Grad School Entrance Exams: Everything You Need to Know

Grad School Entrance Exams- Everything You Need to Know
December 4, 2023 6 min read Liaison

Navigate grad school tests like GRE, GMAT, and LSAT effectively. Understand their significance, choose wisely, prepare thoroughly, and manage stress for success while preparing for grad school exams.

Key Takeaways

Explore Diverse Tests: Explore the range of grad school tests to choose from depending on your area of academic focus, including the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and MAT.

Understand Test Importance: Recognize these exams' critical role in graduate admissions and how they serve as crucial benchmarks in candidate evaluation.

Select the Right Test: Make a strategic decision to pick the test that aligns with your academic goals and the requirements of your desired program.

Prepare Thoroughly: Work on comprehensive preparation, which includes grasping the test format, developing a study plan, practicing with mock tests, and more.

Manage Stress and Time: Learn to effectively manage stress and time for optimal performance in these exams.


Pursuing a graduate degree is an important milestone in your academic journey. A vital component of the admissions process is the grad school entrance exam. These standardized tests, varying in nature and scope, serve as crucial benchmarks for assessing candidates' readiness for advanced study. This guide will delve into the most common grad school tests, providing insights and strategies to navigate this pivotal phase.

Understanding Grad School Entrance Exams

Grad school tests are not just assessments of knowledge but also a measure of potential for success in a demanding academic environment. Their role in graduate admissions must be recognized, with their scores often deciding factors in acceptance to prestigious programs.

Key Graduate School Tests

1. GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

The GRE is a versatile test designed to assess the overall academic readiness of applicants for graduate programs. It evaluates critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative skills. Candidates can register for the GRE through the ETS website, choosing from various testing centers or opting for an at-home testing option.

Test scores range from 130 to 170 in the Verbal and Quantitative sections, and from 0 to 6 in the Analytical Writing section. This test is ideal for students applying to diverse graduate programs, including MA, MS, and Ph.D. courses.

2. GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)

The GMAT test measures skills crucial for success in business and management programs, including analytical writing, problem-solving, and logical reasoning. Prospective business students can register for the GMAT via the official GMAC website and choose between taking the test at a designated center or online. The total score for the new GMAT format (debuting in 2024) ranges from 205 to 805 The GMAT is ideal for MBA and business-focused graduate program applicants.

3. LSAT (Law School Admission Test)

The LSAT evaluates skills essential for law school, such as critical reading, analytical reasoning, and logical thinking. Candidates preparing to apply to law schools can register on the LSAC website and choose a suitable test date and center. Scores for the LSAT range from 120 to 180. The LSAT is a requisite for prospective law school students.

4. MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)

The MCAT assesses a candidate's knowledge of scientific concepts, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities relevant to the medical field. Aspiring medical students can register through the AAMC website and select from various dates and locations. MCAT scores range from 472 to 528.

5. MAT (Miller Analogies Test)

The MAT is an assessment that measures advanced cognitive abilities by using analogies to assess critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a graduate-level context. Registration for the MAT is available through Pearson's official website, which has a wide selection of testing locations. The MAT scores are scaled from 200 to 600. This exam is often a requirement of certain psychology and education graduate programs.

6. Subject-Specific Tests

Subject-specific tests — such as the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) and others listed below — focus on assessing in-depth knowledge and aptitude in specific academic disciplines. The registration processes and formats vary depending on the test and administering body. The score ranges also vary based on the particular test. These exams are typically used as applicant assessment tools by specialized programs that require candidates to have extensive knowledge in a specific field.

Preparing for Grad School Entrance Exams

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Other Graduate School Tests

1. TOEFL & IELTS (English Language Proficiency Tests)

The TOEFL exam and IELTS test assess the English language proficiency of non-native speakers aiming to study in English-speaking universities. Candidates can register on the respective TOEFL and IELTS websites; tests are conducted at numerous centers worldwide. TOEFL scores range from 0 to 120, and IELTS scores range from 1 to 9. These tests are crucial for international students who are looking to study in the US and other English-speaking countries.

