As part of the law school's ongoing mission to make legal education more accessible, Seattle University School of Law will accept GRE scores from prospective students, starting with incoming first-year students in fall 2020.
Dean Annette E. Clark '89 said the change makes law school a viable option for students with a more diverse range of interests, including those who have taken the GRE while considering or completing advanced degrees in science or business.
"We know from our alumni how valuable their legal education has been in technology, business startups, bioengineering, and so many other fields," she said. "Those industries are driving economic growth, not just in the Pacific Northwest but everywhere."
Until recently, all students interested in law school had to take the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT. In 2016, the University of Arizona College of Law became the first law school to accept the Graduate Record Examinations, or GRE, in lieu of the LSAT. Thirty-seven other accredited law schools have since followed suit.
At issue was whether the GRE could be a reliable indicator of law school success. A study of 100 Arizona law students and recent graduates, conducted by the Educational Testing Service, found that it was.
However, because data is still somewhat scarce nationally, Seattle U Law's acceptance of GRE scores will operate as a limited four-year pilot program in an effort to confirm its reliability as an indicator of law school readiness specifically for applicants to Seattle U Law.
Professor Gregory Silverman researched this proposed change in the law school's policy on behalf of the law school's administration.
"Six times as many people took the GRE as the LSAT in 2015-16," Silverman said. "As a law school that values diversity, we benefit when we draw from a deeper applicant pool."
There are substantial differences between the two tests. The LSAT is administered nine times each year, while the GRE is offered year-round at more than 1,000 test centers in 160 countries. The LSAT includes logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, reading comprehension, and an unscored writing sample. The GRE measures vocabulary, reading comprehension, basic algebra, geometry, and analytical writing.
Lastly, the GRE is computer-based and adapts based on the test taker's performance, while the LSAT is non-adaptive.
Enrollment of GRE-only applicants will be capped at 10 students — approximately 5 percent of the incoming class — each year for the first two years of the pilot program. At the end of the second year, the law school will assess the first-year academic performance of GRE-only applicants and then decide whether to adjust the program's parameters.
At the end of the third and fourth years of the pilot program, the law school will also measure bar passage rates of GRE-only students compared to those who took the LSAT.
This analysis of performance is important for complying with American Bar Association (ABA) standards, which state that ABA-accredited law schools using tests other than the LSAT must show that those tests are reliable measures of a student's ability, Silverman said.
When applicants have taken both the LSAT and GRE, the law school will continue to rely on the LSAT score as the primary standardized test for admission purposes. All prospective students will still apply through the Law School Admission Council, a not-for-profit organization that administers the LSAT.
In another effort to increase accessibility, the law school plans to add online classes for part-time students, who often juggle families and full- or part-time jobs while attending law school. Though still in the planning stages, online classes could eventually comprise up to one-third of a part-time law student's credits.
"We hope both of these efforts — accepting the GRE and incorporating online courses into the part-time program — will make legal education appealing to a wider range of students," Clark said. "A diverse legal community is a strong legal community."