Updated December 5, 2020
In the fall semester of 2017, Harvard Law School opened its doors to the first class of students who did not have to take the LSAT in order to be admitted. Harvard is now among several dozen schools that accept GRE scores as an alternative to the traditional LSAT. With more prestigious law schools accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT, prospective law students now need to ask themselves which test best improves their chances of being accepted.
Why Have Law Schools Started Accepting GRE Scores?
Ultimately, a standardized test is used as a predictor for success—it aims to answer the question of whether a student will be likely to succeed in graduating law school. GRE scores, the University of Arizona Law found, could be taken as “a valid and reliable predictor of students’ first-term law school grades.” Starting in February 2016, the University of Arizona became the first law school to accept the GRE instead of the traditional LSAT.
Some law schools choose not to require the LSAT as a way to attract students from less conventional career paths. For instance, the GRE has a math section, which may make it appeal to STEM majors more than the LSAT. Accepting the GRE also lets current graduate students use the same GRE score that got them into graduate school to apply to law school, as long as the score is less than five years old. Lastly, the GRE allows students to feel less restricted in their pursuit for higher education than the LSAT does, because the LSAT can only be used to apply to law school. Now more students can consider law school along with other graduate programs without devoting extra time preparing for a separate test.
How many law schools currently accept GRE scores? As of November 2020, the ETS reports that 65 U.S. law schools currently accept GRE scores, listed below:
Law Schools that Accept the GRE
- Albany Law School
- American University Washington College of Law
- Boston University School of Law
- Brigham Young University Law School
- Brooklyn Law School
- California western School of Law
- Chicago-Kent College of Law
- Columbia Law School
- Cornell Law School
- Duke University School of Law
- Florida International University
- Florida State University College of Law
- George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School
- George Washington Law School
- Georgetown University Law Center
- Harvard Law School
- Hofstra University Maurice A. Deane School of Law
- Indiana University Maurer School of Law
- Illinois Institute of Technology College of Law
- John Marshall Law School
- Kern county College of Law
- LMU Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
- Massachusetts School of Law at Andover
- Mercer University School of Law
- Monterey College of Law
- New York University School of Law
- Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
- Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law
- Penn State University — Dickinson Law
- Penn State University — Penn State Law
- Pepperdine School of Law
- San Luis Obispo College of Law
- Seattle University School of Law
- Seton Hall University School of Law
- Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law
- St. John’s University School of Law
- Suffolk University Law School
- Syracuse University College of Law
- Texas A&M School of Law
- UIC John Marshall Law School
- University of Akron School of Law
- University of Alabama School of Law
- University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law
- University of Baltimore Law School
- University of Buffalo School of Law
- University of California, Davis School of Law
- University of California, Hastings College of the Law
- University of California, Irvine School of Law
- University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
- University of Chicago Law School
- University of Dayton School of Law
- University of Hawai’i at Manoa School of Law
- University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law
- University of New Hampshire School of Law
- University of Notre Dame Law School
- University of Pennsylvania Law School
- University of Southern California, Gould School of Law School
- University of South Carolina School of Law
- University of Texas at Austin School of Law
- University of Virginia School of Law
- Wake Forest School of Law
- Washington University School of Law
- Willamette University College of Law
- Yale Law School
- Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law
LSAT vs. GRE
While many schools accept both exams as a good predictor for success in law school, they are two distinct exams, each with advantages and disadvantages.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is the standard admissions exam aspiring law students have taken historically. All U.S. law schools approved by the American Bar Association, along with Canadian law schools, accept the LSAT.
The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, is a general standardized test that most graduate programs require for admission; each school has its own unique GRE score expectations, and some graduate programs are waiving their GRE requirements in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.
LSAT vs. GRE Format
The GRE is a computer-administered exam with section-adaptive technology. As you complete different GRE sections, the following sections will be easier or harder based on your previous performance. Up until 2019, the LSAT was generally administered on paper, but has since transitioned to a digital-tablet format for nearly all LSAT test-takers. Even though both tests are offered digitally, the GRE is offered continually throughout the year, while the LSAT is only offered seven or so times per year and can only be taken three times per year by each student.
