More students take LSATs, GRE

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Reluctant to head straight into the current lacklustre job market, an increasing number of American students are taking the tests required to pursue post graduate degrees.

According to the Educational Testing Service, 19 per cent more Americans took the Graduate Record Examination in 2009 than in 2008. And 20 per cent more Americans took the Law School Admissions Test in October 2009 than in the same month a year before.

According to Wendy Margolis, the director of communications at the Law School Admissions Council, more people took the LSATs in December as well.

“We’re definitely up,” she said. “What we think is more people are considering going to graduate school because there are a limited number of jobs available.”

The Law School Admissions Council also recorded a five per cent increase in applications in 2009 to law schools approved by the American Bar Association compared to the previous year.

The downside of this surge in applications to law school and other graduate programs is the increasing competition.

“When more people apply, it becomes more competitive to get in,” Margolis said. “The number of seats within law schools does not change much.”

McGill’s highly competitive faculty of law appears to be an exception to this trend, however. Claire Hausler, the students affairs coordinator of undergraduate admissions to the faculty, said applications have been declining since 2007.

According to Hausler, however, the decline in applications has more to do with the faculty’s increasingly stringent admission requirements than the poor state of the economy. The faculty, for instance, recently stopped accepting French Baccalaureate students from outside the province. Due to this increased selectively, Hausler said, potential applicants “might look to a different faculty or university.”

Mark McNutt, the manager of public relations for the ETS, which administers the GRE, described “incredible growth” in the number of test-takers over the past year. Much of the increase, he said, has been driven by the decision of many business schools – including five Canadian ones – to accept the GRE in lieu of other graduate examinations.

This trend is indicative of the growing desire of business schools around the world to diversify their applicant pools and student bodies, opening the door to more kinds of students.

While earning graduate degrees will not necessarily help students find jobs, data from Statistics Canada suggests that workers with graduate degrees are more employable and make significantly more money in their careers.

“Having a job is very important in any economy – now more than ever,” McNutt said. “As landing that perfect job becomes increasingly challenging, students need to position themselves for success in the job marketplace. Having that graduate or professional degree, like an MBA, gives them that competitive advantage. So it’s not surprising that GRE volumes continue to grow.”