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The GRE vs LSAT Comparison

The GRE and LSAT are very different tests, not so much in terms of content, but in terms of objectives. For one who wants to go to law school, he/she must take the LSAT. It is the only test that law schools accept, and it is a major part—like 50%–of the applicant’s portfolio. No graduate school—outside of law school—accepts only the LSAT (though I guess it couldn’t hurt your application to have a perfect LSAT score). Whereas without a GRE score, you seriously limit the number of graduate schools to which you can apply.

Nonetheless, you may very well want to know how you would do on the LSAT given you’ve taken the GRE, or vice versa. This post will hope to answer that question, as best as possible. To do so, I am first going to compare the two tests, so you can see which parts overlap and which do not.



The Similarities

1. Reading Comprehension

2. Logical Reasoning

Both tests have dense reading passages followed by difficult questions. The format of the passages tends to vary more on the GRE. You can get very short passages, and you can get passages as long as 450-words. The LSAT, by contrast, has passages of a uniform length, from about 300-400 words.

The Logical Reasoning section on the LSAT makes up 50% of the test. That is massive, considering that the entire verbal content of the GRE makes up only 50% of the test. As for Logical Reasoning (or Paragraph Arguments, as I call them) on the GRE, they are a subset of the reading passages. Whereas the LSAT has fifty such questions, the GRE has a paltry four.


The Differences


While it helps to have a strong vocabulary on the LSAT, there are no specific questions that test your vocabulary. Half of the verbal content on the GRE, which amounts to 20 questions, is vocabulary-based.


If you thought the vocabulary highlighted the stark difference between the two tests, consider this: there is not a single number on the LSAT, besides the numbering of each question. Half of the GRE is math. Therefore, you could literally struggle to multiply 3×4, but still get a perfect score on the LSAT, if you happen to be a verbal genius.


Surely the essays must be the same? Nope. The essays are very different. The AWA on the GRE really tests your ability to express concepts in writing. The prompts are not dense and daunting. Simply come up with a position and defend it in a cookie cutter essay structure.

The LSAT essays are much more fun, at least in my opinion. You have a complex scenario, in which there is perfect solution. You have to find the best solution, and defend your position.


So what about a GRE LSAT conversion?

As you can see the significant difference between the tests makes it difficult to come up with an accurate conversion table.

I think the best way to think of an LSAT GRE conversion is as follows: if you killed the verbal section on the GRE, you will probably do pretty well on the LSAT. If you got a perfect score on the LSAT, you will probably kill the Reading Comprehension section of the GRE. But remember the reading only makes up a quarter of the test. As for how an LSAT student would do on the rest of the GRE…well, that person should take one of the practice tests from ETS. Or just take the actual test.


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5 Responses to The GRE vs LSAT Comparison

  1. Justine B November 3, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    Do you recommend formal test prep or is self study sufficient for either or both tests?

  2. E October 22, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    How similar are the RC passages and questions on the LSAT to those on the GRE. I’m mostly wondering if using LSAT RC passages to practice for RC on the GRE would be helpful.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 22, 2013 at 11:46 am #

      Hi E,

      Yes, I think LSAT passages and questions def. overlap well with the GRE, esp. on the one long passage you will get test day. There will be question types that are different on the GRE, though there are few such questions. You’ll also get a smattering of shorter passages on the GRE. Otherwise, the logic and approach you use on both tests is very similar.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Shannen Spiess July 19, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Hi, I’m going to be a senior in September and I dont have an exact plan to go to grad school as soon as I graduate, I just want the scores in case things dont go the way I plan when I graduate.

    I’m trying to decide whether to take the GRE or the LSAT. I’m majoring in English so needless to say i SUCK at math and I’m really good at words, reading comprehension, and verbal stuff. Does that mean I should take the LSAT instead?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

      Hi Shannen,

      Taking the LSAT, though it might play more to your strengths, severely limits the grad programs you can enter. Basically, the LSAT is only valid for law schools. Sure, the GRE math will be tough–at least at first–but with a good GRE score your options are wide open: anything from b-school to just about any field of grad study that is not medicine or law.

      Hope that helps!

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