Last month, an American Bar Association council responsible for accreditation voted to stop requiring that applicants to accredited law schools submit a standardized test score.
The ABA’s House of Delegates, the organization's wider governing body, will conduct a final vote on the proposed change in February. If approved, the change would allow law schools to decide whether to require Law School Admission Test or Graduate Record Examination scores from applicants beginning with the 2025-26 application cycle.
Proponents of the decision, which the council previously passed but withdrew before a final vote took place in 2018, said the change will create more diversity in law schools, the Wall Street Journal reported in November.
Pre-law advisor Ari Gabinet P’19 told The Herald that his “fear is that standardized testing, optional or not, will continue to advantage the kids who have greater access to test prep, tutoring and the natural advantages coming from their backgrounds.”
According to Gabinet, this change is part of a larger trend of test-optional admissions in post-secondary education.
“The environment is different (than in 2018), because so many higher education institutions have gone test optional now,” he said. “It’s part of the same movement as the SAT no longer being required.”
The University will not require standardized testing scores from undergraduate applicants during the 2022-23 admissions cycle and will reevaluate their policy prior to the 2023-2024 admissions cycle, The Herald previously reported.
But removing the LSAT and GRE requirement from the law school admissions process still faces “substantial opposition,” Gabinet said, adding that the change might not receive full approval from the ABA.
In an initial memorandum proposing the change, the ABA’s Strategic Review Committee noted that “as of early 2022, the Council remained the only accreditor among law, medical, dental, pharmacy, business and architecture school accreditors that required an admission test in its Standards.”
‘How holistic will law school admissions be?’: Student concerns over test-optional policy
Michelle Ding ’25, alumni relations chair for the Brown Pre-Law Society, said the announcement came as a relief, assuming the new policy passes and is implemented.
“For law school applications, it was always my impression that your GPA and your LSAT were extremely important,” she said. “Honestly, one of the things that has made me hesitate about (applying to) law school is the fact that (grades and scores) are so heavily emphasized.”
Despite this concern, Ding said she is still considering studying for the LSAT over the coming summer, with plans to take the test during her junior year.
“It's very similar to when colleges went SAT optional,” Ding said. “There was still this general vibe of ‘I still think I have to take this to get a better advantage.’”
Siddharth Singh ’26, a pre-law student who is also a member of BPLS, shared Ding’s relief at the announcement.
“I'm not necessarily the best standardized test taker,” Singh said. “It gave me comfort knowing that there are ways for me to get into law school and get great opportunities without just taking tests.”
Singh, who applied to Brown without a standardized test score, expressed concerns over how other parts of the law school application, such as GPA and internship experience, would be weighted under a test-optional policy: “Exactly how holistic will law school admissions be from this point on?”
“I did so much in high school to build up my application in exchange” for not submitting a score to the University, Singh added. “Whether or not the test is optional, I’m still going to take the LSAT, because I think it leaves too much uncertainty if you don't.”
Haley Joyce ’23.5, president of Brown’s Black Pre-Law Association, said she still plans to prepare for and take the LSAT regardless of whether the ABA votes in favor of the test-optional policy.
“I never thought, ‘Oh, I'm off the hook.’ Because right now, per my understanding, law school admissions officers care a lot about your grades and your LSAT score,” Joyce said. “If you take one of those away, then it's much more dependent on your grades, and getting a 4.0 (GPA) is extremely hard.”
Gabinet said that should the change go into effect, his advising on whether to take the LSAT will depend on each student’s individual circumstances.
“As an advisor, I’ve seen great students with great academic records, who've done really interesting work, with really good grades, who don't test well,” he said. “Now they don't have that anchor holding them down.”
If the Law School Admissions Council, which administers the LSAT, allows students to choose whether or not to report their scores, Gabinet said he would advise students to take the LSAT and decide whether to report it. The LSAC has not yet publicly announced its plans in the event of the ABA making the LSAT optional.
Test-optional admissions and diversity
“At the end of the day, my suspicion is that (testing) will continue to be something that schools rely on when they have it,” Gabinet said.
In a Sept. 1 letter, 60 law school deans urged the ABA not to adopt the revisions, calling the decision “premature” and warning that it “could have effects directly contrary to what is desired.”
The deans argued that eliminating standardized testing as a factor in admissions would place disproportionate value on other parts of a law school application, such as GPA, coursework and extracurricular activities, that are “potentially more infused with bias” than standardized testing.
“Without the LSAT as a factor, law schools may be less willing to take a chance on students who do not perform well on GPA or other metrics … but would enhance the diversity of our institutions and ultimately the profession,” the letter reads.
A post on the LSAC’s website echoes the sentiments of the dissenting law school deans, citing multiple studies to argue that making standardized testing optional has had no notable effect on diversity in post-secondary admissions.
Joyce does not believe that making the LSAT optional is the best way to increase diversity in law school admissions.
“Institutions that get rid of these seeming barriers to admissions in the pursuit of a more equitable or accessable process fail to also get rid of the other pieces that make it unfair,” Joyce said. “It's not that the LSAT itself isn't fair — it's the fact that certain individuals have the time and means to get test prep.”
Gabinet said that he expects schools may start dropping the LSAT requirement in the near future not to increase diversity, but to increase applications and appear more competitive based on acceptance rates.
“My prediction is that … the rank of schools that are perhaps not the most elite will see this as a way to attract students who might not otherwise apply, or might be deterred from applying because they're worried about their LSAT scores,” he said. “Ultimately, if the change becomes reasonably widespread, the dominoes will all fall.”