LSAT vs. GRE Sections
The LSAT lasts for 3 hours and 30 minutes total and consists of six 35-minute sections, with five multiple-choice sections and one writing sample. Its questions are designed to test your aptitude for thinking analytically and logically.
Four out of five multiple choice sections make up the score you receive. These sections are comprised of one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and two logical reasoning sections. The unscored section tests potential questions for future tests as well as potential test forms, but it is not identified as unscored while you’re taking the test, so you should treat all test sections as if they are scored.
The LSAT writing sample prompts you to choose between two positions and defend your choice. This section demonstrates your argumentative writing skills, including your command of language, reasoning, and clarity. While the writing sample is unscored, a copy is sent to the schools you apply to.
The GRE has six scored sections, plus one unscored section: two Verbal Reasoning, two Quantitative Reasoning, and two Analytical Writing sections.The unscored or experimental section includes either quantitative or verbal questions, but isn’t identified while you’re taking the test. Altogether, the test takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes. These sections are designed to test your ability to understand and synthesize information, to solve mathematical problems, and to defend and evaluate arguments.
Because the test is administered on the computer, the test is also adaptive, so the sections become harder or easier depending on your performance on previous sections. The GRE weights your final score on the difficulty of the questions you took.
The writing section includes two separately-timed essays, “Analyze an Issue” and “Analyze an Argument.” In the Issue task, you must agree or disagree with a claim in the provided prompt and explain your position. In the Argument task, you must evaluate a given argument for its logical soundness.
GRE vs. LSAT Conversion Calculator
If you’ve already taken the GRE test or a practice test and are wondering what your equivalent LSAT score might be, we’ve created a GRE to LSAT conversion calculator to show you estimated equivalent scores between the two. Just input your GRE scores for Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning and you’ll see an estimated equivalent LSAT score.
Should You Take the LSAT or the GRE?
Evan after reading through the details of the exams’ structure and format, you may still be considering which to take for law school: GRE or LSAT? Before you sit down and register for one, these are some pros and cons for each test that you should consider:
Reasons to Take the GRE:
1. More Career Options With the GRE
If you’re unsure about your career path, the GRE opens more options than the LSAT, which only applies to law programs. Nearly every graduate program, barring law and medical, uses the GRE as the standardized test to measure your abilities. The GRE may be the best choice if you have any doubts about a career in law.
2. All LSAT Scores are Reported
You can pick which GRE test results you’d like to send to your prospective law programs once you’ve finished the test, but with the LSAT, on the other hand, every score report shows all your test attempts. Law schools take into consideration the average of your LSAT scores, so a few low scores can really impact your application. Also, some schools may actually require you to submit your LSAT score if you’ve taken it, even if you’d prefer not to report it. You can’t botch the LSAT, then choose to report the GRE instead; this means the GRE may be a safer choice in general, since you can immediately cancel less favorable scores.
3. The GRE is Offered Throughout the Year
In terms of availability, the GRE is the superior test. Unlike the LSAT, which is only offered six times a year, the GRE is offered almost every day of the year. If you have a busy schedule, or if you have test anxiety, the GRE allows you to pick almost any date that works for you, while the LSAT requires you to take the test on a specific date or wait months for the next test date—this makes missing the exam due to an emergency inconvenient, to say the least. So, if you have a very tight schedule and won’t be available for one of the year’s few LSAT testing days, go with the GRE.
4. The LSAT Has Logic Questions
While both the LSAT and GRE have sections that test your reading comprehension, only the LSAT has questions known as “logic games,” found in the analytical reasoning section. These often present a set of objects in an unknown order with a number of rules, and you must figure out valid orders or patterns from the information given.
These questions test your ability to analyze and infer information from a given scenario, but they aren’t for everyone. Practice a few logic games online, and if you find that you really have trouble following these types of questions or get confused often, you may want to reconsider taking the GRE instead.
