University of Arizona’s Law School admission test earns ABA nod

July 26, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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The American Bar Association (ABA) has given approval to a new law school entrance exam, JD-Next, developed by the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. This move brings JD-Next in line with the LSAT and GRE as accepted metrics for law school admissions.

For now, the ABA’s endorsement is exclusively for Arizona Law applicants, but Marc Miller, the University of Arizona’s law dean, disclosed that other institutions can request the ABA’s permission to use JD-Next in their admissions process. However, no other schools have taken this step yet.

The University of Arizona has been pioneering in law school admissions, being the first to use the GRE in the process in 2016. JD-Next is an evolution of these efforts. It incorporates an eight-week online course designed to familiarize potential law students with the rigors of law school and then assess their comprehension.

Miller outlined that JD-Next aims to reduce the racial score disparities present in other standardized tests. According to a 2019 study, Black LSAT test-takers scored an average of 142 out of a possible 180, whereas white and Asian test-takers averaged a score of 153.

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As the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates this month on the constitutionality of affirmative action in college admissions, the ability of JD-Next to minimize score disparities could become even more important.

Meanwhile, the Law School Admission Council, the creators of the LSAT, defended their exam on Thursday, arguing that it is the “single best predictor of law school success” and a “powerful tool for diversity.” They highlighted that the first-year law student cohort of 2022 was the most racially diverse on record.

JD-Next participants spend around half of the course learning to read legal cases and the remainder exploring contracts. An exam at the program’s end tests their understanding of these topics. According to Arizona’s research, JD-Next participants on average saw a .2 increase in their first-year law school grade-point averages compared with classmates who didn’t complete the program.

While Arizona is the only school that can currently use the program in admissions decisions, Miller expects over 3,500 people recruited from almost 40 law schools to participate this summer.

Currently free for both participants and schools, JD-Next’s financial model is still under development. The program has so far cost $1.25 million, funded by nonprofit organizations AccessLex Institute and Educational Testing Service. Miller disclosed plans to separate JD-Next from Arizona Law, transforming it into an independent testing entity.


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