Many Law Schools are accepting the GRE in place of the LSAT
If you are planning to apply to law school in the next few years, you are probably thinking about taking a standardized test. Since its introduction in 1948, the LSAT has been a time-honored and much feared rite of passage. Recently, things have changed.
Over fifty US law schools now accept the GRE in place of the LSAT. If you’re applying to law school soon, you’ll need to decide whether to take the GRE, the LSAT, or both. Both tests are challenging and require focused study and preparation.
Choosing between the LSAT and the GRE is not an easy decision. You should consider the differences in each test’s structure and questions, how easy each is to sign up for and take, and, perhaps most importantly, how law schools view each test. To help think through these considerations, we/Marks Education has summarized what these tests are like, how they are scored, which one is easier to sign up for, how their scores are used, and whether one is easier to study for.
What is it like to take the LSAT and the GRE?
The LSAT is an online digital multiple-choice test taken at home. It has four sections, each of which is 35 minutes long (2.5 hours total including a 10-minute break). The sections include:
Logical Reasoning (25-26 questions): Individual questions based on argumentative paragraphs. You will be asked to analyze the technical nature of arguments including finding the flaw in arguments, making inferences, finding missing assumptions, strengthening and weakening conclusions, etc.
Reading Comprehension (27 questions): Four reading passages with 6-8 questions each. This is the most similar section to tests you might have taken in high school like the ACT and SAT. The passages are challenging to read and the questions require deep reading skills.
Logic Games (23 questions): Four logic games with about 6 questions each. For many thinking about the LSAT, this section is the least familiar. It requires deep logical thinking, pattern recognition, and a good understanding of certain graphing and shorthand conventions. Think of it as a kind of sudoku, but without the numbers.
Experimental (23-27 questions): One section will be an ungraded experimental section that will match one of the other sections in content and format. You will not know which section is the experimental as you take the test, although you will know which kind of section it was by the end because you will have had two sections of that type.
These sections may appear in any order. There is a 10-minute break in between sections two and three. There is also a required 35-minute essay, but that is taken on another day, is not scheduled in advance, and is not scored.
The GRE is an online digital test taken at home or in a computer lab test center. It has seven sections of varying lengths (approximately 3.75 hours total with one 10-minute break after the 3rd section). The sections include:
Two Essay Sections (30 minutes each): You will be asked to write one essay in which you analyze an argument and another in which you construct an argument. These are graded but widely regarded as much less important than the rest of the test.
Two Verbal Sections (20 questions, 30 minutes each): You will be asked to complete a mixture of context fill in the blank vocab questions, passage-based reading comprehension tasks, and a small number of logical reasoning questions. These questions are mostly multiple choice, although some will require selecting multiple answers, and a small number will require selecting a sentence from a passage.
Two Quantitative Sections (20 questions, 35 minutes each): You will be given a mixture of multiple choice, fill in the blank, and choose as many answers as apply math questions covering topics from Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Probability, Statistics, and Data Analysis. There is no Calculus or Trigonometry.
One Experimental Section: This will be a third Verbal or Quantitative section. You will not be able to tell which section specifically is experimental.
How are the LSAT and GRE tests scored?
The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120-180 based on the number of questions answered correctly across all scored (non-experimental) sections. Every question is worth the same as every other question. The scaled scoring varies from one test to another, but with about 75 scored questions and a score range of 60 points, every question is worth approximately one point. The experimental section does not impact your score. The essay is not scored. Scores are released about 3-4 weeks after the test is given.
Each of the GRE essays is scored on a scale of 0-6 in half point increments. This score is much less important than the scores from the other sections. The Verbal and Quantitative sections are combined to give an overall Verbal and overall Quantitative score of 130-170.
The GRE is a computer adaptive test by section, meaning that after you complete the first scored (non-experimental) Verbal section and Quantitative section, the second scored of that kind of section will be easier or more difficult depending on how many questions were answered correctly on the first. Harder sections are worth more points and so can get you a higher score. There are 40 scored questions total on Verbal and on Quantitative, so each question corresponds to approximately one point, although this will vary depending on the test and on the difficulty of your second scored sections. The experimental section does not impact your score. You get your scores back from everything except for the essays immediately at the end of the test. The essay scores then come out a week or two later.
Is it easier to sign up for the GRE or the LSAT?
The LSAT is offered about 8 times per year. You register for a specific date and then take the test on that date or on a day 1-3 days before or after that date. You are required to register a month or more before a test date and then sign up for a specific time slot about two weeks before the test. The registration deadline is far enough in advance that you usually can’t wait for your scores to come out from the previous test administration before deciding whether to register for the next one. You’re allowed to take the LSAT up to three times in a year, five times in five years, and seven times total. You also aren’t allowed to retake the LSAT if you already got a perfect score in the last five years, but why would you?
The GRE offers much more flexibility. You can take the GRE nearly any day of the year and do not need to sign up more than a day or two in advance, although you can sign up further ahead of time to guarantee an optimal time slot. You can retake the GRE starting 21 days after you take the test, and you’re allowed to take it up to 5 times per year.
Are scores from the GRE and LSAT used differently?
All of your scores will be sent to any school you apply to. However, the LSAT recently began offering a service called LSAT Score Preview, which allows LSAT test takers to cancel scores from their first official LSAT after seeing the scores if they choose. This takes down the pressure on that first test. All law schools in the US accept the LSAT.
Many law schools in the US accept the GRE, but it is not nearly as universally accepted in law school admissions as the GRE. However, it is used much more for other graduate school applications. If you are considering a dual-degree program or possibly doing a different program altogether, the GRE will offer versatility that the LSAT cannot.
Is the LSAT or the GRE easier to study for?
That varies from person to person and depends on your individual learning style and academic strengths and weaknesses. The LSAT has many more practice tests available – over 90 in the current format. The GRE has only five practice tests available in the current digital format. Studying for the tests is quite different. Both require practicing strategy, but the GRE involves memorizing vocabulary and mastering a variety of math concepts, whereas the LSAT covers a smaller number of general skills and topics but in a much deeper manner. Much of LSAT studying is doing practice tests. Most of GRE studying doing practice problems outside of full tests because so few full tests are available.
So should I take the LSAT or the GRE?
There is no easy answer – the GRE is better for some applicants and the LSAT is better for others. The LSAT has difficult logical and analytical reasoning questions; the GRE has math. The GRE is easier to sign up for; the LSAT is more of a known quantity. GRE scores allow you to apply to more graduate programs; LSAT scores allow you to apply to more law schools. The GRE has fewer practice tests but lets you retake it more often and more times total.
For most applicants, this choice will come down to which test can give you the most useful score to apply to law school. Try out a baseline practice test for both the GRE and the LSAT under realistic simulated conditions to get a sense of your starting point. In comparing your practice GRE score to an LSAT score, use the ETS’s online score conversion tool here. Note that law schools weigh the verbal section of the GRE more heavily than the Quantitative section. If you do significantly better on one test, that’s probably the one for you. Otherwise, consider the differences between the tests carefully. You could always study for both and see which one goes better, but we usually don’t recommend that because of the huge commitment involved in preparing for for one of these tests.
Have questions about these tests? Need help picking out which one is best for your situation? Or, have you already picked a test and want help getting the highest score possible? Reach out to us at Marks Education to set up a free consult to learn about how we can help with your law school admissions process from start to finish.