Choosing the right grad school exam is crucial for admission to a reputable institution. Discover the key factors that determine which test is best for you.

Based on the latest insights from Fred’s 2023 data, it’s clear that college graduates were enjoying weekly wages a whopping 80 percent higher than their high school counterparts in 2023. This glaring wage discrepancy highlights the financial advantages of investing in higher education, turning pursuing advanced degrees into a strategic career decision. 

If you’re contemplating the exciting journey into graduate school, brace yourself for what could be one of the most rewarding leaps in your professional life. Yet, amidst the potential excitement, the application process and the dilemma of choosing the proper grad school test can be a bit daunting. Fear not! This guide is here to whisk you through the intricacies of these standardized Grad School Tests, making your path to advanced education more navigable and exciting.

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What Are the Different Types of Graduate School Tests?

Getting into graduate school usually means dealing with different kinds of tests. These tests are necessary because they decide if you get into the advanced programs you want. In this section, we’ll talk about the different types of graduate school tests. We’ll break down each test, what it’s for, and what skills it checks. Whether you’re thinking about business, law, or other particular areas, knowing about these tests helps you make intelligent choices for your academic journey.

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

Length of Exam: Approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes

Average Cost: $205 (subject to change; check the official website for the most recent information)

Number of Sections: 3

Types of Sections:

  1. Verbal Reasoning: Measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information.
  2. Quantitative Reasoning: Assesses your problem-solving abilities using mathematical concepts and techniques.
  3. Analytical Writing: Evaluates your critical thinking and analytical writing skills.

Scoring Range:

  • Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning: 130–170 (in 1-point increments)
  • Analytical Writing: 0–6 (in half-point increments)

Retake Opportunities: You can take the GRE once every 21 days, up to five times within a continuous rolling 12-month period.

For individuals contemplating graduate school, including business or law, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) aligns with the cognitive demands of these advanced academic and professional pursuits. Evaluating students in Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing, the GRE emphasizes crucial skills for graduate and professional school success.

i. GRE General Test

The GRE General Test is a standardized examination widely utilized for graduate school admissions. It consists of Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. The test evaluates candidates’ verbal and quantitative reasoning abilities, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. 

The GRE General Test is crucial in assessing candidates’ preparedness for advanced academic programs in various fields.

ii. GRE Subject Test

The GRE Subject Test, focusing on Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology, gauges undergraduate achievement in specific fields of study. These tests are crucial in aiding graduate school departments to assess applicants’ readiness for advanced studies in their chosen disciplines.

Starting September 2023, the GRE Subject Tests will transition to a computer-delivered format. The Mathematics Test will have a total testing time of 2 hours and 50 minutes, while the Physics and Psychology Tests will be completed in 2 hours. Unlike the previous format, there will be no separately timed sections, streamlining the testing experience for candidates.

 iii. Online or Take-Home Version of GRE

The GRE General Test at home provides a secure and convenient alternative for individuals who take their test in the comfort of their homes rather than at a designated test center. This option is accessible wherever the test is normally available, depending on the country of your account address.

The at-home test mirrors the experience of taking the test at a traditional test center, with the added convenience of using your personal computer in a secure location. All at-home tests are overseen by a human proctor through ProctorU®, ensuring a monitored testing environment. This testing option is available 24/7, allowing test takers to choose a time that suits their schedule, any day of the week.

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

Length of Exam: Approximately 3 hours and 7 minutes

Average Cost: $275

Number of Sections:

Types of Sections:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment: Measures your ability to analyze an argument and communicate your ideas.
  2. Integrated Reasoning: Assesses your ability to evaluate information presented in multiple formats.
  3. Quantitative: Test your problem-solving skills using mathematical concepts.
  4. Verbal: Evaluate your ability to read and comprehend written material, reason, and evaluate arguments.

Score Range:

  • Total Score: 200–800
  • Analytical Writing Assessment: 0–6 (in half-point increments)
  • Integrated Reasoning: 1–8 (in single-digit increments)
  • Quantitative and Verbal: Scaled score ranges

No. of Times You Can Retake: You can take the GMAT  up to five times in a rolling 12-month period, but no more than eight times total.

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), employed by over 2,100 institutions globally, boasts 60 years of testing expertise. Developed with input from graduate management programs, it evaluates essential skills for business and management success, including analytical writing, problem-solving, and critical reasoning. 

Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

Length of Exam: Approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes

Average Cost: $200 – $225 (varies by location)

Number of Sections:

Types of Sections:

  1. Reading Comprehension: Assesses your ability to read, understand, and analyze complex texts.
  2. Analytical Reasoning: Tests your ability to understand relationships and draw conclusions.
  3. Logical Reasoning (two sections): Evaluates your ability to analyze and critically evaluate arguments.

Score Range: 120–180

No. of Times You Can Retake: You can take the LSAT up to seven times in a rolling 12-month. After that, you must wait five years to retake the test.

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is vital to law school admission, testing skills crucial for the first year. It comprises a multiple-choice section covering reading, reasoning, and logic and an LSAT Writing essay. 
Accepted by all  ABA-accredited law schools, the LSAT helps candidates assess their readiness for legal education, making it a recommended choice for those aiming to maximize their admission chances.

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

Length of Exam: Approximately 7 hours and 30 minutes (including breaks)

Average Cost: $320

Number of Sections:

Types of Sections:

  1. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: Assesses your understanding of fundamental concepts in biology and biochemistry.
  2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: Test your knowledge of the principles of chemistry and physics as applied to living systems.
  3. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: Evaluate your understanding of how psychological, social, and biological factors influence behavior.
  4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: Measures your ability to analyze, evaluate, and apply information provided in passages.

Score Range: 472–528

No. of Times You Can Retake: You can take the MCAT up to three times in a single testing year, four times in two consecutive years, and seven times in a lifetime.

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), a standardized test crafted and managed by the AAMC, is a multiple-choice exam designed to evaluate problem-solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts. These skills are essential for success in medical school.

Preparing for the MCAT requires dedication, and managing preparation alongside a busy schedule can be challenging. The AAMC offers resources and practice products to support you at every stage of your preparation journey.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Length of Exam: Approximately 3 hours (Internet-based test, iBT)

Average Cost: $180 – $300 (varies by location)

Number of Sections:

Types of Sections:

  1. Reading: Assesses your ability to understand and analyze written passages.
  2. Listening: Tests your comprehension of spoken English in academic and everyday contexts.
  3. Speaking: Evaluates your ability to express your thoughts clearly and coherently.
  4. Writing: Measures your skills in producing well-organized and coherent written English.

Score Range: 0–120

No. of Times You Can Retake: You can retake the TOEFL as many times as you wish, but there must be at least a 3-day gap between test attempts.

The TOEFL test assesses your capacity to develop and articulate intricate ideas in English, crucial skills for thriving in an academic university setting. Those who undergo the TOEFL test often enter campus more equipped, gaining an advantage over their counterparts. 

It is the preferred choice for 9 out of 10 U.S. universities, and U.S. universities receive more TOEFL scores than all other English-language tests combined.

Dental Administration Test (DAT)

Length of Exam: Approximately 4 hours and 15 minutes

Average Cost: $475

Number of Sections:

Types of Sections:

  1. Survey of the Natural Sciences: Evaluates knowledge in biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry.
  2. Perceptual Ability Test: Assesses spatial reasoning and visualization skills.
  3. Reading Comprehension Test: Tests your ability to understand and analyze written material.
  4. Quantitative Reasoning Test: Measures mathematical problem-solving skills.

Score Range: 1–30 (for each of the four sections)

No. of Times You Can Retake: You can retake the DAT, but the retest policy involves waiting 90 days between test dates. After the third attempt, a 12-month waiting period is enforced.

The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a standardized assessment that evaluates aspiring dental students’ academic and perceptual abilities. Scoring well on the DAT is instrumental in demonstrating a candidate’s preparedness for the academic rigors of dental school. 

Dental schools and other application components use DAT scores as a key factor in their admission decisions. A strong DAT performance enhances the likelihood of admission and reflects a candidate’s proficiency in the foundational skills required for dental education and practice success.

Optometry Administration Test (OAT)

Length of Exam: Approximately 5 hours

Average Cost: $495

Number of Sections:

Types of Sections:

  1. Survey of Natural Sciences
    Evaluates knowledge in biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry.
  2. Reading Comprehension
    Assesses your ability to understand and analyze written material.
  3. Physics
    Test your understanding of basic physics principles.
  4. Quantitative Reasoning
    Measures mathematical problem-solving skills.

