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National admission test for law: universities set to improve selection

Press release issued: 3 February 2004

A new national university admission test for law (LNAT) was announced today.

A new national university admission test for law (LNAT) was announced today. Eight law schools at universities in England, including the University of Bristol, have agreed to establish a uniform test for admission to their undergraduate law degrees.

The test will be taken for the first time by candidates in November 2004 for entry in 2005. It will be made available to other law schools that wish to use it, and will be compulsory for those candidates applying to any of the participating universities.

The test is designed to provide an assessment of a candidate’s potential for law degree courses. It is not a replacement for A-levels. It will be used as an additional piece of information for selection decisions alongside A-levels, GCSE results and the other information available to law schools on a candidate’s application form.

The LNAT is intended to improve the selection process and to make it fairer to all candidates, whatever their educational background, by:

  • helping to identify applicants with the aptitude and skills necessary for success on law degree courses;
  • providing objective evaluations of candidates from a wide range of social and educational backgrounds by assessing essential general intellectual skills of comprehension, analysis, logic and judgment;
  • enabling more informed and equitable selection decisions to be made about candidates with the highest possible grades in public examinations;
  • enabling more informed and equitable selection decisions to be made on candidates who may have more modest grades for a range of reasons but who have the potential to succeed  on law degree courses;
  • decreasing the overall burden of testing of candidates by substituting a uniform national test for the tests that the individual law schools would otherwise use;
  • enabling the fair selection of candidates with many different academic qualifications, from many different countries.

The LNAT is being established by the law schools of the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, East Anglia, Nottingham, Oxford and University College London. They intend to contract with an established examination body to administer the test in schools and colleges across the country and eventually around the world. 

The test will be of two hours’ duration and will have two sections. The first, of 80 minutes, will be multiple choice questions assessing candidates’ ability to read, understand, analyse and make logical deductions from passages of text in formal English. The second, of 40 minutes, will be an essay chosen from a list of titles.

Since these are not tests of knowledge but of fundamental intellectual skills, no prior legal study will be necessary. It is believed that the test will be relatively impervious to coaching. Sample questions will be made available in due course.

It is hoped that by eliminating the need for any extra study, the test will be fairer to all candidates and particularly those whose educational or social background may not provide equal opportunities for preparation. In this way, the test will help to widen participation in higher education.

Professor Malcolm Evans, Head of the University of Bristol's School of Law, said: 'We receive about 3,000 applications for 145 places. Approximately half the applicants have or are predicted to achieve straight As at A-level and have at least eight grade As at GCSE. It is vital but very difficult to distinguish between them on fair, objective grounds.

'The test results will complement the information on the UCAS form and give us a more rounded appreciation of each candidate. It will be a chance for applicants from any background to show they have the particular aptitudes necessary to succeed in the study of law.'

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