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So You Want to Attend Graduate School: The 411 on Grad School Admissions Tests

Matthew Lynch
Higher Education

Applying for admission to professional and graduate schools is no less competitive than college/undergraduate admissions. If you’re planning to pursue a degree in business, law, medicine, or graduate studies, you can bet that one of the essential requirements would be to take a standardized exam.

Although school records and grades from your undergraduate studies will be considered, you might be wondering why your diploma and college transcript might not be enough. This is because your aptitude for learning needs to be compared against the applicants from all over the country and abroad.

Examples of Standardized Exams

Each type of program will require you to take a specific standardized exam. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for graduate studies, Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for business school, Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for law school, and Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) for med school.

Each type of test will measure specific abilities and skills needed for the program you’re applying for. The GRE and GMAT measure verbal, analytical, and quantitative abilities. The LSAT measures reading, writing, and logical reasoning, while the MCAT measures the sciences’ mastery.

The GRE and GMAT have similar components (some business schools accept the GRE!), confusing those who intend to take it. To be safe, make sure to check the requirements of the program of the school you wish you apply for.

How to Prepare

To help students prepare for the exams, some schools and learning institutions offer review classes. Not only do they go through the subject matter to be tested on, but the review classes also prepare the students by teaching them practical exam-taking skills.

Some exam takers have seen the benefit of taking formal review classes because it helps them brush up on some knowledge and skillsets that might have become dormant during college. For example, a Journalism graduate might need a thorough review of math concepts in preparation for taking the GMAT.

Independent learners and those who have tight schedules may opt to buy review books to study on their own. Most of these review books contain sample tests to be used for practice.

Exam Scores and Other Requirements

You have to aim to get a high score on the standardized test. Some schools use the scores to filter out which candidates to choose to continue in the admissions process. You can expect that the ivy league schools will only consider applicants with the highest scores.

High scores in the standardized tests will broaden your options for schools. Having a high score may also make you eligible for grants, financial assistance, and scholarships. If you’re one of the late bloomers who had lackluster grades in college, a high score on the standardized test might boost your chances of at least getting admitted. It shows growth in your potential to learn.

Standardized exams, interviews, recommendation letters, and the admissions essay will give schools an idea of how well you will fare in graduate studies. Of course, this is just an approximation because once you are admitted to a school, the more significant challenge would be to complete the degree.