Graduate Exams

DCap Examination” by voipnovatos  (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Many students continue their academic journey after their undergraduate studies. In order to continue onto a graduate degree program, there are many steps involved. One such step is taking more exams. These include the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT to name a few. All of which are designed to measure a student’s academic ability and to determine if they will be successful in their graduate studies. It is important to check the university website to determine eligibility requirements and to see which tests must be taken prior to admission. As a Biology major who intends to pursue a DVM, I will have to take the GRE.


The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a very common tool used by masters and graduate level programs to test the academic readiness of candidates. It tests an applicant’s critical thinking and analytical skills through a series of multiple choice questions and essays. These are designed to get a baseline of the applicant’s knowledge in mathematics, reading comprehension, and language skills. Overall this test is designed to determine if a student will be successful at analyzing and interpreting graduate level material.

While it is recomended to take the exam during your third year of undergrad, if one plans to take time off prior to starting their graduate studies, there is more time. It can be taken up to five times, once a month, but this should be completed prior to applying as the score will be requried for the application process. Testing registration and locations can be found on the ETS website.

Preparation for this exam may seem overwhelming but there are many tools available. Kaplan offers online and in person preparation courses that help students learn how to answer the test questions as well as become familar with the format. The ETS website also provides review and practice materials for the exams.

There are three sections on the exam, verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. In the first section, verbal reasoning, students must analyze a discussion and draw conclusions that demonstrate that the student can interpret the main ideas, understand connections between themes, have a grasp of the vocabulary, and delve into the figurative motifs and differing perspectives. The second section, quantitative reasoning, tests the students’ mathematical problem solving and analytical skills using quantitative data. The third section, analytical writing, involves writing essays that demonstrate clear structure and present detailed evidence that supports the thesis. All three sections are taken together whether it be a computer-delivered or paper-delivered GRE test. The test iteself takes three and a half hours with scheduled breaks.

Scoring on the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections is point based and the analytical writing section is reviewed by two different human panel members and an e-rater machine.


The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is required for admissions into graduate level business programs. The test itself is a computer adapted standardized multiple choice exam that will indicate if a student is prepared for graduate level studies. The exam measures mathematic capabilities, the ability to sythesize and analyze data, and reading comprehension.

The test consists of four sections, analytical writing assessment, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal. The first section, analytical writing, is designed to allow business schools to assess the students’ writing skills. They are presented with an argument and must reasonably critique it. The second section, integrated reasoning, uses graphics and tables to estimate the students’ ability to interpret and analyze multiple sources of data. The third section, quantitative, tests the problem solving capabilities of the students. The fourth section, verbal, is designed to test the students’ reading comprehension, grammar, and critical reasoning skills. The test takes about three and a half hours and students are able to determine the order in which they take the sections prior to begining the exam. Scheduling exams can be found here.

Scoring of the exam is done using an algorithm that calculates a score based on questions that were answered correctly versus incorrectly as well as incorporating the difficulty level of the question. There are also penalties for skipping questions so test takers must try their best to answer all questions that come up.


The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is an exam necessary to enter ABA-accredited law schools in the United States and Canada. The test is designed to assess critical thinking and reasoning skills that are necessary for a career in law. The exam is two parts, the first is multiple choice and the second is a written essay. Both parts are administered online.

Gavel” by Allen Allen (CC BY 2.0)


The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is designed to determine is students are prepared for the rigor of medical school. It is split into four sections that demonstrate the students’ understanding of biological and social sciences as well as reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. The four sections are:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
  • Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior

The test is vigorous and takes about seven and a half hours with scheduled breaks. It is scored based upon correct answers so that students are not losing points when they get a wrong answer.

Doctor” by mohamed_hassan (CC0)


Although we all hate taking exams, especially when they last more than an hour, it is a necessary part of graduate studies. The exams not only help admissions determine if a student is ready, but can also give the student a sense of his/her strengths and weaknesses. It is important to know when and where the exam is available and which exam is needed for your program. Preparing for the exam is just as important as taking the exam. There are limitations on how many times each exam can be taken, so it is prudent to be prepared and do your best each time.

Please follow and like:

One thought on “Graduate Exams

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *