GRE vs. Other Standardized Tests: Which One Should You Take?

GRE vs. Other Standardized Tests

Are you considering pursuing graduate studies? If so, you’ve probably come across the term “standardized tests” during your research. Standardized tests are important for graduate school admissions as they allow institutions to evaluate applicants’ academic preparedness and potential. Given the plethora of options available, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed when selecting the most appropriate exam. From the GRE and GMAT to the LSAT and MCAT, the decision can be challenging to make.

This article will delve into the comparisons between the GRE and other standardized tests, shedding light on their differences, pros, and cons. By the end, you’ll know to decide which test aligns best with your goals and aspirations.

Understanding the GRE:

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is one of the most widely recognized standardized tests for graduate school admissions. It measures an applicant’s aptitude in critical thinking, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. Let’s explore the key aspects of the GRE.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) comprises three main parts: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The Analytical Writing section evaluates your ability to express complex ideas clearly and logically. Verbal reasoning assesses your comprehension skills and ability to analyze and evaluate written material. The Quantitative Reasoning section measures your problem-solving and quantitative analysis skills.

Your performance on the GRE is reported through a scoring system. The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections are scored on a scale of 130 to 170 in one-point increments, while the Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 in half-point increments. Many graduate schools consider GRE scores as a factor in their admissions decisions and other application components.

Comparison with Other Standardized Tests

Exploring alternative standardized tests is crucial, even though the GRE is widely accepted by many graduate programs. Let’s delve into some of these examinations:

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, is specifically tailored for admission to graduate business programs like MBA programs. This test scrutinizes analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning skills pertinent to the field of business.

For those aspiring to pursue a legal education, the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, is the go-to examination. It evaluates critical thinking, reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical reasoning skills—key attributes for success in law school.

Aspiring medical students must undergo the MCAT or Medical College Admission Test. This comprehensive exam assesses knowledge and skills in biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology, ensuring a thorough evaluation of the candidate’s aptitude for medical studies.

Factors to Consider

When choosing a standardized test, several factors come into play. Let’s explore these factors to help you make a well-informed decision:

Test requirements:

Different graduate programs have varying test requirements. Some programs may accept scores from multiple tests, while others may have specific preferences or prerequisites. Research the requirements of your target programs to ensure you choose the appropriate test.

Test content:

Each standardized test assesses different skills and subject areas. Consider your academic strengths and weaknesses, as well as your comfort level with the content of each test. For example, if you excel in math but struggle with verbal reasoning, you may lean towards a test that aligns more with your strengths.

Personal goals and strengths:

Reflect on your long-term career goals and aspirations. Consider which test is more closely aligned with your intended field of study and the skills necessary for success. Additionally, think about your strengths and weaknesses. Are you better suited for a test emphasizing quantitative skills, or do you excel in verbal and analytical areas?

Time constraints and preparation:

Assess your available time to prepare for the test. Some tests may require more extensive preparation than others. Research the recommended study materials and resources for each test and the support you may need to prepare adequately.

Pros and Cons of the GRE

On the positive side, the GRE boasts widespread acceptance, opening doors to thousands of graduate schools globally and offering a diverse array of options for your advanced studies. Additionally, the availability of numerous study materials, practice tests, and online resources ensures ample support for effective preparation. Another notable advantage is the flexibility offered by the GRE, allowing you to choose between computer-based and paper-based formats based on your personal preferences and comfort.

However, it’s essential to consider the drawbacks as well. The cost of registering for the GRE and sending scores to multiple schools can be a significant financial commitment, and this aspect should be carefully evaluated when deciding on a test. Furthermore, the GRE is renowned for its challenging questions that demand intense critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Some critics also argue that certain sections, such as Verbal Reasoning, may exhibit bias towards specific demographics, posing a potential concern for test-takers.

In deciding to opt for the GRE as your standardized test, it’s crucial to carefully weigh these pros and cons against your unique circumstances and preferences. Understanding the nuances of the test will empower you to make an informed choice that aligns with your academic and financial considerations.

Pros and Cons of Other Standardized Tests

Let’s delve into the advantages and disadvantages of a few other commonly utilized standardized tests:

For the GMAT, its distinct advantage lies in its explicit design for graduate business programs. This targeted approach ensures a thorough assessment of skills directly relevant to the business field. However, on the flip side, if your career goals do not align with a business-related field, opting for the GMAT might limit the range of programs you can apply to.