2. DAT (Dental Admission Test)

The DAT evaluates the general academic ability, understanding of scientific information, and perceptual ability of those wishing to enter dental school. Aspiring dental students can register through the ADA website and choose from various test centers. The DAT scores range from 1 to 30.

3. OAT (Optometry Admission Test)

The OAT measures applicants’ comprehension of scientific concepts pertinent to optometry education. Registration is available through the ASCO website, and test centers are located across the nation.

Scores for the OAT, which range from 200 to 400, reflect candidates' aptitude and knowledge in various subjects relevant to optometry. This test is a common prerequisite for those applying to optometry schools.

4. PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test)

The PCAT assesses the scientific knowledge necessary for a graduate-level education in a pharmacy program. Prospective pharmacy students can register on the Pearson website, which lists multiple test dates and locations available. The PCAT scores are reported as percentile ranks.

5. GRE Subject Tests

The GRE Subject Tests measure expertise in specific fields such as Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology. These tests offer a deeper assessment of a candidate's knowledge in a particular area. You can register through the ETS website. Scores typically range from 200 to 990 in 10-point increments.

Choosing the Right Test for Grad School

Selecting the appropriate test is a strategic decision that can significantly impact whether your grad school application will be accepted. It's essential to align your test choice with your academic goals and the specific requirements of your target programs.

Preparing for Grad School Tests

Preparing for graduate school admission exams is crucial for pursuing advanced education. Each test — whether the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or another — has a unique format and challenges. A comprehensive preparation strategy is critical to not only understanding these tests but also mastering them.

Understanding the Format

Each standardized test has a distinct format that assesses different skills. For example, the GRE focuses on general verbal and quantitative reasoning, while the GMAT is more tailored towards skills required in business management. Familiarizing yourself with the specific test format you're preparing for is crucial. Understanding the test format can significantly reduce test anxiety, thereby positively affecting performance.

Study Plans and Resources

Developing a study plan is a foundational step in your grad school exam preparation. Tailor your study plan to the learning style and schedule that works best for you. Resources such as Kaplan and Princeton Review offer structured study plans and a wealth of practice materials. According to Kaplan, students who follow a structured study plan for at least three months achieve more competitive scores.

Other online resources can also play a significant role in your grad school exam preparation. Platforms like Magoosh and Manhattan Prep offer interactive learning experiences that have been reported to improve scores significantly. Be sure to explore the different options and choose one that best suits your preferred study style.

Practice Tests

Practice tests are an indispensable part of exam preparation. They familiarize you with the exam layout and timing and help identify areas in which you could improve. If possible, take the test in a setting similar to that in which you will take the actual test.

Time Management

Time management is a skill that goes hand in hand with your test prep. This is not just about managing study hours but also about effectively allocating time across different test sections. For instance, the GMAT requires quick decision-making due to its adaptive nature, as reported by GMAC. Practicing under timed conditions is essential to develop this skill. Prepare in advance and keep monitoring your progress to help identify areas that require you to do additional prep work.

Stress and Anxiety Management

The stress and anxiety associated with grad school exams can be overwhelming. Engaging in relaxation techniques like mindfulness and ensuring a healthy study-life balance is crucial. According to the American Psychological Association, students who manage their emotions effectively can achieve significantly better performance in standardized tests.


The journey to mastering grad school entrance exams is multi-faceted. It involves understanding the specific test format, following a structured study plan, leveraging online resources, practicing under real-time conditions, and managing time effectively — all while controlling your stress and emotional response. By addressing these aspects, you enhance your chances of scoring well and improve your readiness for the rigors of graduate studies. Remember, the path to success in these exams is paved with consistent effort, strategic planning, and a balanced approach to studying and overall personal well-being.


Most grad schools require standardized tests, but exceptions are based on the program and institution.

There's no universally "easiest" test; it depends on the test taker’s individual strengths and subject matter knowledge.

Alternatives include the GMAT for business, LSAT for law, MCAT for medicine, and MAT for certain psychology and education programs.

Grad school admissions committees seek a combination of academic capabilities, test scores, relevant experience, and personal attributes that align with their program's ethos.

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