Showing posts with label admissions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label admissions. Show all posts

How to get into law school by acing the GRE and avoiding the LSAT

Except not really...

I’ve been teaching the LSAT for over 10 years now. This exam's how I make my living, but I'm also completely obsessed with it. I have a (dare-I-say) IRRATIONAL love for this test.

The GRE’s a much easier exam, and it’s much easier to get a higher-percentile score on it than on the LSAT.

So, why would I recommend taking the GRE when it’s in my best interest for more people to take the LSAT?

Because, if you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance you just googled something about getting into law school by taking the GRE.

You’re *PROBABLY* not one of my long-time students.

Maybe you’re a wannabe lawyer considering law school and think you can avoid the LSAT beast by doing GRE vocabulary flash cards and brushing up on middle-school math.

If that’s you…

Please stop reading my site right now.

Obviously, Harvard requires a super-high GPA and top score on whichever test scores you submit, LSAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT, PCAT and all the other XXATs out there.

And law schools KNOW it's easier to get a high-percentile score on the GRE because the competition isn't as tough.

(That's a kind-of nice way of saying the people who typically take the GRE aren't as good at standardized tests.)

***A senior LSAC employee actually refused to take the GRE because "it didn't measure anything important."***


If you’ve got a decent chance of getting into a top law school, you probably COULD ace the LSAT if you put in the work. This requires…*learning the LSAT the hard way* (shudders)

But don’t worry - it’s actually the EZ way in the long run.

That’s what I focus on in my courses - helping you get the LSAT mindset by showing you how the test-makers think.

You won’t find the typical “cheap trix” that only get you high 150s / low 160s.

A lot of the lower-tier law schools that’ll eventually take the GRE as an alternative don’t actually plan to accept “LSAT-avoiders.” They actually just want to accept applications from GRE-takers so they can deny you and boost get a boost in the US News rankings by increasing their selectivity.

So, if you want to avoid the LSAT “monster” (yeah, that’s how I used to see it, too), because you’re lazy and don’t want to put in the work, please go ahead and click the X in your browser and stop reading. Get a bunch of flash cards and find a high school kid to tutor you in algebra.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always believed you get out what you put in…and taking “shortcuts” won’t get you where you want to go. My site's the oldest (and still continuously running) LSAT Blog because I show you how to DEFEAT the LSAT monster by actually looking at the LSAT from the test-makers perspective,

Cheap trix, are just that - “cheap” and “trix.” I’ve always believed you get what you pay for, you get out what you put in. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, law schools aren’t going to, either.

If you’re ready to take the first step towards tackling the LSAT, and you’re ambitious enough to take on this challenge, you should join my private community of LSAT students. It’s a free email course where you'll hear from me every now and then with my best LSAT advice - the stuff too classy to share with all the curiosity-seekers driving by through Google searches.

So,  if you haven’t already, take action and click here to join thousands of other students fighting to conquer the LSAT. I’ll never spam you, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Very truly yours,
Steve Schwartz

P.S. Seriously, you should join. You’ll get all the stuff I’m not willing to share with the randos who find me from Google and message boards.

GRE a Valid Alternative to LSAT? Harvard Fails to Provide Evidence

As I've previously reported, Harvard Law recently announced they'll begin considering applicants' GRE scores as an alternative to the LSAT.

Some questions we might ask to determine a law school admission test is valid:

Does it adequately predict:

  •  1L GPA?
  •  Overall law school GPA?
  •  Bar exam passage rates?
  •  Success in future career?

The American Bar Association's Standard 503 states (emphasis added):
A law school shall require each applicant for admission as a first-year J.D. degree student to take a valid and reliable admission test to assist the school and the applicant in assessing the applicant’s capability of satisfactorily completing the school’s program of legal education. In making admissions decisions, a law school shall use the test results in a manner that is consistent with the current guidelines regarding proper use of the test results provided by the agency that developed the test.
Interpretation 503-1
A law school that uses an admission test other than the Law School Admission Test sponsored by the Law School Admission Council shall demonstrate that such other test is a valid and reliable test to assist the school in assessing an applicant’s capability to satisfactorily complete the school’s program of legal education.

