If you have graduated from college and are considering pursuing a post-graduate degree, chances are you've heard of graduate school tests. Similar to the SAT in structure, graduate school tests are the tests that all students must take who are interested in attending graduate school in a particular discipline. If you know you're going to attend graduate school for a particular discipline, you should probably start preparing for your grad school test.
What Is the GRE?
Probably the very best known of the graduate tests is the GRE. The GRE is the graduate school test that is taken by students who are going to school to pursue studies in a discipline that doesn't require a particular set of skills or is related to the liberal arts and humanities. Students studying psychology, art history, literature, English, language, political science or human sexuality will need to take the GRE to qualify for admission to graduate school.
While not every single school requires that applicants take the GRE, most accredited institutions do. The GRE is a test that is designed to assess whether the student has completed a sufficient amount of undergraduate coursework.
It is also used to determine whether he or she has the capacity or mastery required to begin a rigorous curriculum of postgraduate work. Presumably, everyone who signs up to take the GRE has a bachelor's degree from an accredited university, but this is not always the case.
The GRE helps evaluators see what level of academic mastery the student would be entering the program with. Similar to the SAT, the GRE has math and a verbal section. It also has an analytical writing portion. These three sections assess a student's competence in both of those areas, one of which may be more important than the other to the department to which the student is applying.
What Other Tests Are Required for Graduate Programs?
While the GRE is by far the most common test that needs to be taken for admission into graduate school, it is not the only one. Depending on the discipline they are going to pursue, students may be required to take any one of the following tests: MCAT, GMAT or LSAT. Each of these focuses on a particular area of education and mastery that come into play for students in that particular discipline.
The MCAT is the test required for all students who are interested in attending medical school. Because medical school requires significant facility with science, the MCAT supposes that the student in question will be well-versed in the subjects. The MCAT has four separate sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.
The LSAT, similarly, is required of all students who are planning to apply to law school. Unlike the MCAT, the LSAT don't require students to have a background in law. Rather, the LSAT tests students skills at critical analysis and other abilities that come into play when studying a law curriculum. The LSAT requires all students to submit a writing sample and also includes two Logical Reasoning sections, Reading Comprehension and Analytical Reasoning.
What Other Tests for Graduate School Are There?
The GMAT is the master's degree entrance exam for students who are pursuing a degree in business. While a business may seem like a very general sort of area of study, the truth is that business school requires a particular skill set.
For that reason, the GMAT requires that all students who are seeking entry into an MBA program take the three and a half hour test which consists of four sections. The GMAT has four separate sections: Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative and Verbal.
Each of these particular sections tests a skill set that will be critical to the student who is hoping to build a career in business. Analytical writing is a critical piece of preparing a successful business plan and communicating well with the people you need to work with.
Integrated reasoning can help assess risk and move toward the market with a clear understanding of your goals and challenges. Quantitative and verbal are fairly self-explanatory since all business owners should be well-versed in calculations and with a strong command of language.
How Do You Prepare for the Master's Degree Entrance Exam?
Depending on the kind of master's program you're applying to, you may need to do significant preparation before you take your entrance examinations. Students who are planning to take the MCAT typically take it one to two years after graduation from college.
This is because medical school is such a time-consuming profession that most of the students who pursue that path want to get started right away. Medical school has by far the most complex and science-heavy study requirements, so getting the MCAT out of the way while your undergraduate education is still fresh in your mind is an excellent idea.
For the LSAT and the GMAT, the preparation is likely going to be less daunting. Both tests require a significant demonstration of analytical reasoning and verbal mastery, both of which are part of working life. This makes the test easier to prepare for those would-be students who have been out of school for several years. Applicants interested in taking the LSAT or the GMAT aptitude test for a master's degree can begin by taking a practice test.
Strategies to Prepare for the Graduate School Tests
The best thing to do when you are beginning to prepare to take a master's degree entrance exam is to take a practice test. Taking a practice test will help you see exactly where you are at this moment, which can help you to map out where you need to go. If you find yourself very strong in one section of the test and quite weak in others, you may find it helpful to devote a significant amount of time to the areas where you're struggling and save the preparation or review for the topics you know well til closer to the test date.
Once you've scheduled your test date, you can plan to work backward. From the test day back until the current day, block out time on your schedule to focus on the topics and issues that you think you need to review. Make sure that you give yourself time to review all the concepts, do practice problems and take another practice test to check your progress. This way you'll know whether your study plan is working or if you need to try something else.
Many students who are preparing for the GRE and other graduate school tests are also working full-time. This means they need to balance their study preparation with their jobs and in some cases their families.
Some students choose to enroll in a prep course instead of studying at home in an effort to take the guesswork out of their preparation and make sure that they are using their time as wisely as possible and in the most effective way possible. These students are often very successful in their test-taking but whether or not you have the time or money to invest in such a course is up to you.
Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.