Standardized Test Guide for Grad School

Few people are excited by the prospect of taking a standardized test like the GRE® test, the GMAT™ exam, the MCAT® exam or the LSAT®, but for most grad school programs it is necessary. Although the prospect of taking one of these tests may seem unnerving, the best advice is to prepare, prepare and then prepare some more. There are multiple test prep sites and study guides to help you succeed. Below is an overview of each test and the industries that require them.

GRE Tests

The GRE® General test addresses the taker’s skill level in analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning and takes just under four hours to complete. It’s accepted by general graduate programs, as well as by business and law programs. There are also GRE® Subject tests in the fields of chemistry, mathematics, physics and psychology.


The GMAT exam is exclusive to business programs, although some business schools will accept other tests, such as the GRE test. It takes approximately three and a half hours to complete and is made up of four sections: analytical writing assessment, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning.


This industry standard test is required for admission to all accredited law schools, although some law schools are now also accepting GRE scores. The LSAT assesses skills such as reading comprehension, reasoning and writing. The test comprises two parts: 1) a multiple-choice section that assesses reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and logical reasoning, and 2) LSAT Writing, which is administered separately online and can be completed up to eight days prior to the multiple-choice section.


This test is required for admissions consideration to almost every medical school in the United States and Canada. At seven and a half hours, the MCAT is considered one of the most challenging standardized tests to take. It consists of four sections: 1) biological and biochemical foundations of living systems, 2) chemical and physical foundations of biological systems, 3) psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior, and 4) critical analysis and reasoning skills.

TOEFL® Tests

International students or students who don’t speak English as a first language may be required to take an English-language proficiency test before pursuing an academic degree. There are two TOEFL® tests that pertain to graduate students — the TOEFL iBT® test and the TOEFL® Essentials™ test — so you can choose the one that is right for you.

DAT® Test

If you’re applying to dental school, the DAT test is the required standardized test by which dental schools assess qualified candidates, in addition to other application requirements. It consists of four sections in the topics of survey of the natural sciences: perceptual ability, reading comprehension and quantitative reasoning.

Tips for gaining admission

Even if you’re applying to a test optional school, it may still be advantageous for you to take a standardized test to add to your grad school application. Many schools are embracing holistic admissions and your standardized test scores could add value to your total application package.

No matter which standardized test you chose or are required to take, it is imperative to study and utilize the many test prep options available to you. Some options are free, and some are more in-depth options that require purchase — but whichever one you choose, it’s important to study ahead of time and prepare for these tests.

In light of the current health crisis, it’s important to check the website of any standardized test you plan to take for information regarding in-person or virtual testing options and any safety precautions that must be adhered to.