The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) is a monolithic and conservative entity befitting a gatekeeper of legal academia. However, it’s beginning to be forced to change with the times in the face of some significant challenges. The number of LSATs administered annually has declined by more than a third this decade from 170,000+ at the end of the 2009-10 testing year to fewer than 110,000 during the 2016-17 testing year. Then came the news that, beginning with applications submitted in the fall of 2017, Harvard Law will accept the GRE as an acceptable alternative to the LSAT for incoming applicants.
Over the summer, the LSAT made two big changes to try and make their exam more attractive to potential law students. First, they expanded the number of LSATs offered annually from four to six administrations beginning with the 2018-19 testing year. Second, they announced that there will no longer be any limit on the number of LSATs that can be taken over a two-year period. Now, they have announced that, as of the February 2018 exam, there will no longer be a late registration deadline or an accompanying late registration fee.
Still, the challenges to the LSATs law school applications monopoly continue to mount. Most notably, the GRE continues to be a threat as more than a dozen law schools have announced this year that they will follow Harvard Law’s lead by accepting the GRE for future applicants. Additionally, the LSAT is often viewed as an antiquated (paper) exam that has changed so little in the past two decades that students can still prep with books containing exams that are old enough to drink!
In October, the LSAC conducted the second of two tablet-based digital LSAT field tests that were offered this past year to prospective law students. In exchange for a refund check for the full cost of a future actual LSAT, interested students were subjected to an unofficial exam that provided an official exam experience and a detailed performance report, but that was not eligible for reporting to any prospective law schools.
The LSAC has been seriously exploring a digital option since developing a tablet-based prototype in 2013 and there are two major potential benefits of a digital LSAT that should excite potential law students:
- It could significantly shorten the current timeframe for score reporting, by eliminating the need to manually grade individual scantrons
- It might open the LSAT administration calendar to beyond even the already expanded six test dates a year to something more akin to the nearly daily-offered GRE
2,000 test-takers were eligible for the October trial, which included five unpublished 35-minute sections of actual LSAT questions and a writing sample. However, holding a thousand-person pilot in May and then doubling the scope only five months later begs the question, is the last holdout of the digital test revolution joining a club that hasn’t expanded since the MCAT went computer-based in 2007? Time will tell, but if you are a potential law student you must keep up to date on the exam and make sure you are preparing for a near-term exam. As GMAT students know, the rules can change immediately like they did this summer when the GMAC suddenly announced a major formatting change to a choose-your-own-section-order model.
Should You Take the LSAT or the GRE?
As the GMAC also knows, once the GRE shows up to a party it never really goes away. Since sidling into the business school admissions market in 2006 when MIT’s Sloan’s School of Business began accepting it as a GMAT alternative, the GRE’s acceptance rate has grown to the point where it is now accepted at 92% of all business schools. That said, there is one major impediment to the GRE attempting the same kind of law school coup – the American Bar Association. The ABA has yet to rule whether the GRE satisfies its requirement that accredited law schools “require an admissions test that assesses applicants’ capabilities,” and no time-table, as yet, has been given for such a decision.
So, for now, unless you are absolutely certain that you will apply only to one of the currently listed GRE-accepting law schools and in the near-term prior to the ABA’s ultimate ruling, your best bet remains to take the LSAT if you are going to law school. Of course, if you’re taking the LSAT or the GRE, MyGuru is here to help you prep to beat any test you are up against!
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