LSAC publishes detailed statistical reports on the LSAT's predictive validity (example) demonstrating that the LSAT and undergraduate GPA are both good predictors of 1L GPA, with LSAT being a better predictor than undergraduate GPA.

According to the study linked above (for 2014):

  •  the LSAT alone has a correlation of .39 with 1L GPA
  •  undergraduate GPA alone has a correlation of .26 with 1L GPA
  •  together, they have a correlation of .48 with 1L GPA

Where is Harvard's rigorous statistical report proving similar for the GRE? 

All we have from them is the vague claim that they conducted a:

statistical study show[ing] that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of first-year grades. 

But, as you may know from studying for the LSAT,  many studies are flawed.

I wrote an article examining some potential flaws in Harvard's study and suggesting that it is, in fact, deeply flawed.

If Harvard's study is, in fact, valid, why haven't they released the full study for public review? Why not link to a PDF of it it along with the initial announcement?

All they've given us is their summary of the study's conclusion. We don't have the study itself.

I've sent Harvard several emails over the past week requesting it - to both their admissions office and the public information office.

All of my emails have gone unanswered. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.


On the afternoon of Tuesday, April 18, I received the following response:

Dear Steve, 
The study was conducted for the purpose of compliance with ABA Standard 503, and we look forward to working with the ABA on the review process.  The study will not be released publicly while that process is still pending (and the timeline for that has not yet been determined by the ABA). 
Thank you for your inquiry.

LSAT vs GRE: Will Students Choose GRE for Law School Admissions?

A few weeks ago, I suggested the number of LSATs administered isn't likely to drop even if the GRE spreads from Harvard Law School to other top law schools.


Because the number of GMATs administered stayed the same, even when GRE spread across top business schools.

But, since then, I've done some more digging.

And, it turns out, the total number of GMAT tests administered actually doesn't tell the full story.


While the total number of GMAT tests administered remained steady over the GMAT testing years 2008-2016 (around 262,000)...

The number of GMAT tests administered within the U.S. specifically has steadily dropped over the past 5 years -  from 117,511 to 83,410 (about 34,000).

That's a drop of nearly 30%!

So, what's helped to make up some of the difference for GMATs administered during that time?

International growth, a lot of it coming from Asia.


* East and Southeast Asia (primarily due to China) increased over 11,000 tests administered (interestingly, mostly women)

* Central and South Asia (primarily due to India) increased by over 3,000 tests administered.

One could argue this means LSAT numbers will drop with competition from the GRE, and that may be true within the U.S.

However, like GMAC (the GMAT-makers), LSAC has also been looking into international expansion.


A few years ago, LSAC started licensing their content to Pearson for the LSAT-India, and the LSAT-India is now accepted by dozens of law schools.

(And, like the U.S., India's had its own law school bubble.)

Puerto Rico

They've also offered a version of the LSAT in Spanish for students in Puerto Rico for a few years now. (The number of tests administered is only a couple hundred.)


Most interestingly, they've offered a version of the LSAT in China (the LSAT-STL) for non-native speakers.

Given the success of the GMAT in that market, it represents the LSAT's biggest growth potential...if LSAC can market it there.

Of course, potential is just that, potential.

The LSAT-India gets a lot of competition from the Common Law Admission Test, which appears to be the dominant law school entrance exam over there.

Puerto Rico's a tiny market, and LSAC hasn't marketed the Spanish LSAT to other law schools in Latin America.

It looks like the LSAT-STL in China was a small pilot project that didn't go anywhere.

Additionally, while India and China are enormous markets, students in those countries don't have the same desire to go to American law schools as they do to go to top-ranked American (or overseas) business schools.

And that makes sense - business is global, but legal education (and licensing) varies from country to country.

LSAC needs to market itself domestically to law schools within each country or partner with organizations that can do so for them.

I've read several of LSAC's reports, it doesn't seem they've done enough to combat what will likely be a serious decline in LSATs administered if the GRE spreads to other law schools.

But...we'll see what happens.

There's a key difference between:

* GMAT vs. GRE


* LSAT vs. GRE

The GMAT and GRE both contain math, and GRE math is much easier than GMAT math.

