GMAT 550 to 690: Last shot for a GMAT Super Soldier

Last shot for a GMAT Super Soldier: from GMAT 550 to 690

I only work with people who I believe I can help, so when Pete communicated that GMAT motivation was low, I was concerned about moving forward potentially wasting money and time on a dead end preparation. He had been in the GMAT jungle for a few months stuck in the mud. His most recent official practice test, a 550, with quant in the 10th percentile, was a long way from his 700+ goal. Pete wanted to give the exam one last shot but was already considering next steps if business school was no longer an option due to an average GMAT score.

On the upside, Pete was in the military, so I didn’t need to stress the importance of discipline and diligence in approaching GMAT studying. He knew it better than I probably ever will. He told me about GMAT prep in the field without a comfy desk or even a normal light. To avoid missing that day’s work, he locked himself in a Humvee with his homework kit: the GMAT official guide, a notepad, a warm blanket, and a flashlight. That's dedication. Hearing that I felt confident that this GMAT preparation was worth it.

Putting things in perspective

It’s hard to wake up early to study. It’s equally hard to focus on tough GMAT sets after a long day at work. Can you inform your boss that you need to leave early for the next 2-3 months? Will you disappoint your best friend by skipping the Vegas bachelor party because your exam is in two weeks and you need the weekends for practice tests? How about the family gathering that’s going require you to criss-cross the country? Or the GMAT productivity killer that is the after work drink?

Well, imagine having to do your GMAT prep in a freezing tent in the middle of nowhere with night vision goggles strapped to your head because you can’t use a light. Putting things in perspective? Since Pete described how he worked around his GMAT prep hurdles and managed to cope with insanely tough conditions, I have been using his experience as an example of what it takes to succeed on the GMAT. A stellar GMAT score is a great motivator as is having a no nonsense GMAT tutor with high expectations. But, on those days when you're having a tough time getting it together, just remember Pete huddled in a tent with the official guide studying to the background sound of enemy fire.

Even with a GMAT super soldier we failed: GMAT 550 to 560

Needless to say: Pete was a great GMAT tutoring student. We normally gray out missed assignments in our homework schedule to have a sense for the consistency of a preparation but Pete’s GMAT schedule was clean. He was especially talented at verbal, crushing all of the extremely difficult LSAT work that we tend to assign to improve GMAT critical reasoning and reading comprehension. Sometimes student's don't put 100% into verbal because they feel more anxious about quant. There's the feeling, "hey, I can read so I'll be fine on verbal." Or, I'm already in the 85th or even 90th+ percentile so, again, I'm "fine". Yes, you may be "fine" but will you be "amazing"? Strengthen your strengths! Pete bulldozed every single verbal assignment. First GMAT practice test: 620. Yes! Second 630. Right direction! Third 570. Oh no. It was demoralizing. And worse we were right around the corner from his GMAT.

550 to 560 Struggle Email

550 to 560 hopeless

Average GMAT Score 560 confidence

Average GMAT score 550 to 690 frustration

Not good. GMAT Day: 560 (the average GMAT score in 2019 is 560). Even doing everything right there’s no guarantee that you’re going to ace the GMAT. Diligent studying is necessary but not sufficient. The GMAT 550 he came in with wasn't representative of his abilities and neither was this 560.

Cut off and surrounded but still ready to lock and load

We were both devastated by the middling score but ready for another fight. Pete still struggled with GMAT confidence, but, given all of the amazing work he'd done, he also started to believe. Every once in a while he crashed and burned on a HW set or practice test but he kept marching one foot in front of the other. I knew Pete could do it. Just before what would be his final GMAT and the deciding factor for whether he'd pursue an MBA he fired off this email:

Pre GMAT Motivation Email

My fingers were crossed and I was sending good vibes across the country hoping that our GMAT bootcamp would finally pay off. Another disappointment would be a bitter pill to swallow. We needed something. Any decent improvement to keep hope alive. After his second GMAT:

GMAT 550 to 690 140 point improvement email

YESSSS!!!!!

