With graduate tests looming, learn how to prepare

After taking the dreaded SATs in high school, most college students hope they’ll never have to fill in hundreds of tiny circles with a No. 2 pencil ever again. Unfortunately, for those facing graduate exams, that isn’t going to happen.

While there are many different graduate examinations, only about five are widely recognized and taken by students.

These include the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test), the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) and the Praxis test, which is used to award teacher certifications.

The LSAT is a test for admission to any American Board Association law school, although some Canadian and non-certified schools will also accept scores.

Elle Woods may have breezed through them in the movie “Legally Blonde,” but many students spend years studying for the LSAT and retake it multiple times before acceptance into law school. However, it may not be taken more than three times in a two-year period. The test is scored from 120-180, with about 75 percent of test takers scoring between 142 and 162.

The LSAT costs $118, not including the money spent on study materials and review classes. Most students take the test in December for fall admission to law school, but others take it in June or October.

The MCAT is required for admission to almost all American medical schools. The test includes a writing sample, as well as sections on verbal reasoning, biological sciences and physical sciences.

Like the LSAT, students are discouraged from taking the test more than three times in a short period. According to the Web site medschoolchat.com, a “good” score for the MCAT is a 10 or 11, with a score of 12 or above for acceptance to the best medical schools.

The GMAT is used for acceptance to most business schools and qualification for a master’s of business administration (MBA). The exam tests for verbal, mathematical and analytical writing skills, and is scored between 200 and 800, with most scoring between 400 and 600. The GMAT is offered throughout the world at many times during the year.

The GRE is the most general of graduate examinations, as it tests undergraduate accomplishments gained in the past. There are two types: the general test, which measures verbal, mathematical, critical thinking and writing skills, and the subject tests, which measure intelligence in eight fields.

These subjects are biochemistry and molecular biology, biology, chemistry, computer science, literature in English, mathematics, physics and psychology. The tests are accepted at almost every college and university and are used as qualifiers for those wanting to attend graduate school.

Finally, there is the Praxis test, which is used for teacher certifications.

There are three sections to the Praxis test: Praxis I, which tests basic scholastic intelligence; Praxis II, which tests general and specific subjects and teaching aptitude; and Praxis III, which reviews the classroom proficiency of the aspiring teacher.

In New Jersey, elementary teachers must also pass the Elementary Education: Content Knowledge Test, while subject teachers must take the Praxis II exam.

Melissa Zachok, freshman accounting major, is already planning to take her teacher certification as a back-up for her accounting career.

“Why not plan ahead?” she said. “The job market is unstable, and schools will always need teachers.”

Whatever tests students are planning to take, experts say it’s wise to start studying as early as sophomore year.

The earlier you start, the more times you can retake them before your applications for graduate school are due, meaning the chances are greater that you’ll obtain a satisfactory score.