The LSAT doesn't contain math, and many future law students are scared of math (that's part of why they opted for law school). So some students may choose the LSAT simply in order to avoid math.

(Of course, Logic Games might seem tough also, but applicants don't have prior exposure to them, while they do have prior exposure to math.)

Note: LSAC confirmed that the LSAT-India and LSAT-STL are not factored into the overall number of LSATs administered (probably since the test forms are slightly different).

Harvard Law Accepting GRE Scores: An LSAT-Style Logical Fallacy

Harvard Law Accepting GRE LSAT Logical Fallacy
In the days since Harvard Law announced their decision to start accepting GRE scores, I've wondered if perhaps I was being unfair in my analysis - maybe Harvard does really want more international applicants, engineers, etc. for the sake of diversifying the student body.

And, yes, it's true, the change will lead to a wider and more diverse pool...but I can't shake the nagging feeling that something's fishy going on here.

Because, despite all that:

They haven't adequately made the argument that the GRE is a valid predictor of 1L grades the way the LSAT is!

The study they used to support their claim that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of 1L grades was only based on a sample of current and former HLS students (details here). This is a population likely to do well on a variety of standardized tests and likely to do well in law school - and they didn't study any other group!

To describe it in more formal terms, their argument is strictly correlational within a group of high-achieving, high-aptitude Harvard Law students - there's no control group! As a result, there's no way we can to separate those with only great test scores on each exam from those with only high GPAs and predict each group's 1L grades.

In short, from the information they've released, there's no indication they've made a rigorous attempt to study the GRE's validity as a standardized test independently of their own population.

To me, this suggests they're doing this for more self-interested reasons - rankings, applicant pool size, etc. In fact, I believe HLS hasn't attempted to demonstrate the GRE's predictive validity because they know (or at least suspect) that the GRE isn't an equally valid predictor of 1L grades. My guess is they expect the ABA to allow it anyway because law schools need the applicants. (And, if so, they're probably right about this.)

Why does this all matter? Who cares if the LSAT's a better indicator of 1L grades?

Because while anyone Harvard admits will likely be fine in the end, this change will create a domino effect at other lower-tier schools as they take advantage of the opportunity to expand their class sizes without suffering in the US News rankings.

The LSAT is almost certainly a better indicator of 1L grades - it functions as a barrier to prevent the admission of students likely to flunk out.

Similarly, it's likely a better indicator of students' ability to pass the bar exam - acting as a barrier to prevent the admission of students who might waste 3 years of their lives and over $100,000 in tuition money, yet still not be able to practice law in the end.

Top-tier applicants will likely still opt for the LSAT because they want to show they can ace it, while those who find it more difficult will do their best on the GRE. And many students will likely take both exams just to see which one they have more initial aptitude for. While math-phobia may deter some students from trying the GRE, I can't help wondering whether "Games-phobia" will deter applicants from the LSAT. Only time will tell.

Harvard Law Accepting the GRE: Will Students Stop Taking the LSAT?

UPDATE: LSAT vs GRE: Will Students Choose GRE for Law School Admissions?


Harvard Law GRE Students Taking LSAT
I previously wrote about Harvard Law's frankly-BS (pardon my French) argument for adding the GRE option, but I wanted to briefly answer another pressing question:

(This one's especially for my colleagues in the LSAT biz, and fellow LSAT lovers.)

Will the LSAT's popularity drop significantly over the next few years? Is it time to start brushing up on random-ass vocabulary words and middle-school math?

Let's look at what happened to the number of GMAT exams administered after business schools started accepting the GRE:

* 265,613 GMAT exams administered from July 2008- June 2009.

261,248 GMAT exams administered from July 2015 - June 2016.

The bottom line: Despite the GRE's widespread adoption in that market (starting in 2006), GMAT test administrations are still around the recent baseline average from 2008-2013.

See below graph from this article:

(Note: Top business schools began accepting GRE scores as an alternative to the GMAT in 2006, so this chart reflects the competition between the two exams. And, for those wondering, the GMAT spike in 2011-12, and subsequent drop, was due to students taking it early to avoid an impending change to the test that occurred in the 2012-13 cycle.)

