For grad school admission tests, the first and absolutely most important rule is to confirm the test requirements with the graduate program to which you’re applying. They are the final decision-makers when it comes to which tests you will need to take and when you will need to take them, so always plan your standardized testing around their guidelines. However, if you’re looking for just a general breakdown about standardized tests for grad school admission, the following may be helpful.
You will almost always need to take the LSAT, which is offered only four times per year—in June, October, December, and February—and is still paper-based. In very rare cases, law school admission offices will accept GRE scores instead, so if you’ve already taken the GRE and did well, you might want to ask the admission office whether they accept that score or not.
Business school generally require the GMAT, which is computer-based and can be taken most days at designated testing centers, but increasingly some are accepting GRE scores, so look into this option if you are more comfortable with that test.
Other graduate programs
Requirements for other graduate programs vary widely. Most will expect you to take, at a minimum, the GRE, which like the GMAT is administered by computer at a testing center nearly every day.
Some programs will require that you take an appropriate GRE subject examination, and some may require or accept the Miller Analogies Test (MAT). GRE subject tests are paper-based and can only be taken at three points during the year—October, November, and April—while the Miller Analogies Test administrations are determined by the individual testing centers. (Click for a downloadable list of testing centers, provided by MAT.)
In general, it’s important to allow time to prepare for the exam; take it once, get your score, and retake it if necessary; all before your application is due. For schools that have rolling admission deadlines, applying sooner may give you an edge, so don’t wait until the last minute.
If the rolling admission period runs from November–February, an applicant who is accepted in November might be rejected if he or she waited until February to apply. As spots are filled, standards sometimes become stricter. This means that your best bet is to begin the preparation process in your junior year, so you can take and retake (if you have to) the exams before the middle of your senior year.
So if you haven’t already started the process, start looking into your preferred prep method—live classes, online courses or tutoring, self-study—and get the ball rolling toward graduate school admission success!