Harvard Law School announced today that it will allow applicants to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores to be considered for admission for its three-year J.D. program.
In a pilot program starting in the fall of 2017, the school will accept test results from either the GRE or the commonly used Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), the school said.
“Harvard Law School is continually working to eliminate barriers as we search for the most talented candidates for law and leadership,” said Harvard Law School dean Martha Minow, in a statement.
The school said that the decision is part of a Harvard Law initiative to expand access to legal education and will alleviate the financial burden on applicants who would otherwise be required to prepare and pay for an additional test.
Last year, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law became the first law school to accept the GRE as well as the LSAT to admit students. In May, the move drew criticism from people who felt the LSAT was the best test to evaluate whether students were cut out for law school. It was also viewed as a way of dealing with a drop in enrollment that law schools have faced over the past five years, at least.
In January 2016, Bloomberg reported that Michigan Law, a top-ranked law school, cut its first-year class by 26 percent since 2011. For Harvard Law School, the percentage of applicants dropped by almost 20 percent, although its first-year class size stayed flat.
However, more recently, things appear to be turning around. Jessica Soban, associate dean for admissions and strategic initiatives, told the Washington Post that the school has seen a five percent increase in applicant volume both last year and this year.
Minow, the dean of Harvard Law, stressed the need for diversity.
“For many students, preparing for and taking both the GRE and the LSAT is unaffordable,” she said in Wednesday’s announcement.
The LSAT, long the barrier of entry to law schools, consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple choice questions, four of which contribute to the test taker’s score. This includes reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and two logical reasoning sections. The GRE, run by the nonprofit Educational Testing Service, is the most common test accepted by graduate schools and is divided into three sections: analytical writing, verbal and quantitative.
Minow said that, “given the promise of revolutions in biology, computer science, and engineering, law needs students with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds.”
For these students, international students, multidisciplinary scholars, and joint-degree students, the GRE is a familiar and accessible test, and using it is a great way to reach candidates not only for law school, but for tackling the issues and opportunities society will be facing.”
The ABA is currently reviewing possible changes to rules governing which tests law schools may use in making admissions decisions, Harvard Law said. Minow added that she looked forward to working with the ABA on “finding the most effective ways to encourage the best students to enter the legal profession.”