- An American Bar Association governing body voted Friday to advance a proposal to remove the mandate requiring its accredited law schools to use standardized tests like the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, in admissions.
- The change is meant to increase diversity in law schools by providing the option to make their admissions test-optional or test-blind.
- A vote to finalize the change is set for February. If approved, it would not take effect until fall 2025.
The vote is the most recent move in the fight over test-optional admissions in higher education. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a flood of colleges to temporarily waive testing requirements, and many have since made the changes permanent. To date over 1,830 colleges have opted to go test-optional for fall 2023.
The ABA received roughly 120 public comments about removing testing requirements from its law schools, according to William Adams, managing director of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Comments both supporting and opposing admissions tests argued they were on the side of diversity.
"It's very rare that I encounter a situation where the proponents on exact opposite sides of an issue are citing the same issue to support their arguments," said Joseph West, chair of the committee that voted Friday, the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
Supporters of test-optional admissions often say standardized tests perpetuate racial gaps, citing research that finds the tests favor White test-takers over those from underrepresented backgrounds.
But detractors say without standardized testing, marginalized students are left with fewer options to demonstrate their acumen. Remaining metrics, like GPAs, provide little for law schools to go on, they argue.
"GPAs today are so inflated as to be worthless," said Kellye Testy, president and CEO of the Law School Admission Council, during Friday's meeting. "So all you're left with is where'd you go to school, who do you know, what activities did you have?"
Representatives from the LSAC, which administers the LSAT, and the Educational Testing Service, which administers the Graduate Record Examinations, or GRE, opposed the proposal Friday.
Both groups raised concerns a competitive spiral could force law schools to remove exam requirements to remain attractive to students who are also applying to test-optional law schools — even though the proposal the ABA is weighing would not require law schools to do away with admissions test requirements.
The ABA's Strategic Review Committee earlier this month recommended that the accreditor end its admissions test requirements. The council approved its recommendation 15-1 Friday, adding an amendment to delay the effective date until fall 2025.
The ABA House of Delegates is to hold a final vote on the measure in February.