Page last updated at 12:27 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 13:27 UK

Cambridge drops law entrance test

It is estimated that one in seven UK universities uses admissions tests

Cambridge University is scrapping the LNat admissions test for would-be law students from next year.

The university was a founding member of the consortium of 10 universities that currently operate the test.

But it says a review has found it does not provide "sufficiently distinctive and useful information".

Applicants will continue to have to write a general essay but from 2009 will not have to sit the multiple choice questions or pay the 40 fee.

The decision by the university's law faculty does not affect the Thinking Skills Assessment test used by several other departments or the BMat for medicine and veterinary students, which will continue.

Intellectual skills

The LNat, introduced in 2004, is a two-hour test taken on a computer at a test centre.

It is envisaged that applicants who are offered an interview at colleges participating in the new arrangements would be asked to write an essay under examination conditions
Cambridge faculty of law
In the first part candidates answer multiple-choice questions designed to assess their ability to read, understand, analyse, and make logical deductions from passages of text in formal English.

In the second part they have to write an essay chosen from a list of titles designed to tease out their fundamental intellectual skills rather than requiring any prior legal study.

"It is believed that the test is relatively impervious to coaching," Cambridge says - though there are commercial organisations that provide tutoring.

In a statement, the faculty of law said: "The university is committed to using the LNat in the forthcoming admissions round but is today announcing that the test will not be used thereafter."

So those applying for entry next year will still have to take it, but applicants in subsequent years will not.

"The university will also withdraw from the LNat Consortium Ltd, which runs the test and of which the university is a founder member."


The faculty and colleges would work together on implementing new arrangements for the 2009-10 and later admissions rounds.

"It is envisaged that applicants who are offered an interview at colleges participating in the new arrangements would be asked to write an essay under examination conditions.

"As with the essay in the LNat test, no knowledge of the law would be expected, and the essay questions would be designed to give an opportunity to demonstrate the ability to write clearly and construct logical, balanced arguments."

Cambridge's director of admissions, Dr Geoff Parks, said: "The University of Cambridge has made the decision to stop using the LNat based on its own assessment of the usefulness of the test in the context of Cambridge's admissions process, which is distinctively different from those of other universities.

"The university appreciates that the test may be very helpful as part of different admissions processes in other universities, and its decision to stop using the test should not be taken as an indication that the test as a whole is unhelpful in those different contexts."

Indeed people applying to study law at other universities using the test, as well as to Cambridge, will still have to take it.

The LNat consortium administers the test and makes the results available for those who put their test registration number on their Ucas applications form.

More testing

Figures published in July suggested that school background did not influence performance in LNat, the consortium said.

In the biggest group of candidates from 2005 and 2006 , the average score out of 30 for a comprehensive school student was 17.04, against 17.67 for independent, and 17.86 for grammar schools.

Analysis of the results by householder occupation and gender showed a similar pattern - whereas there were far greater differentials in A-level results.

The one area for concern was that white British students continued to out-perform most ethnic minorities, both at A-level and in the LNat - though those from mixed race backgrounds performed best overall and again the gap was much greater in A-level performance.

A recent report from vice-chancellors' group Universities UK said one in seven universities was now using entrance tests as part of its selection procedures.

In June, Imperial College London said it would be introducing entrance tests for courses other than medicine because A-level results failed to distinguish the best students.

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