Moving on to the LSAT, its pros are centered around being tailored specifically for law school admissions. It effectively evaluates skills that are directly applicable to the legal profession, offering a comprehensive assessment. However, if a law degree is not in your plans, taking the LSAT might not be necessary, potentially restricting your options for graduate study.

Now, considering the MCAT, it serves as an indispensable test for aspiring medical students. Ensuring that individuals possess the necessary knowledge and skills for medical school, the MCAT plays a crucial role in the medical admissions process. Nevertheless, if a medical career is not part of your aspirations, undertaking the MCAT may not be relevant to your academic or career goals.

It’s paramount to meticulously weigh the pros and cons of each standardized test, aligning them with your aspirations and the requirements of your desired field of study. This thoughtful consideration ensures that you make informed decisions tailored to your unique academic and career journey.

Test Preparation Strategies

For those aiming to achieve their desired scores on standardized tests, adequate preparation is paramount. Employing effective strategies can make a substantial difference in your readiness. To begin with, leverage official study materials provided by the testing authorities, such as study guides, practice tests, and online resources. These materials offer insights into the test structure and question types.

Consistent and focused practice is key to success, so establish a study schedule that accommodates regular practice sessions, with a particular emphasis on areas where improvement is needed. Seeking guidance from study groups, tutors, or mentors who have experience with the specific test you’re preparing for can provide valuable insights and tips.

Additionally, simulate the test environment by taking practice tests under timed conditions to build stamina and familiarize yourself with the time constraints of the actual exam. After each practice session, review and analyze your answers, understanding the reasoning behind correct responses and learning from mistakes. Implementation of these strategies enhances not only your knowledge but also your test-taking skills and confidence on exam day.

Test-Day Tips and Strategies

As your test day looms closer, being mentally and physically well-prepared is essential. To ensure peak performance, get a good night’s sleep the evening before the exam, allowing for optimal mental alertness. Plan your journey to the test center carefully, arriving early to alleviate stress and compose yourself.

Maintaining a calm and focused mindset is crucial; take deep breaths, remind yourself of the hard work invested in preparation, and believe in your abilities. Effectively manage your time during the exam by reading instructions carefully and pacing yourself appropriately. These tips collectively position you for success on test day, allowing you to perform at your best.

Making an Informed Decision

Choosing the right standardized test is a pivotal step toward graduate school. To make an informed decision, follow these steps. Begin by reflecting on your long-term career aspirations and the field of study you wish to pursue. Consider which test aligns most closely with your intended career path.

Identify your academic strengths and weaknesses, factoring in the content and format of each test, and choose the one that allows you to showcase your strengths and address any weaknesses. Investigate the requirements of your target graduate programs, determining if they accept scores from multiple tests or prefer a specific one.

Lastly, allocate preparation time by considering the available resources, study materials, and support for each test to ensure comprehensive readiness. By diligently following these steps and considering various factors, you can confidently select the standardized test that aligns best with your academic goals.


Choosing the right standardized test is crucial for your graduate school path. This article explores the differences between the GRE and other standardized tests, such as the GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT. By considering factors such as test requirements, content, personal strengths, and time constraints, you can make an informed decision that sets you on the path to success.

Remember, choosing a standardized test should align with your academic goals, aspirations, and the requirements of your target graduate programs. Stay focused, invest time in thorough preparation, and confidently approach the test. Good luck on your journey to graduate school!

Frequently Asked Questions for GRE vs. Other Standardized Tests: Which One Should You Take?

Which standardized test is more widely accepted by graduate schools: the GRE or the GMAT?

A more comprehensive range of graduate schools accept the GRE than the GMAT. While the GMAT is specifically designed for business school admissions, many business programs now accept the GRE as an alternative. However, it’s always important to check the requirements of the graduate schools and programs you are interested in to ensure which test they prefer.

Do specific fields or programs require the LSAT or the MCAT instead of the GRE?

Yes, the LSAT is primarily required for admission to law schools, and the MCAT is designed explicitly for aspiring medical students. These tests assess skills and knowledge relevant to their respective fields. If you are considering law school or medical school, you will likely need to take the LSAT or MCAT, respectively.

What are some advantages of taking the GRE over other standardized tests?

One advantage of taking the GRE is its wide acceptance by various graduate programs beyond specific fields like business, law, or medicine. This flexibility allows you to explore different academic paths. Additionally, the GRE offers abundant study materials and resources, making preparing for the exam easier.

