University of Southern California Gould School of Law. Courtesy photo.

 

The University of Southern California Gould School of Law on Thursday became the eighth campus among U.S. News & World Report’s top 20 to announce it will accept GRE scores alongside scores earned on the Law School Admission Test from applicants.

That means that nearly half of the country’s top 20 schools have now embraced the alternative exam—following the lead of Harvard Law School, which in March 2017 became the first highly ranked campus to do so. (A ninth top school, the University of Chicago Law School, allows dual degree applicants to submit Graduate Record Examinations scores.)

“USC has a long history of encouraging interdisciplinary studies, and we hope that students with an interest in multiple disciplines will consider pursing joint degree programs that include a law degree,” said USC law Dean Andrew Guzman in an announcement of the change.

Last week, the University of Pennsylvania Law School said it will accept the GRE and the GMAT—the test most often used by business schools—as well as the LSAT in J.D. admissions. And the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law announced May 15 that it was expanding its GRE acceptance from dual degree applicants and students in other UCLA advanced degree programs to all J.D. applicants. Altogether, 19 American Bar Association-accredited law schools are allowing all applicants to submit GRE scores.


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Like other schools, USC officials said their move toward the GRE is intended to draw a broader pool of applicants and to make applying easier. The GRE, which is commonly used for admissions to most advanced degree programs outside law, medicine and business, is offered continuously throughout the year. By contrast, the LSAT is given six times a year.

USC admissions dean David Kirschner said the school began contemplating the GRE in 2016, when the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law became the first to accept the alternative exam. That discussion grew more serious when Harvard got on board with the GRE the following year. USC was among the 21 schools included in a national study by Educational Testing Service, which makes the GRE, to determine that test’s validity in predicting first-year law school grades. (That study concluded that the GRE is as effective as the LSAT in predicting law school performance, though officials from the Law School Admission Council Inc. have raised concerns about the study’s methodology.) The move by the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to do away with its requirement that school’s use the LSAT in admissions was yet another factor, Kirschner said.

UCLA’s decision to accept the GRE was another motivation, although a minor one, Kirschner said. The two campuses are competitors, with both located in Los Angeles and similarly ranked.

“I won’t say it didn’t play a role, but in all honesty this is not a decision we would have made if we didn’t think it would be beneficial to our student body and work for our law school,” Kirschner said.

Kirschner said he anticipates that applicants with GRE scores will make up a small percentage of the school’s enrollment and that most people will continue to apply with LSAT scores.