GMAT 550 to 690 thank you email

Pete increased his GMAT score 140 points from a 550 to a 690 and earned an astonishing 99th percentile plus verbal score (V47). The quant, at a 38, was in the 36th percentile. Not great. And certainly not representative of his abilities. It goes to show how much the verbal score can influence the outcome of your GMAT. Pete could likely have improved the 690 even further but he got an outstanding MBA offer and shelved the plans that did not include going to business school. Reading this over I teared up a bit. It really was that intense. Congrats Pete! Here’s the prize:

Average GMAT 550 to 690 Score Report

GMAT 550 to 690 FAQ

What is the percentile score for a GMAT 550?

A 550 GMAT score is in the 45th percentile. Keep in mind that GMAT percentiles change based on the the most recent group of test takers. So a GMAT 550 percentile score changes. For instance, in the past 10 years GMAT quant percentiles have gotten far more competitive so a quant 45 used to be in the 80th percentile but now it's in the 63rd percentile. Grim. Here's everything you need to know about GMAT percentiles for 2019.

What is a GMAT 550 converted to GRE?

Everything you need to know about how to convert GRE scores to GMAT scores. Because of the quirks of GRE scoring, section scoring only (no composite score), it's tough to compare the GMAT and the GRE. That said a GMAT 550 is somewhat equivalent to these GRE scores:

Verbal Reasoning

Quantitative Reasoning

162

150

161

151

159

152

159

151

159

152

158

153

157

153

Is a 550 a good GMAT score?

It is a shade below the average GMAT score, 560. A good GMAT score, at least in my mind, relates to what that score can do for you. If it's enough to achieve your educational goals then a 550 is a perfect GMAT score. If not, then you might need to study a bit more. That said, no reason to get caught up in the GMAT/test prep arms race if you don't have to. The GMAT doesn't define you. The rest of your application (as a whole) is more important. A below average GMAT score isn't the end of the world and there are plenty of people admitted to great MBA programs with below average GMAT score.

Is a GMAT 550 hard to achieve?

That really depends on your starting score and profile. Still, I'd argue with the right amount of studying most people pursuing an MBA should be able to hit a 550. It is right about the average GMAT (560 in 2019).

What schools and MBA programs are in a range with a 550 GMAT score?

640 to 700 GMAT: a Tricky 60 Points

Easy 640 to 700 GMAT?

Another "big box test prep" graduate called the other day - he couldn’t crack the GMAT 700’s. Why? Good question. Adam was whip smart and especially talented at verbal. I wouldn’t call him a Quant nerd but after a bit of training he could slice through 95% of the GMAT Official Guide. If I had to complain I'd say that because he was extremely busy and stressed out with work he couldn't commit 100% to the GMAT tutoring program. That’s not to say that the homework results were bad but just not perfect. He was always struggling just a bit with his cup overflowing with responsibility. Oh, and he also had two young kids. He wanted to improve from a GMAT 640 to 700 in 8 weeks, a reasonable goal for a smart, hardworking guy.

Burnout to 660

We were hopeful as GMAT day loomed on the horizon. But, the 700 twas not to be. 660. He had been logging Quant scores in the high 40’s but had crumpled to a 41 on GMAT day. We had a quick debrief to diagnose the unexpected results. Verdict: exhaustion. He'd studied 10 hours per day the two days before the exam. Holy crap! I would never have someone study that much - ever (especially right before a test). It completely burned him out. Here are some suggestions for the last week of GMAT studying.

Panic back to GMAT 640

A month later: 640. Right back to where we started. Somewhere in the middle of the Quant he had started to panic and from then on had triple checked every answer. After that the test had spun out of control. Adam left seven questions on the Quant and twelve questions on the Verbal blank! It's one thing to be thorough but another to be paranoid. At some point you have to let go. Start practicing this on your HW sets and of course on your practice tests so that you have a handle on it for GMAT day.

Attitude adjustment + Radio Silence

I advised another retake without additional tutoring. I just provided a study schedule and materials. He didn't need to learning anything new. He really didn't need more studying. The focus was on trying to relax. Trying to just feel positive while working on GMAT questions. Trying to study less. To put less pressure on. Then came test day. 640 to 700? Dunno. No phone call or email. Ugh. It always feels strange and unsettling to be in the dark. I always think the worst. I sent over a quick note to check in: no reply. Hmmm.

640 to 640 to 700 GMAT Success

Fast forward two months. An email! The test had not gone well. Another 640 GMAT. Good news though: he had gotten into Kellogg! Hurray!!! Still he wanted to improve his chances at Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton so he gave the GMAT one last shot. No studying at all: 700!