Score Range: 200–400 for each section, with a cumulative score range of 200–400

No. of Times You Can Retake: You can retake the OAT, but the retest policy involves waiting at least 90 days between test dates. After the fourth attempt, a waiting period of at least 12 months is enforced.

The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) holds paramount significance in the admission process for aspiring optometry students. Scoring well on the OAT is instrumental in showcasing a candidate’s preparedness for the academic challenges of optometry school. 

Optometry programs consider OAT scores vital in admission decisions and other application elements. A strong performance on the OAT enhances the likelihood of admission and signifies a candidate’s competence in the foundational skills necessary for success in optometric education and practice.

Pharmacy College Administrative Test (PCAT)

Length of Exam: Approximately 4 hours

Average Cost: $220 – $250

Number of Sections:

Types of Sections:

  1. Writing
    Requires the composition of an essay.
  2. Biological Processes
    Assesses knowledge of biology and anatomy.
  3. Chemical Processes
    Evaluate understanding in general and organic chemistry.
  4. Critical Reading
    Tests reading comprehension and analysis skills.
  5. Quantitative Reasoning
    Measures mathematical problem-solving abilities.

Score Range: 200–600 for each section, with a cumulative score range of 200–600

No. of Times You Can Retake: You can retake the PCAT, but the retest policy involves waiting at least 90 days between test dates. After the third attempt, a waiting period of at least 180 days is enforced.

The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)  holds immense significance as a pivotal component in the admission process for prospective pharmacy students. A strong performance on the PCAT is crucial in demonstrating a candidate’s readiness for the academic challenges of pharmacy school. 

Pharmacy programs consider PCAT scores a key determinant in admission decisions, complementing other application components. Implying on the PCAT enhances the likelihood of admission and signifies a candidate’s competence in the foundational skills necessary for success in pharmaceutical education and practice.

Which Test Should You Take?

Choosing the proper grad school test depends on the program. Generally, the GRE is for various programs, the GMAT for business schools, the LSAT for law schools, the MCAT for medical schools, and the TOEFL for non-native English speakers. Students should confirm specific requirements with their chosen universities before taking the test.

Here’s a breakdown of the tests and their intended purposes:

Some universities, like the GRE, accept a single grad school test for various disciplines, including engineering, business, and law. However, depending on their major and language of instruction, some students may need to take multiple tests, such as GMAT and TOEFL, for non-English bachelor’s programs when applying to business schools.

Do Grad Schools Even Need These Scores?

The necessity of graduate school exam scores, such as GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT, varies among institutions. While many graduate schools incorporate standardized test scores into their admission process, exceptions exist. The LSAT is integral for law schools, assessing skills crucial for the first year of law school. 

Medical schools often require the MCAT to evaluate problem-solving and critical thinking. However, some programs prioritize factors like work experience, letters of recommendation, and GPA. In recent years, institutions have increasingly de-emphasized or waived test requirements for specific programs.

The GMAT is commonly required in business schools, and a broad range of graduate programs may mandate the GRE. However, exceptions arise as institutions adopt more flexible admissions policies, with some programs eliminating the need for standardized test scores. Therefore, many accredited business schools provide online MBA with no GMAT requirement.

Prospective students should carefully review the admission requirements of specific programs, as policies vary widely. Official program websites offer detailed information on admission criteria.

How Do You Send Scores to Your School?

Sending your graduate test scores to graduate schools typically involves the following steps:

  1. Select Recipient Schools
    Identify the graduate programs or schools to which you want to send your scores.
  2. Test Provider Account
    Log in to your account on the official website of the test provider (e.g., ETS for GRE, GMAC for GMAT, LSAC for LSAT, AAMC for MCAT).
  3. Score Reporting
    Navigate to the score reporting section within your test provider account.
  4. Choose Recipients
    Select the option to send scores and choose the institutions or programs where you want your scores to be sent. You may need to provide the institution codes during this step.
  5. Payment (if applicable)
    Some test providers may charge a fee for sending scores to additional recipients. Ensure that you provide the necessary payment information if required.
  6. Confirmation
    Review your selected recipients, payment details, and any other relevant information. Confirm your choices before finalizing the process.
  7. Submit
    Complete the process by submitting your score report request. You may receive a confirmation email or notification.
  8. Check with Recipient
    It’s advisable to check with the recipient institutions to confirm that they have received your scores.

