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Graduate school exams: LSAT vs. GMAT vs. GRE vs. MCAT

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If you have decided to attain a master’s degree, you are pretty exceptional. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were only 10.9 percent of people in 2012 in the United States over the age of 25 who had a master’s degree or higher. Just a decade earlier, only 8.7 percent of this population had master’s degrees or higher.

Translation: more and more people are deciding to go the graduate school route. Most applications to graduate school require higher testing. It’s general knowledge that if one wants to attend medical school, studying for the MCAT is a good way to start. And if you want to be a lawyer, that LSAT prep book is going to be your best friend. But what’s the difference between these standardized tests? How does the GRE differ from the GMAT? And how does it affect your graduate school experience?

The MCAT or Medical College Admission Test is a computer-based standardized exam for prospective medical students. It assesses critical thinking, written analysis and problem solving as well as knowledge of scientific principles and concepts. The MCAT is offered 25 times or more a year and there are four sections: Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Biological Sciences, and an optional Trial Section. Scores for the first three sections range from 1 to 15. These scores are then added together to get a composite score (maximum score being 45). In 2008, the average MCAT score for U.S. medical school applicants was 28.1. Unlike many other standardized tests, there is no penalty for incorrect multiple choice answers on the MCAT. The cost to take the test ranges from about $275 to $325, depending on when one registers.

If these graduate programs don’t appeal to you, there are other routes of higher education available. Perhaps you would like to pursue a career in the medical field but do not feel that the MCAT is for you. In that case, you might consider an Associate of Applied Science Degree from a local college like AmeriTech college or Salt Lake Community College. If timing is what’s keeping you from applying to a graduate program, you could take advantage of an accelerated program. For example, AmeriTech College’s nursing program allows individuals to enter the healthcare field as registered nurses in less than two years. To discover what future career suits you best, do some research and contact experts in the college industry.

The Law School Admission Test (commonly referred to as the LSAT) is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) four times a year. It’s designed to assess the skills of prospective law school candidates. Reading comprehension, verbal and logical reasoning are all tested and it’s a basic section of the admission process for American law schools. The LSAT has four, 35-minute scored multiple choice sections, a writing section and an unscored experimental section. A tester’s raw scores are translated onto a scaled score with a low of 120, a high of 180 and a median score about 150. A given applicant cannot take the LSAT more than three times within a two-year period and when that individual applies to law school, all scores from the past five years are reported. In the United States (as of June 2014), it costs about $170 to take the LSAT.

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, assesses an individual’s analytical, verbal, writing, quantitative and reading skills. Although it is a prerequisite for graduate management programs, such as an MBA, the GMAT does not measure intelligence, business knowledge or skill. Currently, over 5,900 programs offered by over 2,100 institutions and universities use the GMAT exam as part of the selection process. In fact, the exam is administered in standardized test centers in 112 countries worldwide. Like the LSAT, the GMAT has different sections: analytical writing assessment, integrated reasoning, verbal section and the quantitative section. GMAT total scores range from 200 to 800 and scores are given in increments of 10. The average score is about 540. The cost to take the exam is $250.

The Graduate Record Examinations or GRE is often compared to the GMAT. The GRE was created and is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). It was designed to measure an individual’s quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, critical thinking skills and analytical writing. Unlike some other standardized tests, the GRE assesses skills that have been developed over a long period of time and are not specifically related to a particular field of study. The scoring scale ranges from 130 to 170 scale and the cost to take the test is $195.