When it comes to pursuing a legal education, aspiring law students are often torn between the LSAT and the GRE. With changing acceptance policies at various law schools, which test should you take, and more importantly, which one is harder?
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Decoding Law School Admissions: LSAT vs. GRE
The landscape of law school admissions is evolving. While the LSAT has long been the gold standard for admissions, there’s been a noticeable shift in recent years. An increasing number of institutions are now opening their doors to GRE scores, with over sixty J.D. programs offering it as an alternative. For many hopefuls, this creates a dilemma: should they opt for the traditional LSAT or venture into the somewhat less charted territories of the GRE for law school admissions?
Those who’ve faced both exams often vouch for the LSAT’s higher difficulty level. Unlike the GRE, which leans into memorizable content and resembles familiar tests like the SAT or ACT, the LSAT stands apart with its unique focus on logic and reasoning, particularly through its challenging logic games.
In this article, we’ll delve deep into the intricacies of both exams, exploring their challenges and advantages. By the end, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision on the right path for your law school journey.
The LSAT vs. GRE: Differing Challenges and Skillsets
The LSAT: A Unique Test for Legal Minds
Describing the LSAT as merely “difficult” would be an oversimplification. It is specifically tailored to test skills vital for success in law school and the legal profession. The LSAT delves deep into logical reasoning, requiring test-takers to dissect arguments and discern patterns in dense texts. The analytical reasoning, better known as “logic games”, requires students to work through intricate setups and scenarios, developing strategies to answer a series of interconnected questions. Additionally, the reading comprehension section isn’t just about understanding passages, it’s about analyzing and interpreting complex legal materials, literary texts, and scholarly articles.
The GRE: A Diverse Range of Skills and Knowledge
The GRE, on the other hand, offers a more comprehensive examination of a student’s academic prowess across multiple disciplines. Its quantitative section is not just about basic math but delves into algebra, geometry, and data analysis, challenging test-takers to apply mathematical concepts to real-world scenarios. The verbal section tests vocabulary and reading comprehension, demanding a nuanced understanding of complex passages. Moreover, the analytical writing section evaluates a student’s ability to craft coherent arguments, articulate complex ideas, and support statements with reasoning and examples.
A Matter of Perspective: Which is Truly Harder?
Some argue that the GRE’s mathematical section makes it more challenging, especially for those who’ve distanced themselves from math after high school. Conversely, the LSAT’s logic games are infamous for their steep learning curve, often bewildering even the sharpest of minds.
Personally, I thought that the LSAT logic games were a challenge but I got much better at them with time. Math, on the otherhand… Pre-Calculus was the only class that I have ever failed and I never touched a math-heavy subject again.
Crystallized vs. Fluid Knowledge
Interestingly, the design of each test reflects different theories of knowledge acquisition. The GRE leans heavily towards crystallized knowledge, rewarding the accumulation of information and learned skills. It tests what you know. The LSAT, in contrast, emphasizes fluid knowledge. It doesn’t test prior knowledge but rather one’s ability to think critically, solve novel problems, and perceive patterns. It tests how you think.
Should you take the LSAT or the GRE?
The answer to that question depends on a few relevant factors. In determining which exam to take you should consider all of them.
The fact that the GRE is easier is not a good reason to take the exam
I wanted to get this out of the way initially because I have seen some students opt-in and take the GRE solely because the exam is known to be easier and less time consuming than the LSAT. This is a poor rationale.
Taking the GRE because it is easier is a bad idea because the LSAT provides more opportunities to set yourself apart from the crowd. If you study early and you study effectively you can outperform many of your peers on the LSAT and potentially receive a scholarship or admission into a higher-ranked law school.
The GRE is a significantly easier exam, many more students get perfect scores on the GRE, and students don’t have to study for as long to perform well. But the fact that it’s an easier exam also makes it more difficult for test-takers to separate themselves from the pack.
