If you’re applying to graduate, law, medical, or business school you’ll be required to take a standard examination. Few students relish the idea of standardized tests, but they help admissions officials determine who is capable of withstanding the rigors of graduate school. Why?
Standardized tests permit students from a variety of universities and colleges with differing grading standards to be compared. For example, consider two applicants with GPAs of 4.0, but from different universities. Is the 4.0 from the state university similar to the 4.0 from the ivy league college? A standardized exam permits these two applicants’ abilities to be compared fairly. Standardized tests are also the basis for awarding fellowships and other forms of financial assistance.
Applicants to graduate school complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which tests verbal, quantitative, and analytical abilities. The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is taken by prospective business school also measures verbal, quantitative, and analytical reasoning but it is tailored to the needs of business schools. Prospective law students take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which measures reading, writing, and logical reasoning. Finally, students who hope to attend medical school take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
Most standardized, graduate-school tests are designed to identify potential success or capacities for success, rather than measure specific knowledge or achievement. While some subject knowledge is essential (the Medical College Admission Test, for instance, evaluates fluency in the sciences), most standardized tests seek to judge a candidate’s thinking skills.
Exceptional standardized test scores can open up new educational opportunities, especially for students with weak applications because of low GPAs, for example. However, note that although performance on standardized tests is a strong factor in the admissions process, it is not the only element that will net you an acceptance to the graduate school of your dreams. Undergraduate transcripts, recommendation letters and a personal statement are other considerations.