Can I take the GRE and another standardized test and choose the one with the better application score?

In most cases, you can take the GRE and another standardized test. Many graduate schools accept scores from multiple tests, allowing you to submit the scores that showcase your strengths. However, it’s important to verify the policies of each graduate program to ensure they accept multiple scores.

How long does preparing for the GRE and other standardized tests typically take?

The duration of test preparation varies depending on several factors, including your familiarity with the test content, your study schedule, and your aptitude. On average, spending several months preparing for a standardized test is recommended to thoroughly cover the content, practice, and build test-taking strategies effectively.

Are there any differences in the test format between the GRE and other standardized tests?

Yes, there are differences in the test format between the GRE and other standardized tests. Each test has its unique structure, question types, and subject areas. The GMAT focuses on business-related skills, the LSAT assesses legal reasoning abilities, and the MCAT evaluates knowledge in specific scientific disciplines. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the test format you plan to take.

Do graduate schools prefer one test over the others?

Graduate schools vary in their preferences for standardized tests. Some programs may have a specific preference, while others may accept scores from multiple tests. Researching and checking the requirements of your target graduate schools and programs is essential to determine their preferences.

Are there any specific test preparation resources recommended for the GMAT?

For the GMAT, there are numerous test preparation resources available. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) administers the GMAT and offers test-takers official study materials and practice exams. Additionally, various test prep companies provide GMAT-specific study materials and courses. Exploring different resources and choosing the ones that best suit your learning style and needs is advisable.

Can I switch from one standardized test to another if I change my graduate school plans?

You can switch from one standardized test to another if your graduate school plans change. However, it’s important to note that different tests require specific preparation strategies and may assess different skills and knowledge. Switching tests may require additional preparation time to familiarize yourself with the content and format of the new test.

Are there any financial assistance options available for test fees and preparation resources?

Yes, financial assistance options may be available for test fees and preparation resources. Some standardized tests offer fee waivers for eligible individuals who demonstrate financial need. Additionally, there are scholarships, grants, and financial aid programs that may cover test fees or provide resources for test preparation. It’s advisable to research the specific financial assistance options the test administrators offer and reach out to relevant organizations or institutions for further information.

How often can I retake the GRE or other standardized tests?

The retake policies vary for each standardized test. The GRE allows test-takers to retake the exam once every 21 days, up to five times within a continuous rolling 12-month period. However, it’s important to note that some graduate schools may have specific policies regarding accepting multiple scores or considering only the highest score. Check the policies of the test you plan to retake and the graduate programs you are applying to for more information.

What strategies can I use to improve my scores on the verbal reasoning section of the GRE?

To improve your scores on the verbal reasoning section of the GRE, there are several strategies you can employ. These include:

  1. Expand your vocabulary by reading books, articles, and academic texts regularly.
  2. Practicing with sample verbal reasoning questions to become familiar with the question types and develop effective strategies.
  3. Attention to context and understanding of how words function within sentences and paragraphs.
  4. Analyzing sentence structure and identifying grammatical errors or logical inconsistencies.
  5. Developing critical reading skills by actively engaging with the text, making inferences, and summarizing key points.

Consistent practice and focused study in these areas can help improve your performance in the verbal reasoning section of the GRE.

Are there any free online resources available for test preparation?

Yes, there are several free online resources available for test preparation. Many standardized test administrators on their websites offer official practice materials, including sample questions and practice tests. Additionally, online platforms, educational websites, and forums provide free study resources, practice questions, and tips for test preparation. It’s important to verify the reliability and quality of these resources before using them.

Can I submit scores from multiple test attempts to graduate schools?

Many graduate schools allow you to submit scores from multiple test attempts. Some schools may consider your highest scores across all attempts, while others may consider all scores or allow you to select which scores to submit. It’s crucial to check the policies of each graduate program to understand their score submission requirements.

Do I need to prepare differently for the GRE if I have been out of school for a long time?

If you have been out of school for a long time, adjusting your preparation approach for the GRE may be beneficial. Consider allocating more time to reviewing and refreshing your knowledge in relevant subject areas. It’s important to focus on practicing with sample questions and taking practice tests to prepare for the test.

This will help you become familiar with the format of the test. Additionally, seek out study materials and resources that cater to individuals who have been out of school for an extended period. These resources can help you brush up on the necessary skills and content to perform well on the exam.

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