Students and faculty weigh cases for LSAT withdrawal on admission
The Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT, has long been a requirement for students wishing to pursue a law degree. Now, the American Bar Association is considering scrapping the requirement for prospective applicants, which could further impact the admissions landscape.
Jennifer Pahre, a law professor, described the importance of the LSAT to admissions and aptitude since the test’s inception.
“It’s used for law school to gauge how well a student might do in law school,” Pahre said. “But I think it’s also useful for students, because then they can see if law school is right for them. There is a strong correlation between LSAT scores and success in law school.
Rebecca Ray, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at the College of Law, echoed many of the same points Pahre made, emphasizing the nature of the LSAT as part of a holistic review conducted by law schools. right.
Ray also noted that the Graduate Record Examinations, or GREs, are now accepted as a valid admissions test that meets testing requirements held by law schools, providing more flexibility for applicants.
After outlining the uses of the LSAT, Pahre offered different reasons contributing to consideration of removing LSAT requirements, citing fairness as a key concern.
“There is uneven access to LSAT prep programs among minority and disadvantaged groups,” Pahre said. “Students who have more financial resources have the opportunity to tap into a preparation methodology that can improve their scores and may find it easier to pay the fees required to take the test.”
While law schools claim to have a holistic approach to admissions, statistics show that the top schools have admitted students scoring the highest percentile on the LSAT. The focus has been on getting good results on the LSAT, to the point that students can spend entire summers or an entire year preparing for the exam.
As with other standardized college-level tests, LSAT preparation has become an industry in its own right, with specialized courses and tutors.
LAS senior Alexandra Nevarez is on the pre-right track. Like many pre-law students, she is involved in student government and holds leadership positions in several RSOs. She also does research and tutoring within her department to strengthen her candidacy. On top of that, Nevarez started his LSAT prep earlier this year.
“I was doing 15 (hours a day) during the school year,” Nevarez said. “My goal when I start again this week, I’m going to do between 30 and 35 full time. I wish it wasn’t so much to the point where all that matters is your LSAT.
The LSAT is not only time consuming but also expensive. For Nevarez, his main expenses are LSAT Max classes and tutoring services, which usually start at $1,000. Because of her position as vice president of Kappa Alpha Pi — a pre-law professional fraternity — Nevarez was able to access prep classes for free. She still spent $250 on PowerScore Bibles and other resources.
After witnessing first-hand the costs the LSAT can incur, Nevarez spoke out in favor of making the LSAT optional for law school admissions.
“I really think (removing the LSAT from admissions) is a good step to help level the playing field, just because those preps are ridiculously expensive,” Nevarez said. “I’m a first generation student and I had no idea what I was doing. Personally, I would not have survived without the help of the pre-legislative advice office. I was lucky that our university had these services.
While there are ways to waive the fees associated with the test, Pahre noted that the process to do so can be cumbersome. In addition to unequal access to LSAT prep programs, other factors mentioned by Pahre included inequality among different minority groups and general test-taking abilities.
“There (are) also studies that show that…it’s not a uniform test for all different types of minorities,” Pahre said. “It creates problems for schools trying to get strong tests and diverse applicants, and, you know, there (are) always people who just don’t do well on tests but might actually do well in a law school environment.
Nevarez shared the same sentiment and acknowledges that she is not the best candidate for the test, stressing that she thinks a score should not define her abilities.
“Once you get to a certain point of LSAT prep, you realize it’s all about pattern and repetition,” Nevarez said. “They ask the same 15 types of questions. So once you achieve this pattern, you can hack the LSAT. I don’t think that will show how good a lawyer you will be.
Ray said the impact of the potential removal of LSAT requirements remains difficult to assess since the final wording of the removal proposal is unconfirmed.
According to Ray, the proposed change could go into effect no earlier than February 2023. Due to this timing, Ray also stressed the importance of continuing to take the LSAT and GRE for those wishing to apply in the next cycle.
Nevarez also expressed his hope that the proposal will succeed because it could lead to greater diversity in the field of law.
“I really hope this helps more underrepresented communities get into law school,” Nevarez said. “I think less than 2% of all practicing lawyers are Latina women. I hope that will pass so that we can have more people represented in the legal field.