Students from non-traditional backgrounds are put off applying for university law courses that set admissions tests, conference delegates heard this week.
A string of representatives from sixth-form colleges and schools told a university admissions conference their students had been deterred from applying to the eight UK universities that ask applicants to take the entrance test for law.
The National Admission Test for Law (LNAT), taken in November, is designed to identify the best candidates for law irrespective of their A-level grades. In some respects it is similar to SATs in the US, which aim to reflect candidates' IQ regardless of their formal education.
Despite this, some conference delegates said the LNAT reinforced elitism, and some claimed that middle-class pupils received tutoring for the test.
They also said it put candidates whose first language was not English at a disadvantage.
Speaking at the Careers Research Advisory Centre Admissions to Higher Education Conference at Keele University this week, one school representative said: "Our excellent students self-selected not to go to any of the eight because they didn't want to take the test."
Tim Kaye, undergraduate admissions dean in the School of Law at Birmingham University, which uses the LNAT, defended testing.
He said: "Students with moderate A-level grades who would formerly have been rejected have received offers after taking the test. But if you come on a law degree and your language is not up to the standard, you are going to have a miserable time in your first year - and your second and third years aren't going to happen."
A poll of 200 delegates taken at the conference found half were in favour and half against the test. LNAT tests are also run by the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, East Anglia, Nottingham, Oxford and University College London.