It'll likely take a few years for the full consequences of this change to play out, and if anything, it'll most likely lead to more law school applicants overall (not necessarily a significant decline in LSAT takers). Many people will take both, or at least look at both, and see where they do better percentile-wise...

Ironically, if anything, this will lead students to spend more on test prep, since many will take both the LSAT and the GRE. By "increasing access to legal education," law schools are the only winners here.

Further Reading:

LSAT Blog: Harvard Law Accepting GRE Scores: An LSAT-Style Logical Fallacy

Harvard Law Drops LSAT Requirement, Takes GRE for Law School Admission

Harvard Law LSAT requirement GRE
UPDATE: Harvard Law Accepting the GRE: Will Students Stop Taking the LSAT?


Lots of LSAT news lately:

1. The Khan Academy is coming out with an LSAT prep product next year.

2. Harvard Law will start to accept the GRE as an alternative.

The silver lining on Harvard Law taking the GRE:

I'm not happy about the Harvard/GRE change overall, but I suppose the silver lining for me is the schadenfreude of seeing LSAC (the people who make the LSAT) get some serious competition from the GRE.

LSAC has been slow to computerize the LSAT and, as a result, still only offers it 4 times a year!

So, if something goes wrong with one test administration, students have to wait several months.

This has hurt an ENORMOUS percentage of students over the years.

Additionally the policies on test postponement/withdrawal/cancellation (and associated fees) have been harsh - students who can't really afford all the fees still have to shell out money to the LSAC monopoly as they postpone in their test dates, prepare for retakes, etc.

So, mayyyybeeee LSAC will loosen up a bit and become more consumer-friendly as a result. Could they increase the speed of computerizing the LSAT, be more flexible on test changes, etc.? We'll see.

Harvard's (flawed) argument for accepting GRE scores for law school admission:

LSAC is the bureaucracy we all love to hate, but their massive army of nerds does manage to consistently produce a great test year after year.

I'm very surprised to hear the claim that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of 1L grades as the LSAT - I think the LSAT is a much better test overall, and especially so for law school admission purposes.

Maybe I'm biased - after all, I do love the LSAT and am kinda obsessed with it - but no other test comes even close to the LSAT's sophistication.

AND, if one does, I'd begrudgingly admit it's the GMAT with its Critical Reasoning and Data Sufficiency questions.

I've often thought the GRE is a lazy test: re-using SAT-style content for all different grad school programs? Srsly?

Most of it has little relevance to legal reasoning. Could the GRE really apply THAT well to what's needed for such a large variety of graduate-level programs?

*** We're now living in a world where someone can get a JD/MBA from Harvard Law without taking either the LSAT or the GMAT - two of the best graduate school admission tests out there! ***

For Harvard, I think this is mainly an effort to get more high-achieving students, given the decline in 170+ applicants. It may spread across T14, then ripple down to the others. The biggest negative consequences would be for the students at the lower end of the spectrum who won't be able to pass the bar.

Harvard talked about "increasing access to legal education." I think this is code for "let's keep low-end law schools in business by allowing 'access' to customers who shouldn't be going at all."

So...."access to legal education" = "access to law school debt"

At the same time, higher-end schools will have more access to smart students in the arms race for a leg up the rankings, and potentially allow them to increase their class sizes, bar passage rates, and tuition $$$ as well.

More reasons why the "access to legal education" argument doesn't work:

There's more free LSAT content out there than ever before - the rate at which it's added has increased significantly over the past few years as companies offer free content to attract students to their paid offerings. Khan Academy for LSAT will be yet another addition, but it would've had a much bigger impact if it came out 5-10 years ago.

It's always nice to have another option, but it's much less "necessary" than ever before. Free LSAT prep is widely available. An Internet-savvy student could fully prepare without spending a dime.

What will the future bring?

I'll be curious to see what happens with the GRE and law school admissions over the next few years, but I don't think anyone applying this cycle (or anyone working in the LSAT industry) has to worry too much about it for now.