Reasons to Take the LSAT:
1. All Law Schools Accept the LSAT
While some law schools don’t require the LSAT, all of them accept it. Of the 205 ABA-approved law schools, the majority don’t currently accept the GRE. So, if more than a few schools you’re considering aren’t on the list of GRE-friendly law schools, you should consider studying up for the LSAT.
2. You Can See LSAT Average Scores
Law schools generally report statistics for their entering class. You can check out the demographics, average GPA, and average LSAT scores of the entering students on the law school’s website. However, these schools have not begun reporting their average GRE scores in as much detail. You can use a GRE to LSAT conversion chart to better understand equivalent scores between the tests, but keep in mind that schools may not adhere exactly to these kinds of conversions. If you want to be absolutely sure about how your standardized test scores stack up to the school’s scoring expectations, you should go with the tried-and-true LSAT.
3. The GRE Has Math Questions
If the idea of doing geometry and algebra causes you immediate anxiety, you may want to avoid the GRE and take the LSAT instead, which has no math questions. On the other hand, if you’re a STEM major, or if you preferred the math section to the verbal section on other standardized tests like the SAT, then you may prefer taking the GRE instead of the heavily verbal-based LSAT.
4. The LSAT Has One Total Score
When you take the GRE, you receive three separate scores: one for Verbal Reasoning, one for Quantitative Reasoning, and one for Analytical Writing. You can combine these scores on your own, but the three separate scores are generally considered separately rather than together in admissions decisions. This means schools can pay more attention to one section than another, if they choose, and if you score poorly on one section, this could have a considerable impact on your admissions chances. Generally, however, law programs will consider GRE scores on a “sliding scale,” where good scores on one section compensate for bad scores on another. With the LSAT, you don’t have to worry about section-by-section scoring—your total score will be the primary figure that admissions boards compare against their admission standards and other applicants.
LSAT vs. GRE – Which Test Should I Take?
Whether you should take the GRE or the LSAT all comes down to which test best suits your needs.
Ask yourself how sure you are that law school is for you. If you’ve wanted to be a lawyer since you were in elementary school, joined your debate team in high school, and majored in pre-law programs, you’ve probably been looking at the LSAT for a while now. In that case, there’s no real reason not to take it unless you perform better on math questions or are wondering about other career paths at the last minute. Also, if your school of choice isn’t on the relatively short list of law schools that accept the GRE, then you absolutely should take the LSAT.
On the other hand, if you aren’t sure about your dedication to the legal field, or if you’ve just recently gained interest in the law, consider the GRE. It allows you to switch fields and transfer to another graduate program without extra hassle if law school isn’t for you; conversely, you can also explore different graduate programs before deciding on law school without having to stress over the LSAT.
Whichever you take, remember that standardized test scores are not the only important part of your law school application. Make sure that your personalized statement, letters of recommendation, and resume all indicate that you’re ready for the rigor and dedication that law school requires.
If you think you might know which test you want to take, then the next step is taking a look at the GRE and LSAT prep resources that can help you crush each exam. Check out the lists below to compare GRE and LSAT courses that can prepare you for your test in a way that fits your schedule, budget, and studying needs!
What GRE and LSAT scores do I need for top law programs?
While data for the GRE scores of law school applicants is slim, we can use LSAT score averages from law school students to gauge what a similar GRE score would be. However, the scoring system for the GRE and LSAT tests are so different that one score from one test doesn’t directly correlate to one score from the other. In the table below, you’ll see the average LSAT score of incoming students for the top 5 law programs, plus the minimum GRE Verbal score someone would need to have an overall GRE score that’s roughly equivalent to that LSAT average.
If you score below the Verbal minimum listed here, your overall GRE score can’t equate to the LSAT average of the provided program. But if you have at least that Verbal score, there are lots of potential combinations of the GRE’s Quant and AWA section scores that would roughly equate to the given LSAT score.
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