A decisive student straightening his tie after deciding what test to take.


Which Test Should You Take?

Whether you're pursuing graduate studies in the humanities, business, law, or medicine, you'll likely have to complete a standardized entrance exam to demonstrate the skills needed for advanced courses.

When considering your academic path and career options, knowing more about the GRE vs. the MCAT and which is better for your postgraduate plans can help you achieve your goals.

Ultimately, the test you take depends on your academic interests, your preferred graduate programs' admission requirements, and your career goals. When figuring out which exam you need for your M.D., MA, Ph.D., MBA, or JD, understanding the differences between the GRE vs. the MCAT is essential.

Test Comparison

Is the GRE Similar to the MCAT?

When comparing the GRE test vs. the MCAT, the differences far outweigh the similarities. Both are computer-based entrance exams, but the core test material, purpose, and requirements are quite different. Some variations between the two tests include:

  • Overall Focus: The GRE covers general academic skills, which is why it suits a broad range of postgrad programs, while the MCAT has a more specific focus on social and biological sciences.
  • Subject Knowledge: The GRE tests your comprehension, reasoning, and cognitive abilities, while the MCAT includes those same factors as well as subject-based knowledge.
  • Question Difficulty: The computer-based GRE is also adaptive, which means question difficulty adjusts based on your performance. In contrast, the MCAT uses predetermined questions that don't change whether you answer correctly or not.

GRE Overview

Multiple Program Acceptance

In general, you can think of the GRE as an advanced version of the SAT, and students can take this computer-based test year-round. Many graduate schools across the curriculum require the GRE, including postgraduate humanities, law, business, and STEM-related programs.

A summary of the knowledge and skills the GRE assesses includes:

Test Time

GRE Length & Validity of Results

In terms of testing time when comparing the GRE and the MCAT, the GRE takes under four hours to complete. Score calculation and delivery also differ, with test-takers receiving their GRE results, which are good for five years, within 10 to 15 days after completing the test.

Admissions Considerations

Do Med Schools Accept the GRE?

In most cases, it depends on the program. Some specialized fields of study, such as podiatry and osteopathic medicine, require certain MCAT scores, while many nursing programs and some veterinary and physical therapy fields accept the GRE for admissions.

MCAT Overview

Healthcare-Specific Graduate Exam

The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers the MCAT about 30 times per year. The exam is specific to the medical field and relies heavily on knowledge of related subjects.

In addition to testing reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, and writing skills like the GRE, the MCAT evaluates your competency in various subjects, including:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Mathematics

Exam Length

MCAT Test Time & Score Differences

Considering the range of subjects covered on the MCAT vs. the GRE, it's not surprising that this exam is much longer. At roughly 7.5 hours, the MCAT is a demanding and complex exam that requires significant preparation. Results also differ from the GRE. The AAMC releases MCAT scores on a specific date and time, usually about 30 days after the exam, and results are valid for three years.

GRE vs. MCAT Complexity

Which Test Is Harder?

The content and length of the MCAT make it a far more challenging exam . However, comparing the difficulty of the GRE vs. the MCAT isn't the best deciding factor if becoming a physician or surgeon is your goal. Most medical schools in North America require MCAT scores for admission, so taking the GRE is unlikely to be an option.

While you can certainly take both tests, it may not be an effective strategy in terms of preparation, time, finances, and academic benefit. However, if you're unsure about attending medical school, taking the GRE allows you to explore a broader range of postgraduate degrees and consider alternative career paths.

Study Resources

Online MCAT Test Prep

MCAT Sections

MCAT Scoring

What to Bring to the MCAT