After ABA's blessing, will law schools rush to use the GRE in admissions?

Students sit for the philosophy baccalaureate exam at the French Louis Pasteur Lycee in Strasbourg
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  • Nearly 80 law schools already allow applicants to submit GRE scores
  • ABA's decision to put the test on par with the LSAT could prompt holdouts to get on board

(Reuters) - After five years of debate, the American Bar Association will allow law schools to use the Graduate Record Examinations — better known as the GRE — in admissions, with no strings attached.

The decision to put the GRE on equal footing with the Law School Admission Test, reached in a closed ABA session earlier this month, has some legal educators predicting a new wave of schools will begin to accept the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT. It could also spur the nearly 80 schools that already allow the GRE to accept it more broadly.

Schools that currently allow the GRE have used it sparingly — fewer than 1% of 2020’s first-year class was admitted with a GRE score, ABA data shows. Until now, law schools had to supply additional research on the GRE's reliability to the ABA to justify beginning to use the test. The ABA has allowed the LSAT for decades.

“I would be surprised if a number of schools don’t announce, almost immediately, that they will take the GRE,” said Marc Miller, dean of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, which in 2016 became the first law school to accept the GRE.

Alberto Acereda, an executive with Educational Testing Service, which develops and administers the GRE, called the ABA’s decision a “testament to the value” of the test in law school admissions.

The Law School Admission Council, which produces the LSAT, has opposed the move to allow the GRE but said in a statement that it will not “second-guess this decision.”

Law school admissions deans have said accepting the GRE helps them reach a wider pool of applicants — particularly those with backgrounds in STEM fields. Miller said the ABA's move may prompt law schools to proactively court some of the approximately 500,000 people who take the GRE each year as prospective students.

The ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar voted Nov. 19 to make the change and publicized the decision Tuesday. Its decision came after researchers commissioned by the council said in September that more study of the GRE's reliability was needed.

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com