630 to 720 GMAT Success

GMAT 720 Success!

There’s no magic formula for transferring the knowledge required to achieve a glittering GMAT score. What do you need to gain mastery over the breadth of content and types of reasoning the GMAT will demand? Consistent presence of mind in the seconds, minutes, and hours over days, weeks, and months of GMAT preparation. In our consultation I discussed this idea with Sara. It clicked with her. And by the end of our 11 weeks of GMAT prep she improved her GMAT score from a 630 to a 720.

630 start with a favorable skill set

Sara came in the door with a GMAT breakdown we see pretty often: great verbal, iffy quant. She started off with a 630 (q36 v40). The quant was only in the 36th percentile, but, the good news, the verbal was in the 90th. If you had to choose, this is a great split, as GMAT quant is easier to improve than verbal. Also, a 40+ verbal score indicates some pretty solid reasoning skills, which, given the right direction and structure, should help you shine on the quant as well.

A fighting attitude

When it came to our tutoring sessions, it was ever clear that Sara was ready to hit the ground running. In the pre-tutoring phase she had put in the legwork to make the quant fundamentals second nature, so, when I introduced new concepts, she wasn’t struggling on the basics but was instead ready to go with the more challenging part of the GMAT: the critical thinking.

No GMAT stone unturned

Although we manage homework 100%, even review, Sara let me know that she was doing additional review, even redoing entire sets if she’d scored below 50%. From Day 1, she committed to mastering every new concept that I threw her way. She wasn’t going to let anything slide. No dusty corners here! Nor was she going to go easy on verbal just because it was her strong suit (a big GMAT studying mistake). No matter how many ferocious LSAT Critical Reasoning quizzes I assigned, she applied that same dedication trying to get as close to a perfect score as possible on each and every one.

Good habits leading to great improvement

11 weeks is a hefty amount of time to stay consistent with daily GMAT practice. It’s even tougher to keep a positive, motivated mindset, especially when learning and subsequent score increases come in fits and starts. What served Sara well in this regard was her perseverance to making daily GMAT practice a habit right out of the gate. Because of her dedication she started improving quickly. That improvement motivated her to keep up the effort, and, as a result, our sessions became more dialogue than lesson as she pushed the pace of the preparation.

Could it be a GMAT 720 only 4 weeks in?

Sara’s situation was somewhat unique in that she had already booked a test date prior to our starting the GMAT tutoring process. That test date fell at the halfway point of our sessions. I encouraged her to keep it booked but to take it as a no-stress practice test. But, as that day grew closer there emerged a strong possibility she’d hit a 700.

She may very well have done so on any other day, but chaos reigned at the test center. A neighboring computer malfunctioned and her testing area was packed with IT techs through most of her quant section. She walked out with a 660. Certainly not the score she deserved but still an improvement over the 630, even in the midst of GMAT test center incompetence.

Doubling down to a 720 GMAT score

Sara wasn’t deterred. The opposite, in fact. Having stared down the GMAT and walked away relatively unscathed renewed her determination to hit 700 and potentially beyond. She doubled down her efforts over the next few weeks, scoring in the 90+% range on most homework assignments. She brought any uncertain concepts to sessions, leaving no stone unturned. On her next GMAT practice test, she scored a 700, and we intensively reviewed every quant question she had missed.

Smarts, hard work, and a great attitude lead to the inevitable: GMAT 720!

Then, on test day, 720. I wasn’t surprised in the slightest but was unbelievably excited for Sara. This was, beyond a doubt, a 720 very well-earned. 100 point GMAT improvements in the higher score ranges are challenging. But with a can-do attitude from the start and an unfailing commitment to staying ahead of the game, an abstract possibility like this GMAT score increase from 630 to 720 can become almost inevitable.

720 GMAT Score FAQ

720 GMAT score percentile?

GMAT percentile scores change year to year. In 2019 a 720 GMAT score is in the 94th percentile. Here's an in depth discussion on GMAT percentiles along with some analysis on why a failing GMAT quant score is OK in 2019.