It's easy to imagine the worst case scenario (massive drop in LSAT test-takers), but let's wait and see if other top schools actually start allowing the option as well.

Bottom line:

Could it simply be that even top law schools just don't care that much about which test they accept (assuming some minimal standard of quality)?

Do they just want the testing process to be as smooth as possible for consumers (errr...students) in order to increase:

* size of applicant pool
* selectivity
* yield
* US News rankings
* class size / tuition $$$

Sadly, I think "yes."

Law School Application Process Video

LSAT Blog Introduction Law School Application Process VideoThe below 10-minute video titled "Introduction to Law School and the LSAT" gives some solid general advice on the law school application process.

Waiving Your Right to Review Letters of Recommendation

LSAT Blog Waiving Right Review Letters Recommendation
The below excerpt on waiving your right to review law school recommendation letters (and letters of recommendation in a nutshell) is from A Guide to Law School Recommendations.

Quick Law School Recommendation Letter Tips

LSAT Blog Quick Law School Recommendation Letter Tips
The below quick tips on law school recommendation letters are from A Guide to Law School Recommendations.

Targeted Law School Recommendation Letters

LSAT Blog Targeted Law School Recommendation Letters
The below post on targeted law school recommendation letters is an excerpt from A Guide to Law School Recommendations.

Law School Personal Statement Outside Help

LSAT Blog Law School Personal Statement Outside Help
The below excerpt on getting outside help for your law school personal statements is from A Guide to Optional Essays and Addenda.

Law School Letter of Continued Interest | Sample

LSAT Blog Law School Letter Continued Interest Sample
If you get waitlisted by a law school, it's a good idea to send a Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI) in order to increase your chances of acceptance.

LOCIs demonstrate to law schools that you are serious about attending their school if accepted which will help increase their yield (a factor on which they're ranked in the US News rankings.

Here's a sample law school application Letter of Continued Interest to get you started:

To Whom It May Concern / Dear _____ Admissions: 
I would like to reiterate my unwavering desire to attend _________. There is no law school I would rather attend. 
My professional and personal backgrounds would bring diversity to the community. My experience in _____ demonstrates my ability to excel in an intense, highly competitive environment. At the same time, I ___________. 
(Here, I would add a sentence or two with some kind of update on anything new you've been doing since you submitted your application. Can be work or community service-related, GPA-related, etc.) 
I would be honored to be offered the privilege to join the ______ Class of 20XX. 
Thank you very much for your consideration. 

(Just don't use word-for-word, or they'll know you copied it from LSAT Blog!)

Why (and How) to Send Letters of Continued Interest to Law Schools (from this guest post):

Many law schools claim that they don’t want or need to hear why you wish to attend their law school. Do yourself a favor, and ignore these claims. Law schools - and particularly admissions offices - care a great deal about enrollment rates. If half of everyone they accept goes to a different law school, that reflects terribly on the admissions office, and the entire law school. They want to know that if they accept you, you will come.

Many individuals placed on the waitlist at top law schools will get into other top law schools. The admissions office knows this. If you are waitlisted at Columbia, there is a decent chance that you will be accepted at NYU, Chicago, etc. If you are one of the lucky few taken off of the waitlist, admissions officers want to know that you won’t just end up at one of these other schools.

How do you accomplish that? Simply, straightforwardly, and in a letter of continued interest. Send the letter shortly after you have been waitlisted. Let the admissions office know that you continue to be very interested in their school.

Explain why you are interested in their school. What makes them unique? Why can’t you get the same things from another law school? The more specific and detailed you are, the more likely that admissions officers will believe you.

In addition, be straightforward. If you are waitlisted at your top choice, tell them that they are your top choice. Don’t just say that you are “very interested.” If they are your top choice, you should make it very clear that you will be attending their school if you are accepted.

The letter of continued interest may be sent separately from your supplemental essays or materials. However, I would recommend that you send them together. At the bottom of your letter, you can mention that you’ve included additional materials that may be of help in assessing your application.

Law School App Optional Explanation Statements

LSAT Blog Law School App Optional Explanation Statements
The below excerpt on targeted optional explanation statements on your law school application is from A Guide to Optional Essays and Addenda.

