Berkeley Law makes LSAT optional for certain applicants

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The UC Berkeley School of Law has decided to implement a pilot study this fall that will allow certain applicants to be evaluated for admission based on their GRE or GMAT scores, rather than their LSAT scores.

The pilot study was created to accept students who are likely to practice in specialized fields such as patent or energy law, but may be deterred from applying to law school because of the LSAT. This group of students may include those who have received graduate degrees, those who are pursuing graduate degrees or those who want to pursue concurrent degrees while attending graduate school at UC Berkeley.

Alex Shapiro, executive director of communications for Berkeley Law, said he does not believe that accepting students on the basis of their GRE or GMAT scores will make a significant difference in the acceptance process.

“No one gets in here just because of a test score,” Shapiro said. “If you did well enough on the GRE to get accepted and if you’re attractive in other ways to the admissions committee, this shouldn’t impact your acceptance. This is just a factor in a holistic decision.”

Kristin Theis-Alvarez, Berkeley Law assistant dean of admissions and financial aid, said accepting GRE or GMAT scores is not intended to be the norm. According to Theis-Alvarez, the majority of applicants should and will take the LSAT.

The LSAT is a challenging test and requires intense studying, according to Maya Rosen, external vice president for the campus prelaw fraternity Kappa Alpha Pi. Kappa Alpha Pi, along with Phi Alpha Delta — another campus prelaw fraternity — see studying for the LSAT as a costly endeavor. Rosen said in an email that students often spend thousands of dollars in preparation for this exam.

“We’re a large organization, so we have partnerships with other test prep companies who can give us discounts,” said Phi Alpha Delta external vice president Rodney Rodriguez La Fleur. “There’s a huge incentive to take prep courses. That’s how most people in our organization prepare for the exam.”

Rosen said Kappa Alpha Pi hopes this new policy increases the diversity of students applying to Berkeley Law. Chris Hoofnagle, director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, added that graduate students with a STEM background are highly desired by law firms — however, these students may be deterred from studying law because of the LSAT.

Berkeley Law’s pilot study is not unprecedented, however. Other prestigious law programs, including some at Ivy League law schools, have permanently allowed GRE and GMAT scores to be submitted in place of the LSAT.

The current acceptance of GRE and GMAT scores at Berkeley Law will be evaluated after three years. If necessary, the policy will be altered each year it runs, according to Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky in a press release.

“Allowing these students to apply with the GRE and GMAT will further our interdisciplinary mission and help us to continue to attract outstanding law students,” Chemerinsky said in the press release.

Contact Megha Krishnan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_meghakrishnan_.