Standardize the standardized test

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Cutting the LSAT requirement for law school admission breaks down barriers, but the next step is making sure requirements are even across the board.

Harvard Law School recently announced that it’ll allow applicants to choose between submitting their Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score or their Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score starting this fall. The move is part of a larger strategy to increase accessibility of law school admissions.

There’s a heavily monetized culture around standardized testing. LSAT prep courses are offered that charge hundreds of dollars, which doesn’t include expenses for study books, and the approximately $200 registration fee for the test itself. 

These added study products are marketed as being necessary to do well on the test. And while there’s such a heavy pressure placed on scoring high, especially by the admission councils of elite universities, the LSAT requirement becomes highly inaccessible to less privileged applicants. 

The LSAT is also different from other standardized tests in that its subject matter is largely disconnected from legal knowledge or the skills required to be a successful lawyer. It’s predominantly a logic test — more than half is composed of logical reasoning questions. 

If someone’s learning style or background doesn’t favour this kind of thinking, they may feel like their low score on the test is indicative of their inability to pursue law school or be a good lawyer. But with so little connection between the test and legal knowledge, they may not have much correlation at all.  

Shifting the LSAT requirement to allow other test scores, or simply dropping the requirement altogether — like McGill’s Faculty of Law — is a step in the right direction. Not only is it an example of an institution abandoning tradition in favour of the student experience, but it cuts down the financial and learning barriers surrounding the test.

The idea behind the LSAT isn’t invalid — it makes sense to want to empirically evaluate the applicant pool base for who schools think will be the most successful. But the problem isn’t just the barriers, but also that the definition of what makes a successful applicant has changed. These skills can’t be properly assessed through a test score and removing a standard test may open admissions to subjectivity and personal bias.  

With many law schools still rooted in the LSAT tradition and an increasing number of schools shifting their requirements in different ways, law student hopefuls may find an extra pressure for multiple different criteria for each school they’re applying to.

The move away from the LSAT is a move forward. The next step needs to be in standardizing the system of standardized tests. 

— Journal Editorial Board

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