The steps can vary slightly depending on the test provider (e.g., ETS, GMAC, LSAC, AAMC). Always refer to the official website and guidelines of the respective test provider for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

15 Tips for Passing Grad Exams

Successfully navigating graduate exams demands meticulous preparation and the application of effective strategies. These assessments often serve as gateways to advanced academic pursuits, necessitating a comprehensive approach to studying and test-taking. 

A thoughtful and disciplined strategy is crucial whether you’re gearing to get a good GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, or other standardized score. Here are some tips to help you succeed:

  1. Understand the Exam Format
    Familiarize yourself with the format of the exam. Know the types of questions, time constraints, and scoring mechanisms.
  2. Create a Study Schedule
    Plan a realistic and organized study schedule. Allocate specific time slots for each subject or section.
  3. Use Official Study Materials
    Utilize official study materials provided by the exam organizers. These resources are designed to align with the actual exam content.
  4. Practice Regularly
    Practice solving sample questions and past papers. This helps improve your time management and familiarizes you with the questions asked.
  5. Focus on Weak Areas
    Identify your weaker areas and allocate more time to study and practice in those areas. Strengthening weaknesses can significantly improve your overall performance.
  6. Seek Professional Guidance
    Consider getting guidance from tutors, mentors, or professionals with experience with the exam. They can provide valuable insights and strategies.
  7. Take Breaks
    Schedule breaks during your study sessions to prevent burnout. Short breaks can help maintain focus and productivity.
  8. Simulate Exam Conditions
    Take practice exams under timed and simulated conditions. This helps you adapt to the exam environment and builds confidence.
  9. Review and Reflect
    Regularly review your progress and adjust your study plan accordingly. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses.
  10. Stay Healthy
    Ensure you get enough sleep, exercise, and maintain a healthy diet. Physical well-being contributes to cognitive performance.
  11. Use Mnemonics and Memory Techniques
    Employ mnemonic devices and memory techniques to remember key concepts and information.
  12. Stay Positive
    Maintain a positive mindset. Confidence and a positive attitude can enhance your performance during the exam.
  13. Join Study Groups
    Collaborate with peers in study groups. Explaining concepts to others and discussing ideas can deepen your understanding.
  14. Practice Mindfulness
    Practice mindfulness techniques to manage stress and anxiety. Techniques like deep breathing can help you stay calm during the exam.
  15. Read Instructions Carefully
    Read the instructions carefully during an exam. Misinterpreting instructions can lead to unnecessary mistakes.

Everyone has different learning styles, so adapt these tips to suit your preferences. Consistent and focused preparation is critical to success in graduate exams.

Test Selection and Early Preparation

The key to a grad school test is recognizing which test to take and preparing early. To achieve the same, one can break the process of taking the grad test into the below components: 

  • Identify your strengths and align your subject choices with prospective universities’ test requirements.
  • Once you’ve chosen a test, understand the subjects it covers, like ‘Verbal Reasoning,’ ‘Quantitative Reasoning,’ and ‘Analytical Writing’ for the GRE.
  • Scout for resources needed to prepare for your chosen subjects.
  • Assess the workload, gather necessary resources, and register for the exam well in advance.
  • Early registration provides ample time for thorough test preparation.
  • A well-prepared mind significantly enhances your chances of excelling in the grad school test.”

Additional Resources for Grad Students

Adequate preparation time and understanding the specific test requirements of your chosen universities are essential steps for success in grad school admission. Here are some resources that will help one aid their graduate school test preparation

  • GRE Preparation Guide
    Explore dedicated preparation guides for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) to enhance your readiness for grad school admission.
  • GMAT Preparation Guide
    Access comprehensive preparation guides for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) to excel in business school applications.
  • Online Masters Programs No GRE Guide
    Discover a helpful guide outlining various online master’s programs that do not require the GRE, providing alternative pathways for advanced education.
  • MBA Programs without GMAT Guide
    Explore this guide to identify MBA programs that waive the GMAT requirement, offering flexibility in pursuing a master’s in business administration.

Additionally, exploring alternative programs that do not mandate the GRE or GMAT can broaden your options. Always check the accreditation status of your chosen university to ensure a credible and recognized education.

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