Number of LSAT Test-Takers Increased in February 2015

The Law School Admission Council just released the number of February 2015 LSAT-takers, and it's quite a surprise.

After over four years of (virtually) steady decline* in the number of LSAT test-takers, the number has increased significantly. Specifically, it increased by 4.4% year-over-year - from 19,499 to 20,358.

Many prospective law school applicants have been dissuaded over the past few years by news about changing prospects in the legal market. Three years ago, the number of LSAT test-takers actually hit a 10-year-low.

Now, suddenly, things appear to be moving in the opposite direction - at least to some extent.


Should Law Schools Drop The LSAT Requirement?

LSAT Blog Should Law Schools Drop LSAT Requirement
I was just interviewed on Huffington Post Live (alternate link) about some recent changes in law school admissions, along with Elie Mystal of Above the Law and Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency.

Law School Addenda Quick Tips

LSAT Blog Law School Addenda Quick Tips
The below excerpt with quick tips on law school optional essays and addenda is from A Guide to Optional Essays and Addenda.

Law School App Explanation Statements

LSAT Blog Law School App Explanation Statements
The below excerpt on "explanation" statements, a type of optional law school application essay, is from A Guide to Optional Essays and Addenda.

Law School Application: Disclose?

LSAT Blog Law School Application Disclose
The below excerpt on disclosing on your law school application is from A Guide to Optional Essays and Addenda.

Law School Recommendation Letter Tips

LSAT Blog Law School Recommendation Letter Tips
The below excerpt about law school recommendation letters is from A Guide to Law School Recommendations.

Law School Admission Essay Topics to Avoid

LSAT Blog Law School Admission Essay Topics to Avoid
Last week, I published an excerpt on law school personal statement topics to avoid from The Art of the Law School Personal Statement by Michelle Fabio.

This week, we're continuing the series with more law school admission essay topics to avoid.


5. Poetry or Other Creative Writing

As touched on in the 12 Commandments, your personal statement is not the place to write haiku or the draft of a screenplay. You want your essay to be memorable but not in the “Can you believe she actually sent this in?” kind of way.

And to expand a little more on the inclusion of humor, never, under any circumstances, should you write the equivalent of a stand-up monologue. Law schools are looking for intelligent, mature, hard-working individuals, so your personal statement should highlight those characteristics—not make your case to replace Conan O’Brien.

6. Awards and Achievements

The brainstorming questions touched on this topic, and one outstanding award or achievement could make for a great personal statement topic, but a resume rundown of your awards and achievements can come across as pompous and arrogant. Believe me, I’ve seen this type of personal statement, and it’s not pretty.

Your resume is the appropriate place to list your awards and achievements, especially if there was nowhere else on the application to include them.

7. Trite Reasons for Wanting to Be a Lawyer

Trite is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to “why you want to go to law school,” here are general answers you should avoid:

                      My parents (or whoever) told me I’m good at arguing.
                      I loved my elementary/high school moot or mock trial court program.
                      It’s been my lifelong dream.
                      My [fill in the relative(s)] is/are lawyers.
                      I didn’t know what else to do with my English major.

You may be chuckling to yourself, thinking who would ever try to form a personal statement around any of these ideas? Trust me. I have seen a variation of each of one of these over the years, and it’s never been good.

So should you never write about why you want to become a lawyer? Never say never, because this could actually be a wonderful personal statement topic so long as you have a compelling story to tell and tell it, well, compellingly.

Generally, though, the “why I want to be a lawyer” topic is overdone and hard to pull off in an interesting, engaging way. This is especially true if you’re planning a "save the world" theme (it's difficult for it to come off as sincere and credible—sorry!). But if you've had a particularly formative, recent experience that has stirred your passions for practicing law, sure, it can work. Just be careful.

8. Random Childhood Memories

Your personal statement should focus on people and/or events that have shaped who you are, so don’t try to form a personal statement about the one time you volunteered at the hospital telethon working the phones.

Volunteering, of course, can make for an excellent personal topic, but only if you focus on a meaningful experience that made a significant impact on you.

Now that we’ve been through what would make for good and bad topics, it’s time to get this statement put together.