720 GMAT good enough?

A 720 on the GMAT 100% satisfies the question that you've got the skills to succeed at any MBA program on the planet. That said, as crazy as it sounds, even though a GMAT 720 is in the 94th percentile, in 2019 you'd still be below the median at 10 top business schools. Does that mean if you're gunning for Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and crew that a 720 GMAT isn't good enough? No. Absolutely not. A 720 GMAT score might be all you need. It's a great score.

If you're considering a retake you might talk to an admissions person first so that they can weigh your entire application. It might make more sense to work on the rest of the package instead of the 10-20 points that would push your GMAT score at or above the median of your dream MBA program. Still, if you're gung-ho and want to improve that 720: go for it. There's probably more gas in the tank if you're willing to put in the work.

GMAT 720 retake?

A 720 on the GMAT is an outstanding score and will give you access to all of the top MBA programs. At 720 the rest of your application matters more. Still, there's the reality that in 2019 you will be below the median at several top schools. The advice is similar to that above: feeling motivated for more? Go for the GMAT 720 retake! Feeling completely unmotivated? A 720 is a great score. Go with it! Feeling somewhere in the middle? Consult an admissions expert and get their input on how important an improved GMAT score is to your specific application. If you're looking for resources for your re-take I'd consider two things on the quant side:

GMAT Focus Quizzes - these are 24 question/45 minute computer adaptive quant quizzes based on official GMAT questions. You can buy four of them from mba.com. They are great for the end of your GMAT prep or for a retake. Nice and tough. I always feel like GMAT focus feels just like the real GMAT. Here is our GMAT Focus review.

Atlantic GMAT Quant Review Quizzes - there are 12 question/24 minute quant quizzes that I developed based on my experience taking 7 official GMATs. They cover concepts that I've noticed on the real test that are unrepresented or underrepresented in the official GMAT materials. These are not official questions but I worked extremely hard to make them fit content and style-wise. These are very tough but no tougher than the toughest GMAT questions you would get on a real test. Best of all each question has an in depth explanation video so there are tons of GMAT tips and tricks. At the moment we're offering these for free for two weeks access.

GMAT Focus and AG Quant Review Quizzes work really well together. Use the Focus quizzes when you have more time (on the weekends or occasional weekday) and fill in the gaps with the review quizzes. Between the two you'll have a stellar 2-3 weeks of quant preparation.

GMAT 550 to 750: Rare 200 Point Increase to 98%

GMAT 550 to 750

Abby came in with a middle of the road GMAT 550 struggling with a 29 (12th percentile) on the quant section. The bright spot, a 40 on the verbal (90th percentile).  gave us hope, and we needed some, because along with most of the other people we tutor, she wanted a 700+ GMAT score, a sizable 160 points away. In Abby’s case we had a favorable split (strong verbal/weak quant) for making a big leap. Strong reading and critical reasoning skills take time to learn and are important on the quant side as well. So if verbal is already strong that's a big plus. Abby also came off as a hard worker ready to get in the grind. Ultimately she'd make a rare 200 point GMAT improvement from a GMAT 550 to 750.

Missing quant fundamentals but superb reasoning

It had been almost a decade since she had set her mind to mathematics so naturally Abby was a bit stressed about the quant side of the GMAT. That stress faded once we started our tutoring sessions as it became clear that although she was missing a ton of fundamental math knowledge Abby was fine juggling numbers and fantastic at applying new GMAT strategies. Considering the homework scores she was putting up on her GMAT schedule it was easy to forget that Abby's initial GMAT quant score lurked in the 12th percentile. On the verbal side we buzzed through some "greatest hits" sentence correction to cover often repeated SC structural issues, but, for the most part, I just managed her SC HW. I also assigned LSAT for GMAT to get the already excellent verbal into the stratosphere. If you’re already great at verbal get better! Pushing a 90th% score to a 95th% or a 99th% can make a massive difference in your composite score. 

