JD Admissions: Should You Take the LSAT, GRE, or JD-Next?

Published September 2023

In recent years, more law schools are allowing the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT for admissions. JD-Next is also a new exam that is gaining ground. How are these tests different, and which one should you take?

LSAT Changes

Until a few years ago, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) used to be the only test offered to law school applicants. It is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Back in the day, it was only offered in person with paper and pencil four times a year, which did not offer much flexibility. At the time, the LSAT was five sections of 35 minutes each – two logical reasoning, one reading comprehension, one analytical reasoning section with logic games, and one experimental section that could be any topic. They also had a writing section that had to be taken at the test center which asked students to write an essay in 35 minutes after doing five multiple choice sections, which made for a very long test day. The writing section is ungraded. Overall admissions officers did not pay much attention to it unless English is not your first language or you are an international applicant. Since ChatGPT was invented earlier in 2023, admissions officers may be scrutinizing your writing sample even more closely than before to see if your writing style is similar to the essays submitted for law school applications.

In recent years, the LSAT has been offered more frequently and transitioned to a digital format that you can take at home. The LSAT has started offering the option to take it in person at a testing center – also in a digital format – for the first time since the pandemic. LSAT also allowed for the writing section to be done remotely proctored at home to be done separately from the multiple choice sections, which allowed applicants to feel more rested when taking it.

In order to release your test score to yourself or other law schools, you had to have at least one LSAT writing section on file but that could be taken at a separate time than the multiple choice sections. You only need one writing sample on file with LSAC even if you take multiple LSAT administrations.

There are changes to the analytical reasoning section that are pending. In the Binno v. LSAC lawsuit, a blind man sued as he believed he was at a disadvantage in taking the LSAT with being unable to diagram the answers to the logic games section and asked to waive the analytical reasoning section. The settlement included that LSAC would include more accommodations for blind people such as Braille exams and using a reader and scribe, as well as researching other ways to test analytical reasoning skills within four years of the 2019 settlement.

Temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic, LSAC offered the LSAT-Flex exam that was only three multiple choice sections remote at home – one each of logic games, reading comprehension and logical reasoning. Starting in August 2021, they increased the LSAT to four sections – one of each section of analytical reasoning, reading comprehension, and logical reasoning, as well as an experimental section. There is now a ten minute break between the second and third sections. Currently the LSAT is offered about nine times a year. It appears that logic games will be part of analytical reasoning through at least 2024 until LSAC comes up with an alternative or altered section.

LSAC allowed Score Preview starting in August 2020 which provided the opportunity to those taking the test for the first time to see their score and decide whether to keep it – which was a huge advantage. Since September 2022, you can now purchase Score Preview for any LSAT, not just your first time.

GRE Expansion

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test, administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), is a general exam that is offered to graduate school applicants and is more similar to the SAT. The University of Arizona was the first law school to accept the GRE back in 2016. Each year, more law schools have offered this as an alternative test that can be submitted instead of the LSAT. Law schools have said they are doing this to expand access to legal education. As of right now, over 100 law schools take the GRE, including Boston University, Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, Harvard, NYU, Northwestern, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, USC, Virginia and Yale. This is more than half of accredited law schools that take this test.

The GRE did consist of the following until September 22, 2023: analytical writing which has you write about two different issues that are 30 minutes each – one that is about “Analyze an Issue” and the other is “Analyze an Argument”, verbal reasoning that has two sections that are 30 minutes each which tests reading and sentence structure, and quantitative reasoning which has two sections each that are 35 minutes each as well as an unscored section that tests out future questions for new editions or a research section might replace an unscored section to help the test company do research. It is delivered on a computer and the verbal and quantitative sections adapt to how you are doing – if you are doing wonderfully, your questions get harder. There is a ten minute break after the third section. Writing is always first.

Starting September 22, 2023, the test will be under 2 hours instead of under 4 hours. There will be one analytical writing section with one task of 30 minutes, a quantitative reasoning section of two sections about 47 minutes long, and a verbal reasoning section with two sections of 41 minutes. There is no scheduled break for this version. ETS will also deliver scores faster – instead of 10-15 days, it will take 8-10 days. The Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections are still adaptive. You can take it at home or at a test center.

