Just as with undergraduate admissions, graduate school applications usually require standardized test scores. The test(s) you’ll take depend on what type of graduate degree you’re seeking.
Many students planning to attend graduate school take both the General and Subject GRE tests.
The GRE General Test measures your verbal, quantitative (mathematical), and analytical writing skills. It is offered throughout the year at specially equipped testing centers (some on college campuses). The test runs approximately three hours.
GRE Subject Tests measure your knowledge in specific subject areas. You usually take a Subject Test related to your undergraduate major. Subject Tests are given three times a year: in October, November, and April. Offered on college campuses, the tests usually take 3 ½ hours to complete.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is required by nearly all law schools approved by the American Bar Association. The test is offered four times a year, usually at hundreds of locations around the world. The LSAT measures aptitude rather than knowledge, and is designed to indicate your readiness for success in law school.
The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions. The placement of this section will vary. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. LSAC does not score the writing sample, but copies of the writing sample are sent to all law schools to which you apply.
The LSAT is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others.
The three multiple-choice question types in the LSAT are:
- Reading Comprehension Questions—These questions measure the ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those commonly encountered in law school. The Reading Comprehension section contains four sets of reading questions, each consisting of a selection of reading material, followed by five to eight questions that test reading and reasoning abilities.
- Analytical Reasoning Questions—These questions measure the ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw logical conclusions about that structure. You are asked to reason deductively from a set of statements and rules or principles that describe relationships among persons, things, or events. Analytical Reasoning questions reflect the kinds of complex analyses that a law student performs in the course of legal problem solving.
- Logical Reasoning Questions—These questions assess the ability to analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments as they occur in ordinary language. Each Logical Reasoning question requires the test taker to read and comprehend a short passage, then answer a question about it. The questions are designed to assess a wide range of skills involved in thinking critically, with an emphasis on skills that are central to legal reasoning. These skills include drawing well-supported conclusions, reasoning by analogy, determining how additional evidence affects an argument, applying principles or rules, and identifying argument flaws.
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is primarily a multiple-choice exam that tests your knowledge of science as well as skills, such as problem solving and critical thinking, desirable for success in the medical profession. The test is made up of four sections: verbal reasoning, physical sciences, biological sciences, and writing. You will provide essay responses to questions for the writing sample section.
The MCAT is given at various times throughout the year at hundreds of test centers around the U.S. You should expect to spend more than five hours at the testing center; short breaks throughout the session are included.
Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
If you’re planning to apply to graduate management programs such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, you’ll likely be required to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). The three-section test measures your skills—verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing—rather than knowledge. Actual testing takes approximately four hours; short breaks are given between sections. The test is offered at centers across the country, and each center has its own schedule.