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Rise in LNAT applicants shows students look for better degrees, test company says

19 March 2012

A near eight per cent increase in the number of applicants sitting the test to read law at some of Britain’s top universities is evidence of the race for better degrees, the head of the company which runs it has said.

LNAT, the National Admissions Test for Law, is an entrance requirement to study law at undergraduate level at nine universities – Birmingham, Bristol, Durham, Glasgow, Manchester, Nottingham and Oxford, King's College London and University College London.

Last year 6,456 applicants sat the aptitude test, compared with 5,990 the year before according to LNAT’s latest report.

At the same time, the number of applicants who fail to turn up for the test has dropped by four per cent.

LNAT director Christopher Boulle said the increase was “quite surprising” given that applications to university have fallen.

“We can only assume that students are looking to invest in more career-focused degrees than in the past,” he said.

The drop in the number of no shows “also suggests that students are taking a more serious approach to higher education than previously”, he added.

Despite the rising costs of studying law and the growing difficulties in securing training contracts and newly-qualified positions, students were, according to Boulle, attracted by the high earning potential and were prepared to take a more long-term approach to their careers.

In June last year, a report by Dr Chris Dewberry, of Birkbeck College, for the Legal Services Board, said aptitude tests, such as LNAT, for law students could exclude certain groups of capable candidates.

Dewberry said comprehension tests provided objective scores and reliable predictions of job performance but warned that middle-class students would have an unfair advantage over applicants from less privileged backgrounds (see Aptitude tests risk 'bias and unfairness').

The National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) is operated by the LNAT Consortium formed in 2004, which is made up of the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Durham, Nottingham, Oxford, King's College London and University College London. Glasgow, Manchester and NUI Maynooth universities also use the test under licence.

The test involves an essay, which the sitter has two and a quarter hours to complete, and 42 multiple choice questions aimed at measuring reading comprehension and logical reasoning skills.

It is written and calibrated by exam board Edexcel and administered and marked by education software company Pearson VUE. Both companies are part of the Pearson Education business, which is part of the giant Pearson group which owns companies including the Financial Times and Economist newspapers.

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