Law: A Serious(ish Rant About Tests)

November 1, 2007

Before I start, I want to post a link to a picture of what I hope will never be one of Kurzman’s Patients here.  Now that I got that out of my system, its on to a semi serious rant today because, well…… its partially my blog, and I can write whatever the heck I want as long as it doesn’t offend national security in some obscure way

Speaking of National Security, I went to work out today and I saw Jack Goldsmith, HLS’s newest minted rockstar faculty member taping an interview or B-roll of some sort in front of Hemingway.  Now, This seems to beg the obvious question (shut up, I know begging the question is a logical no no, but I’m just using it as an expression here) why on earth, at Harvard Law School, would you decide to film something against the side of friggin’ Hemingway?  I mean, you have Austin Hall (the first building on the law school campus), Hauswer (gorgous entryway), Langdell (I’d be shocked if it wasn’t the most famous law library in the world), Memorial Hall, and a bunch of really realy nice looking offices.  Come on, the side of friggin’ Hemingway?  Whatever.

Anyway, my real rant for today (thats right, two delays for th blog reading of one) is about standardized tests.  Now, any of you who know me, or who read my old blog certainly know that I have no issue with the LSAT, in fact, I think that the LSAT is a really effective tool if used correctly and offers students the only a level playing field to be compared between one another.  When used like this, as a significant factor in the admissions process, as the LSAT or MCAT are, the tests make sense.  Put everybody who wants to go to school in a room, make them take the test, and use the scores as a significant plus or minus for admissions. 

Now, clearly I’m biased based on the fact that I have no business going to school here and am intellectually outclassed by a significant majority of my classmates the test is almost certainly the single largest factor in helping me get into the law schools I applied to.  That said, the LSAT cuts two ways, and it cuts those ways reasonably equally for everybody.

Now, why do I say this?  A good friend of mine is currently stressing out preparing for the GRE.  Now, the GRE seems like it has the potential to be a really frustrating/demoralizing exam.  When people that the LSAT or the MCAT, they know the test is insanely hard.  Looking at the tests as a whole and reading through them feels like prep for school in itself.  The GRE is different.  The GRE tests information that we feel like we SHOULD know.  We all grew up doing analogies since we were little, we feel like we SHOULD know how to do them (and yes, we all speak english, so we feel like we SHOULD be able to come up with the right words, until you realize they are silly/insanely obscure terms that a person would have no need/reason to ever have to use.  Then there is the math.  The math is like, ACT math on crack.  Hard enough that its challenging, but close enough to things you feel like you shouldn’t know to piss you off.  To quote my friend “I feel like this test is making me feel like I dont know how to add.” 

Sure, tests are frustrating, but the stupid thing is, unlike the LSAT/MCAT, the schools KNOW the test is super-general.  Schools aren’t going to go “you did awsome on the GRE, go straight to financial aid.”  And yet, you have to do it, and you have to do it well, because although a good score is little help, a poor one is a red flag (and no score means do not pass admissions, go directly back to your job).

This is stupid.  I’m for all the useful standardized testing we need, but come on, if the schools don’t think its particularly useful, then can’t we do away with it in favor of something else, like throwing darts at a board, or better yet, an interview!

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