow students to submit GRE scores, instead of the LSAT. Among the schools that have made the switch are Harvard, Columbia, Northwestern and Texas A&M.
The GRE is a graduate school entry exam that is used for a wide ranges of studies. Meanwhile, the LSAT is the traditional acceptance exam for law school.
The Educational Testing Service released a study in October that said the GRE could be a valid test for law school. The test was given to 1,500 students at 21 schools. The testing results were shown to be indicators of how well someone did in his or her first year of law school.
Fleming says the American Bar Association has not sanctioned the GRE as an admissions test, so any school that chooses to use the GRE must develop its own validation study. Additionally, the ABA is considering getting rid of any admissions tests altogether.
Oklahoma has three law schools: The University of Oklahoma, the University of Tulsa and Oklahoma City University. Fleming told KGOU the state’s three law schools are not accepting the GRE at this time, but they are keeping an eye on the trend.
“Nationally, law school applications have dropped. There were 100,000 applications in 2004 and in 2016 there were only 56000,” Fleming said. “Since the LSAT has a reputation as being pretty daunting, the idea would be that the GRE would be less tedious. Also, allowing people who had taken the GRE would create more variety in applications.”
Laurie Jones, the associate dean of admission at OCU Law, told Fleming that she supports having the GRE as an option. Jones thinks it could be useful in downtown Oklahoma City because educated professionals may see the LSAT as an obstacle to pursuing a law degree.
OU School of Law associate dean Darin Fox told Fleming the GRE could be an attractive option for potential students who want to study a legal master’s degree. OU and OCU both offer degrees in legal studies.
Fox said the GRE could also help get students with science, technology, engineering, and math backgrounds into law school.
He said OU could allow the GRE as early as fall 2019, but no decision has been made yet.
TU’s senior administrative coordinator, Janet Johnson, told Fleming that her school is keeping an eye on changes to the GRE. However, TU’s decision will depend on what the ABA says about the test.
Jacob McCleland: You're listening to Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Jacob McCleland and I'm joined today by Journal Record reporter Molly Fleming. Molly thanks for joining us.
Molly Fleming: Hey you're welcome. It's been a while.
McCleland: Yeah it has been. And I want to talk about one of the stories that you've recently written in the Journal Record. This one is about law school acceptance tests. Some law schools across the country are now taking the GRE grad school entrance test instead of the the LSAT test that schools traditionally have used. Why is that? Why are they looking at the at the GRE now?
Fleming: Yes there have been several reasons that Oklahoma's three law schools listed as to what the trend is. One was that nationally, law school applications have dropped. There were 100,000 applications in 2004 and in 2016 there were only 56,000. So that's that's a pretty big drop. Since the LSAT has a reputation as being pretty daunting, the idea would be that the GRE would be less tedious. Also, allowing people who had taken GRE would create more variety in applications. These are likely people who have already already took the degree, you know, for a master's program. So they would have different professional backgrounds.
McCleland: So what's the big difference here really between the GRE and the LSAT as tests?
Fleming: The GRE exam is a broad assessment, so it looks at skills the test taker would have learned in college, it tests on, you know, critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning. The LSAT requires testers to read through some dense passages and answer questions. And there are some logics problems to solve. And from what I understand, it's also timed. I mean, I'm sure the GRE is as well. But the timing kind of makes it a little bit more difficult. You've got to get through that quickly and it's not something you can just skim through. It's pretty dense reading passages.
McCleland: So are any of our local law schools considering doing this?
Fleming: No. They are they are closely watching it. I spoke to deans at all three of our law schools: the University of Oklahoma, the University of Tulsa, and Oklahoma City University, and they they said they have not made a decision. At the University of Oklahoma, there was talk of maybe doing it in the fall of 2019 but no official decision has been made. But it's it's an interesting time to be in law school admissions, is what Dean Laurie Jones at Oklahoma City University said, mainly because the American Bar Association is also considering eliminating an emissions tests altogether. So there's an open comment time about that now. Lauri said that she's not in favor of that idea but she can see why allowing the GRE is a good idea.
McCleland: So the American Bar Association is considering eliminating an admissions test altogether. So would that mean they're not necessarily leaning towards allowing the GRE as a as an admissions test?
Fleming: Yes that's a good question. So 14 ABA approved law schools in the country are allowing the GRE, and there's 200 law schools total. The association really hasn't taken a stand. So they haven't been against it. The law school standards for the ABA's, excuse me, law school standards have a section that outlines the testing requirements for an emissions tests. And Section 503 requires that the test be valid and reliable, which are two key phrases, especially with the bar association made up of attorneys, they look at words pretty closely. So some schools have thought that they had found a test that would be valid and reliable. They thought that the GRE would do this. In October this year the Educational Testing Service released a study that said the GRE could be a valid test for law school. The test was given to 1,500 students at 21 schools. The testing results were shown to be indicators of how someone did in his or her first year of law school. So if they did well on the GRE then they also did well in law school their first year and vice versa. But the bar association didn't sanction those results. They didn't give them their blessing. So now any school that wants to use the GRE would have to have its own validation study.
McCleland: There's a shortage of lawyers in some rural areas across the United States and Oklahoma. I mean could this help encourage people to pursue a law degree and practice in their in their rural hometown?
Fleming: That's what Dean Jones from OCU you've mentioned. And in my opinion I think it could. One of the big issues about the LSAT is it's only given four times a year, and will go up to six times in 2018. But in rural Oklahoma that location isn't likely near you. So the GRE is given more frequently and is likely a closer drive to rural areas. So if a student could take the GRE, go to law school, than they might be more interested in returning to their hometown.
McCleland: Molly Fleming is a reporter for The Journal Record newspaper. Molly thank you so much.
Fleming: You're welcome.
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