BYU Law accepting GRE scores beginning fall 2018

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Dani Jardine
BYU Law will begin accepting GRE scores in place of the LSAT for applicants beginning fall 2018. (Dani Jardine)

The BYU Law School announced on Nov. 20 it will now accept the GRE in place of the LSAT for applicants to the fall 2018 entering class. Law schools throughout the U.S. are also considering accepting GRE scores.

“By accepting the GRE as an admission test for BYU Law School, we hope to facilitate entry to law school by students who would otherwise be required to prepare and pay for two admissions tests,” said BYU Law Dean Gordon Smith in a press release.

BYU Law is not the first school to break from traditional acceptance. Harvard Law School, one of the top law schools in the nation, made waves when it decided potential students could apply with either the GRE or the LSAT exam as of fall 2017.

Harvard Law School announced acceptance of GRE applicants to its 2017 entering class soon after the University of Arizona Law School, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and Georgetown Law announced GRE acceptance for its 2018 entering class.

“We are excited about the prospect of expanding the scope of our qualified applicant pool,” said BYU Law Assistant Dean of Admissions Gayla Sorenson.

In September, Kaplan Test Prep published research of GRE score acceptance in more than 200 U.S. law schools. The law school admissions officers survey indicated use of the GRE is growing, with seven schools throughout the U.S. adding the GRE to their law application by the end of 2018.

BYU was not part of the seven schools listed in the survey.

The survey also said apprehension about adding the GRE to the current application process is evident among law schools.

The Kaplan Test Prep survey said the apprehension is likely because the American Bar Association (ABA) hasn’t weighed in on the issue of whether or not the GRE is a good predictive indicator of law school success.

Jeff Thomas, Kaplan Test Prep executive director of pre-law programs, is still optimistic for GRE use in law school applications because of the difference in testing availability.

Thomas said the GRE is used in acceptance to most graduate programs, excluding medical school and law school, and is offered on almost every day in the calendar year.

He said the LSAT is exclusive to law school entrance and only offered approximately four times in the calendar year.

“Law schools are figuring (the GRE) to be an easier way to fill the admissions test part of their application,” Thomas said.

Thomas recommended still taking the LSAT if a student is set on going to law school because all law schools accept the LSAT. He also said once the LSAT is taken, it must be used on all law school applications, whether or not the school accepts the GRE.

Sorenson said BYU Law participated in a multi-school study conducted by the Educational Testing Service. The study determined use of the GRE is predictive indicator of first-year law school success.

Sorenson said BYU Law accepted BYU undergraduates and graduates without the LSAT under certain conditions.

She said law schools may be approved on a year-by-year basis by the ABA to admit student applicants coming from a law school’s affiliated undergraduate or graduate programs without an LSAT score. The affiliated law school may admit up to 10 percent of the incoming class without an LSAT score.

Sorenson said the ABA waiver has been made for BYU Law since 2014 and includes current applicants of the incoming class of 2018.

“Rather than admit waivers on a case by case basis, the ABA decided to make it a uniform rule that any law school could utilize,” Sorenson said.

She said BYU students must meet other requirements to qualify in the 10 percent accepted without an LSAT score.

Undergraduate students must have scored in the 85th percentile on the ACT or SAT, meaning an ACT of 26 or higher, according to Sorenson. She said a 3.8 cumulative GPA is also required.

Sorenson said BYU graduates in a joint degree program who wish to apply to BYU Law with a test other than the LSAT or GRE must score in the 85th percentile on their standardized test used for graduate program admittance.

“We’ve had seven or eight students each of the last three years who haven’t taken the LSAT,” Sorenson said.

Reyes Aguilar, associate dean of admissions at the University of Utah Law School, said the U. participated in the ABA feeder school waiver system for one year, but has not used the waiver since then because the LSAT is a proven indication of success in law school.

Aguilar is apprehensive of accepting the GRE test and said he is unsure what changes will be made by the ABA in the future.

Aguilar said he doesn’t wish to risk validation and accreditation if U. Law were to prematurely accept the GRE without sufficient backing by the ABA.

“Whatever test you decide you’re doing it at your own risk,” Aguilar said.

In August, the ABA proposed students apply to law school with any standardized test for law school entrance, according to Aguilar.

Aguilar said the LSAT gave recognition to under-represented individuals by mediating biases of admissions committees through score based admission. Aguilar said he worries what measures will be used to mediate bias if the LSAT is no longer needed for law school entrance.

Aguilar noted no announcements have been made to conclude standardized exams are leaving the law school process applications in the near future.