September 24, 2019 | 73° F

Pending national decision, Rutgers will not transition away from LSAT exams at this time

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Each year, hundreds of thousands of students from universities across the country take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), but in recent years some schools, including Harvard, have opted to use different testing methods. Rutgers has stated that they will not act until the Bar Association comes to a consensus.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students decide that they want to become lawyers, attorneys or judges. Upon making this decision, students understand that they must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). 

In 2015, over 171,000 students buckled down and spent time, money and effort preparing for the LSAT. But now there may be an alternative.

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) is responsible for setting the admissions standard at the national collegiate level. The council is in charge of regulating the LSAT and may now have enough incentive to shift to supporting the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) instead.

According to the LSAC, there were fewer applicants applying to American Bar Association-accredited law schools for the 2017-2018 school year than the year before. This prompted officials to take a more-detailed look at the LSAT as a whole.

In August, Georgetown University Law Center and Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law joined Harvard Law School and began accepting GREs in place of the LSATs. 

The LSAC states that the LSAT “provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants.”

Maureen O’Boyle, associate director of admissions at Rutgers—Camden, said the University has no plans at this time to move away from the LSAT standard.

“Rutgers University doesn’t take GRE scores at this time,” O’Boyle said. “Traditionally, the LSATs are the standard and there are no solid plans to change that in motion.”

In comparison, the LSAT is only available four times each year, she said. This may cause problems, as students can easily run out of time during the year to take the exam.

O'Boyle said it can even leave some pre-law students out of options if they miss the opportunity to take the exam during one of the four dates. This can be a costly mistake that will affect future applications to law school. For these reasons, schools have opted to accept GRE scores instead.

But universities are only accepting GRE scores from a limited pool of applicants — including students who are able to demonstrate that the test was an adequate substitute for the LSAT, she said.

Ronald Chen, co-dean of Rutgers Law School—Newark,  said the University is waiting on a decision from the American Bar Association (ABA) before proceeding with any policy changes. 

While Rutgers is currently examining options regarding validating GRE scores from across the country and watching the ABA closely, Chen said that there is no sense in organizing a case study now. 

He said law schools in the United States are required to use the LSAT as a standard of measuring student aptitude on admissions applications. They must use the LSAT unless the university can prove another test is a viable measure of knowledge.

In order to confirm this, a university usually finances a study that looks into the viability of the test, he said. This occurs when student GRE scores are surveyed by the university. 

In order to research the test and perform any study, there needs to be a large-enough sample size to probe. Harvard was lucky enough to have a large number of enrolled students who tested the GREs, but Rutgers does not necessarily have that data, he said.

This would make way for the GREs to potentially become the national standard of accepted standardized test scores, he said.

The LSAC estimates that the study will wrap up toward the end of 2018. At that time, the ABA will come to a conclusion. The parameters for what admissions test is acceptable will be a decision that Rutgers will ultimately heed to the ABA, he said.

Daniel Israel is a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. 

Dan Israel

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