If you're finishing up high school, you might have already wiped your forehead and said, “Whew!” after completing your last standardized test. Whether it was the ACT, SAT, CSAP, or any other state or federal test, you’re glad it’s over, right? You have every right to celebrate and enjoy your end to standardized testing (unless you become a teacher and have to administer tests).

But if you’re thinking ahead to graduate school, you'll have to worry about a test that is much more complex than state standardized tests. State tests were made to measure and impact your school’s curriculum, teacher accountability, student learning and district funding. Graduate and doctoral school standardized tests are made to measure your knowledge and capacity in certain skills — just like the SAT or ACT you probably took to get into college.

In this post, we will cover some of the tests required for graduate schools, and we'll offer some tips and advice on each one to help you pass with flying colors.

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

The GMAT is a computer adaptive test (CAT) required by most business schools. It is broken up into four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative and Verbal. Mathematics, physics and engineering majors score the highest, on average.

  • How long will it take? Three and a half hours
  • What's the max score you can get? 800
  • How can I prepare? You can take prep tests, as well as free practice tests online. 

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

The GRE is a broad assessment of your critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning skills — all skills developed over the course of many classes and countless hours of studying. The verbal section tests you on vocabulary, reading comprehension, context and text completion. The quantitative section tests you on basic college-level math, including algebra and geometry. The analytical writing portion covers two essays and includes asking you to formulate a concise, unbiased and evidence-based argument. 

  • How long will it take? Three and a half hours
  • What's the max score you can get? 170 on the reasoning sections and 6 on the writing section
  • How can I prepare? Since the GRE is so broad, a test prep class is unnecessary, and time would be spent more productively going over notes from your undergraduate classes. Going through a dictionary daily, as well as refreshing your reading, writing, comprehension and math skills, would also benefit you.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

The LSAT is a test that measures the acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills of law school applicants. It’s broken up into four sections: Logical Reasoning, Analytical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension and an essay. Be prepared to do a lot of reading, writing and critical thinking before taking it. Thinking about what to major in while you study pre-law? A 2004 study showed that physics and math majors are the top-scoring LSAT test takers. 

  • How long will it take? About three and a half hours
  • What's the max score you can get? 180
  • How can I prepare? Kaplan Test Prep offers courses to help prepare and practice for the LSAT. Taking the Kaplan course is like taking a regular one-semester course.

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

The MCAT is computer-based and tests physical and biological sciences, verbal reasoning, and writing skills. It is broken up into four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. The test covers most of what you will have learned in biology, chemistry, physics and psychology. 

  • How long will it take? A whopping seven and a half hours!
  • What's the max score you can get? 528
  • How can I prepare? Going over a test prep book months in advance is probably necessary to pass and is highly recommended. This is a test you’re only going to want to take once, so studying for it will be your new life. If further understanding, review and refreshing is needed, prep courses are offered in numerous areas around the U.S.

Hopefully the stress and intimidation of these tests is a little less bothersome now that you have a better understanding of them. Just remember you’re not alone, and everybody applying and going into the same program as you has to go through the same tedious and near-brain-trauma-inducing process. Good luck!


Mark Harris

is a sophomore studying English: Secondary Education with a TESL endorsement. Mark is a UNC Student Advancement Ambassador (SAA) as well as a Social Media Ambassador. Mark has been a devoted fan of Spider-man for 17 years. After graduation, he plans to go to graduate school and then teach high school for several years and later on run for Colorado Board of Education.