Right after finishing the exam, you can accept or cancel your score but only before seeing the score. You can reinstate the score for a fee if you do it within 60 days after the test date. You do not have the option to cancel it later if you accept the score. If you accept the score, the test will give you an unofficial result for your Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections. You also have the option to send your best scores only with ScoreSelect if the law school allows for that.

Click here for the law schools that currently take the GRE for their JD program.

JD-Next: New Exam Gaining Ground

University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law has been at the forefront of the movement for alternatives to the LSAT for law school admissions. They have helped develop a new exam that has gained approval from the American Bar Association.

JD-Next offers an online course that is eight weeks long, which focuses on legal cases and contracts. At the end of the program, there is a test offered to evaluate the candidate’s proficiency in the material. This test was developed in order to help overcome the testing disparities of other exams.

Several dozen law schools have been granted requests for a variance from the American Bar Association’s current requirement that the GRE or LSAT is a required exam to enter law school. Please click here to see a list of law schools that currently accept JD-Next.

At this time, the only top ranked law schools that accept JD-Next for their JD programs are Georgetown and Vanderbilt.

What Should You Do?
In my opinion, JD-Next is so new that I do not recommend this alternative at this time. We have no data on how these applicants have fared yet in the admissions process. It may become more of an option once we see how law schools treat this test. However, there will be some time needed to see how this evolves over the next few years. It is unlikely that JD programs will accept large numbers of these test takers for admissions in the early stages.

Having taken both the LSAT and GRE, I find the GRE to be significantly easier and offer more flexibility with testing as it is offered almost every day. There is the option to take it at home almost any day of the year and on weekends as well; they also offer the option to take it at a test center, so they are much more accommodating than the LSAT.

Law schools say they tend to compare the GRE to the LSAT based on percentile. It is only recently that law schools report median GRE scores to the public through their annual standard 509 reports that are required by the American Bar Association as well as US News & World Report. However, the number of students who took only the GRE and are enrolled in a top law school is quite small.

Numbers and Percentages of GRE Takers Among Enrolled Students Entering the 1L Class At Top Law Schools for Fall 2022

Stanford Law: 21 GRE takers out of 178 enrolled (12 percent)
Northwestern Pritzker Law: 27 GRE takers out of 238 enrolled (11 percent)
Harvard Law: 57 GRE takers out of 562 enrolled (10 percent)
Yale Law: 18 GRE takers out of 198 enrolled (9 percent)
Penn Carey Law: 20 GRE takers out of 246 enrolled (8 percent)
NYU Law: 33 GRE students out of 376 enrolled (9 percent)
Columbia Law: 26 GRE students out of 402 enrolled (6 percent)
University of Chicago Law: 13 GRE takers out of 203 enrolled (6 percent)
Georgetown Law: 23 GRE takers out of 593 enrolled (4 percent)
UCLA Law: 11 GRE takers out of 308 enrolled (4 percent)
UVA Law: 11 GRE takers out of 315 enrolled (3 percent)
Cornell Law: 7 GRE takers out of 210 enrolled (3 percent)
Duke Law: 7 GRE takers out of 227 enrolled (3 percent)
Berkeley Law: 4 GRE takers out of 278 enrolled (1 percent)

Please note as of this time, Michigan Law does not accept GRE candidates for the JD program.

Although it might be helpful if you are a great GRE test taker, I see it more for a non-traditional applicant who might have attended graduate school prior to enrolling in law school or is a career changer after working in another field for years. It is my strong recommendation that people generally take the LSAT over the GRE. Among my clients, it is unusual to have just taken the GRE instead of the LSAT for law school. Most clients who are submitting a GRE also have an LSAT score.

The LSAT will give you the most options as every law school takes this exam, and it was specially designed for law applicants and geared towards law school.

However, LSAC is an organization that has had major issues with the administration of the LSAT’s digital version. They originally were using a vendor called ProctorU to administer the digital version. Recently in August 2023, switching to a new vendor of Prometric caused an immense amount of frustration for test takers, especially those who took it at home. Many faced issues with scheduling their exam time, having a proctor available to witness them taking the test, being able to sit through the entire exam in a timely manner, and reach representatives of LSAC and Prometric. It has caused a lot of unnecessary stress for applicants.

It may be worth your time to take the LSAT in person until LSAC is able to resolve their issues with offering a smooth LSAT experience at home.

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