The GRE @ HLS: Five Reflections on Year One
July 16, 2018
It’s summertime in Austin Hall, but we know many of you are thinking ahead to the 2018 – 2019 cycle. One question we’ve heard a lot this summer: How did the GRE pilot shake out in 2017 – 2018?
In the spirit of demystifying our process, below please find our team’s high-level takeaways from our first year with the GRE pilot.
1. The GRE is not an “easy” test. Do not take it without studying.
When HLS became the second accredited law school to accept the GRE, some suggested that the GRE is an “easier” test than the LSAT. Now, one or the other test might be easier or harder for you, personally. But the GRE is far from an “easy” test. Even in this initial GRE pilot cycle, we saw candidates whose scores indicate that they took the GRE on a whim, perhaps assuming that it would be a re-run of the SAT. Even if you have experienced tremendous success on standardized tests in the past, make sure you prepare, just as you would with the LSAT.
2. There is no need to take both the GRE and the LSAT.
I want to be clear about this one: just because we will accept either the GRE or the LSAT this cycle does not mean that you need to take both the GRE and the LSAT. No one assumes that you are ultra-committed because you took both, nor will anyone on our team penalize you for only taking one and not the other. Rather than sit for both tests, consider taking steps to determine which test will best showcase your skills, and then focus your energy on doing as well as you can on that one test.
3. If you take both the GRE and the LSAT, we will ask for both sets of scores and consider both.
We ask for both GRE and LSAT scores from the past five years, and we consider all of those scores. Since the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) automatically reports all LSAT scores from the last five years, we require all test results (LSAT and GRE) from the past five years, in order to provide consistent levels of information across both the LSAT and the GRE. Note that this is the same policy as last year. You can check out our [link_to id=42799 title=”Admissions FAQ”]FAQ page[/link_to] for more information on this topic.
We understand that you may have taken the GRE years ago, never anticipating that it could be considered as part of your law school applications. If that is the case, and for some reason you feel we should de-emphasize your past GRE scores, please explain those circumstances in a short (very short!) addendum to your application.
4. Study for the quantitative reasoning section (yes, even if you have a STEM background).
We faced a conundrum for multiple candidates this year: How did a math/engineering/statistics major from a top university with excellent grades achieve perfect scores on the verbal reasoning and writing sections, but score so low in quantitative reasoning? Here’s my hypothesis: the student spent significant time preparing for verbal and writing, but skipped those QR practice questions, assuming that they could rely on their academic background to get by. Heed those cautionary tales, STEM majors, and put yourself through your paces on quantitative reasoning prep.
On that note, all GRE test takers – whether they majored in chemistry or philosophy – should aim to score as well as they can on the quantitative reasoning section. Anyone who tells you that lawyers “don’t do math” has no idea what it takes to be a 21st century attorney (ask anyone who has worked their way through an expert witness report). Your analytical acumen is crucial to your success in law school and in the legal profession. And just to dispel any assumptions to the contrary, we seriously consider your quantitative reasoning score, just as we do with all aspects of your application.
5. The Analytical Writing section is important. Yes, we look at that score.
Strong writing skills are arguably the most important quality of any law student (and for that matter, any lawyer). As a judicial law clerk and practicing attorney, I cannot tell you the number of times I was called upon to draft up written work under time pressure. At one point while clerking, I researched and wrote a seven-page memorandum and order deciding a time-sensitive motion during the jury’s lunch break. Truly, I still can’t believe I got it done.
So yes, we are definitely interested in your ability to write a thoughtful, reasoned analysis in a short period of time. Given the importance that writing plays in your legal education, we are a bit concerned to hear that applicants had assumed that we would disregard your writing scores. Folks, that is not the case. The Analytical Writing tasks assess your ability to develop and defend a position, and critique the arguments of others – crucial skills for any law student.
Even if you are confident in your writing skills, you need to study for the GRE writing section. Sit down with your laptop, and practicing writing out answers in the time allotted (and when you get to law school, do the same with practice exams).
All that said, there is no “floor” for a writing score, and like all other test scores, we consider the GRE writing score, whether a 3.5 or a 6.0, in the broader context of your application as a whole.
Best of luck on whichever test you choose, and we look forward to reading your application.
Kristi and the J.D. Admissions Team
Filed in: Assistant Dean's Corner, Inside the Black Box