If you're planning to apply to graduate school, one of the first questions you'll need to answer is which standardized test to take. The two most common tests for grad school are the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Depending on your area of study and language skills, however, you may be required to take others, such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

This article will help you decide which test to take by describing the different formats, content, and scoring components as well as the types of programs that require each exam. We'll also provide some tips on how to prepare.

GMAT Test Overview

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized test widely used for admission to graduate business programs, such as MBA programs. It is offered by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) and can be taken online or at a test center. GMAC has announced plans to phase out its traditional GMAT format on February 1, 2024 and replace it with an updated version, called the GMAT Focus Edition.

Both versions of the GMAT were designed to assess the skills that business schools believe are important for success in their programs. These skills include:

  • Critical thinking: Analyzing information and solving problems effectively.
  • Analytical writing: Communicating ideas clearly and concisely in writing.
  • Quantitative skills: Understanding and using mathematical concepts.
  • Verbal skills: Comprehending and using language effectively.
  • Integrated reasoning skills: Analyzing and interpreting information presented in multiple formats.

The New GMAT Test

The GMAT Focus Edition will score test results on a scale of 205 to 805 and consist of three parts:

  • Quantitative Reasoning: This 45-minute, 21-question section assesses your problem solving skills.
  • Verbal Reasoning: This 45-minute, 23-question section tests your critical reasoning and reading comprehension skills.
  • Data Insights: This 45-minutes, 20-question section evaluates your data literacy skills.

GMAT Test Result Requirement

The GMAT test score requirements vary depending on the business program to which you are applying. However, most require a total score of at least 600 to 700. Be sure to check before you apply.

There are a number of resources available to help you prepare for the GMAT, including the official GMAT test preparation materials from GMAC.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Test Overview

The GRE, administered by an organization called ETS, is taken by students who plan to apply for admission to graduate programs, such as master's and doctoral programs. Prior to September 22, 2023, the GRE consisted of four sections. It now includes three:

  • Verbal Reasoning (27 questions, 41 minutes)
  • Quantitative Reasoning (27 questions, 47 minutes)
  • Analytical Writing Assessment (one task, 30 minutes)

Scores for the Verbal and Quantitative sections can range from 130 – 170. Analytical writing scores can range from 0 – 6. According to ETS, the median scores among students planning to earn a graduate business degree is 152 in Verbal Reasoning, 158 in Quantitative Reasoning, and 3.7 in Analytical Writing. Among those planning to earn a graduate engineering degree, the median scores were 151, 160, and 3.5, respectively.

GRE test scores are typically reported to the graduate schools to which you have applied. However, you can also choose to send your scores to additional schools for a fee.

LSAT Test Overview

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is required for admission to law schools in the United States and Canada. Like several of the other tests required for different types of graduate programs, it assesses analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension skills.

In addition to a 35-minute, unscored LSAT Writing section, the LSAT consists of three parts:

LSAT Test Scoring

The LSAT test is scored on a scale of 120 to 180. The score is calculated by averaging the scores of the Logical Reasoning, Analytical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension sections. The president of the Law School Admission Council, which administers the LSAT, has said that scores in the high 160s and in the 170s are “usually considered very competitive.” The Writing section is not scored, but it is used by law schools to assess your writing skills.

Of course, LSAT test score requirements vary depending on the law school to which you are applying; many require a total score of at least 150 to 160. Check before applying.

In the meantime, consider prepping for the test using the official LSAT test preparation materials from the LSAC.


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and International English Language Testing System (IELTS) are two of the most popular English proficiency tests in the world. Passing one is often required for admission to many universities and colleges in English-speaking countries when applicants are not native English speakers.

Both TOEFL and IELTS test the same four skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. However, the specific tasks and question types vary between the two tests.


The TOEFL Reading section consists of three academic passages, each followed by a set of multiple-choice questions. The IELTS Reading section consists of three passages of varying length and difficulty, followed by a variety of question types, including multiple choice, short answer, and matching.


The TOEFL Writing section consists of two tasks: an integrated writing task and an independent writing task. The integrated writing task requires you to read a short passage and listen to a short lecture on the same topic, and then write a summary that incorporates information from both sources. The independent writing task requires you to write an essay on a given topic. The IELTS Writing section also consists of two tasks: a Task 1 and a Task 2. Task 1 requires you to write a short report based on a graph, table, diagram, or other source of information. Task 2 requires you to write an essay on a given topic.


The TOEFL Listening section consists of four conversations and six lectures, each followed by a set of multiple-choice questions. The IELTS Listening section consists of four recordings of different types of conversations and lectures, followed by a variety of question types, including multiple choice, short answer, and matching.


The TOEFL Speaking section consists of six tasks. In the first two tasks, you will answer questions about yourself and your personal experiences. In the third and fourth tasks, you will respond to short prompts on academic topics. In the fifth and sixth tasks, you will read a short passage and listen to a short lecture on the same topic, and then give a summary that incorporates information from both sources. The IELTS Speaking section consists of three parts. In Part 1, you will answer questions about yourself and your personal interests. In Part 2, you will be given a topic to talk about for two minutes. In Part 3, you will have a discussion with the examiner on the topic from Part 2.


TOEFL is scored on a 120-point basis, with each section accounting for 30 points. IELTS is scored on a band scale of 1 to 9, with 9 being the highest score.

Tips for Preparing

Regardless of which test(s) you may need to take to prepare for graduate school, the following tips can help you do the best possible job of getting ready:

  • Start preparing early to give yourself plenty of time to study.
  • Create a study plan that outlines what topics you need to cover and how much time you need to spend studying each topic.
  • Use practice tests to get used to the format of the test and to identify any areas where you need to improve.
  • Get help from a tutor or test prep company if you are struggling with a particular topic or concept.

Finally, remember to get plenty of rest the night before the test and eat something healthy before taking the exam. Good luck!


It depends on what you want to study in grad school. Many grad programs require the GRE, but specialized programs may have other requirements, such as the GMAT or LSAT.

Not necessarily. Some grad schools now have test-optional admissions policies. If you get a high score on a required test it might be a good idea to share those results even though it’s not mandatory.

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