What Is the Difference Between Graduate School Admissions Tests?

A key requirement for entrance into many reputable university graduate programs is a competitive score on the graduate school admissions tests.

The two main tests for aspiring graduate students are the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

The GMAT is usually taken by students who want to earn advanced degrees in business, management or related fields. While many business programs are scientifically based, their curricula content can differ substantially from advanced degree programs in other disciplines.

Those who desire to attend graduate schools for all other disciplines must usually take the GRE. Some exceptions to this are students who pursue professional degree programs in medical or law career fields.

Here are some examples of graduate admissions tests that are required by some of today’s most prestigious universities.

Graduate Record Examination

The GRE evaluates students’ academic abilities in four areas that include critical thinking, analytical skills, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. These areas are broad enough for university admission staff to gauge students’ abilities to participate in rigorous academic study and research in disciplines that span engineering, technology, the humanities, natural science and social science. Some universities that seek to improve their ranking may require that students take GRE Subject Tests to enter particular programs. There are currently eight of these tests, and the subjects are biology, chemistry, math, literature, psychology, computer science, physics and biochemistry. Successful scores in these specialty areas require that students possess deep subject knowledge in their chosen areas. The computer based test is offered throughout the year, and students in the United States (U.S.) can currently expect to pay $130 to take the test.

Graduate Management Admission Test

Since many business degree programs are scientifically based, there are many similarities between the tested content within the GMAT and GRE. Subsequently, the GMAT evaluates integrative reasoning, quantitative analysis, verbal and analytical writing skills. The allotted time for the test is two hours and 50 minutes, and its format is computer based. The multiple choice test questions get progressively more challenging as students answer them accurately. Test takers receive a numbered score for each section and an associated percentile score that allows them to assess their results against previous test takers. Registering for the GMAT currently costs $250.

Law School Admission Test

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is required for admission into nearly all law schools in the U.S. and in Canada. The test evaluates students’ reading comprehension, logic and analytical skills. Since generating law briefs is a critical aspect of law school curricula, test takers are given topics on which to write. Although the writing sample portion of the LSAT is not scored as part of the test, each law school for which a candidate applies gets a copy of the sample. The LSAT is recognized and used worldwide, and the test is offered on six continents. Despite the test’s global reach, it is only offered twice a year in each region. The LSAT is available to test takers during February and June.

Medical Related Admissions Testing

While it is well known that traditional medical school candidates must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), those who want to enter specialty areas within the medical profession often take other admissions tests besides the MCAT. Dental school candidates take the Dental Admission Test. Aspiring optometry students take the Optometry Admission Test.


Deciding to attend graduate school requires significant financial and time investments. Since all graduate schools are not created equally, students must prepare to do well on admission tests to gain entrance into the best programs. Understanding what to expect from various graduate school admissions tests helps students to better target their studies in preparation for those all important exam days.