The LSAT takes longer to prepare for
Something you should be aware of is that preparing for the LSAT will take longer than preparing for the GRE. Most experts recommend that you study 1-3 months for the GRE, but you would be dead in the water if you began preparing a month before the LSAT.
The LSAT typically takes at a bare minimum 2-3 months of preparation and many students report studying for longer periods of time. I spent more than four months studying for the LSAT. It consumes a lot of time, in fact, it feels like you have an additional part-time job for several months.
Cutting corners on the LSAT is a very bad idea, therefore if you don’t have time to prepare effectively for the exam it may be better to take the GRE.
- David M. Killoran (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 2006 Pages - 09/27/2021 (Publication Date) - PowerScore Publishing (Publisher)
The LSAT is accepted everywhere, but the GRE is only accepted in some law schools
The fact that the GRE is only accepted at around 60-70 law schools is a serious problem. There are more than 200 ABA Accredited law schools throughout the nation so opting to take only the GRE is a serious limitation on the number of law schools you can apply to.
The number of law schools accepting the GRE is increasing every year, but you must keep in mind that it’s still a minority. The LSAT on the other hand is accepted at all law schools.
If you have several specific law schools in mind you should double-check that they accept the GRE. On the other hand, if you’re not sure where you want to attend law school than the LSAT is by far your best option. It will give you flexibility where the GRE will not.
Considerations Beyond Difficulty: LSAT vs. GRE
Purpose and Universality of Each Test
When it comes to choosing between the LSAT and GRE, it’s not just about the difficulty. Several other vital factors should guide your decision. The LSAT, designed specifically for law school admissions, stands as a universally recognized metric in the world of legal education. In contrast, the GRE, although increasingly accepted by law schools, is a general exam intended for various graduate programs. This distinction could influence how admissions committees perceive your scores.
Test Format and Structure
The test format and structure between the two exams has traditionally differed but that is now changing. When I took the LSAT in 2018 it was still paper-based, however, nowadays it is fully digitized. LSAC recently announced that they were going a step further in the digitalization process, starting in August of 2023, LSAT test takers will now have the choice to take the exam in person at a test center or at home.
That being said, the question types, timing, and general structure of these exams remain very different and cater to different strengths and strategies.
Availability of Preparation Resources
Another key consideration is the availability of preparation resources. With its rich history, the LSAT boasts a vast array of prep materials, from dedicated study groups to specialized courses. While the GRE also offers comprehensive resources, tailored strategies for prospective law students might be slightly less abundant.
Cost, Retake Policy, and Score Validity
The cost and retake policy of each test can also sway your decision. Generally, the LSAT carries a higher price tag than the GRE. Test retakes are an important thing to keep in mind but there is now very little difference between the two exams. When I took the LSAT, you could only take it up to three times in one year. That policy has now been thrown out and you may take the LSAT five times in a single year, which is the same policy as the GRE.
Frequency and Global Availability
Lastly, the frequency and global availability of these tests might play a role, especially for international students or those residing in remote areas. The LSAT used to be significantly more limited than the GRE in terms of opportunities to take the exam. Since COVID, however, LSAT test-taking opportunities have opened up significantly. The LSAT is now offered nine times per year which offers significantly more flexibility than the previous LSAT test-taking schedule.
One caveat to keep in mind is that the GRE has traditionally been the more global exam. For international students, many of you may still find it significantly easier to take the GRE as it is more readily available in countries outside of the United States.
Overall, if you are an aspiring law student I strongly recommend that you take the LSAT instead of the GRE. Even though the LSAT is more difficult and it takes longer to study for, I believe it has the advantage because every law school will accept the LSAT and it is easier to separate yourself from the pack with the LSAT.
Of course, the caveat is if you already took the GRE for admission into a graduate program. If you previously did this, and you’re happy with your score, then there is no reason to take the LSAT if your chosen law school accepts the GRE.
Hope this article helped out, check out some of our others on the LSAT!