A+ effort, GMAT Elusive

She was highly motivated and diligent. Never missing a HW assignment, doing thorough review, and always armed with tough questions during our tutoring sessions. 3 weeks into tutoring Abby launched into her first practice test and pulled out a 680 with a 40 on the quant! 130 points overall and 11 points on the quant were astonishing improvements. It wasn’t a fluke though. Abby was all in on the preparation and in the zone. 2nd GMAT practice test: Another 680. The quant had deflated to a 39. It happens. She had mismanaged her time and so had guessed on the last ten quant questions. I wasn’t worried. Practice test 3: 710 q44 v44. Practice test 4: 750 with a quant 48. She was on fire! 550 to 750 in 6 weeks. Practice test 5: 700 q42 v43. Practice test 6 710 q46 v42. The quant was a bit up and down but still the practice tests were looking good for 700+. Still, we always aim for two tests so no pressure Abby! GMAT Day: 610, q35 v42. Glad we planned for two.

Great practice tests but crappy results (ceiling vs floor)

It’s one thing to score 750 on a practice test but it’s another thing to bring that 750 score home on an official exam. It’s not that the practice tests aren’t the same as the real thing. They are. It’s just that we don't perform the same way every day. A lot of what we do in tutoring isn’t necessarily raising the ceiling of someone’s score possibilities but raising the floor to get students really consistent even on bad days.

Bomb-proofing for the retake

Abby didn’t need more tutoring but wanted to schedule a few QA sessions to address any potential HW issues. In addition I made her a re-take schedule. As expected she kicked it in the teeth and continued to put up astounding numbers. I ran her through a set of extra tough official GMAT quant questions and a special set of quizzes that I call the “GMAT Quant Review Quizzes”. They are a big exception to our GMAT tutoring program in that they’re not official GMAT questions but ones that I wrote based on my experience having taken 8 GMATs. All that tough quant work got her in championship form. She was ready to rock. GMAT part 2: 720 q45 v44. She was thrilled and in a great position to apply to any MBA program on the planet.

720 to 750

Wait this post isn't over? Nope. A couple of months later my inbox lit up with an email from Abby: she wanted to improve the 720 to a 750! A 720 is a phenomenal GMAT score and not an auto-retake. As of 2019 it’s above the median for a great majority MBA programs and just a shade below the rest. A 720 is also not an easy GMAT score to improve. The higher your score the tougher it becomes to better. That said, an admissions officer from Abby’s dream school had mentioned that improving the 720 could help her chances. Considering her practice test scores, her ability, and her amazing attitude I also felt the 720 was worth a retake. Since she hadn’t touched the GMAT in months we revisited the LSAT for GMAT work to get her critical thinking sharp again. Then we did a lot of application on the quant, retaking the GMAT prep tests (quant only), getting through the question pack 1, and, once again, the review quizzes.

200 point improvement: GMAT 550 to 750

Her practice test scores were excellent peaking at a 740. Was she going to increase her score from a GMAT 550 to 750? Test day: GMAT 750! The quant stayed flat at a 45 but she earned a 48 on the verbal, well into the 99th percentile. It really shows how powerful the verbal side of things can be especially if you're eyeing mid-700 GMAT score. In this case it got her an extra 30 points! And that was likely just answering 2-3 more verbal questions correctly. At some point on the verbal side it’s just a matter of how much work you’re willing to do to eliminate all careless mistakes. Getting from a GMAT 550 to 750 is an astonishing feat. But given Abby's natural ability and ridiculous work ethic I wasn't surprised at her achievement. She gave a 99th percentile effort so hitting a 750 score, in the 98th percentile, was even a little bit of an underperformance.

GMAT 750 FAQ

750 GMAT Percentile?

As of 2019 a 750 GMAT score is in the 98th percentile. Keep in mind that GMAT percentiles change every year so come 2020 the GMAT 750 percentile may be different.

Is there a GMAT 750 Strategy?

The strategy for a 700, 720, or 750 is similar. It's just a question of how far you're going to push it. Often reaching a 750 score or above is more about perseverance than anything else (once you've checked all of the obvious boxes.)

GMAT 750 Study Plan?

Although getting a bit long in the tooth (based on the Official guide 13th edition) our GMAT study schedule will give you a sense for the type of work you may need to put in to achieve a 750 GMAT score. That said, your GMAT plan should be informed by your specific profile.

How to improve GMAT score by 200 points?

Increasing your GMAT score by 200 points is incredibly difficult and very few people will have the combination of talent, attitude, and perseverance to make it happen. That said, it is possible. The GMAT debrief above is a great example. In earning a Harvard GMAT score Thomas also improved over 200 points from a 510 to 720. And lastly, I improved my GMAT score by 200 points from a 580 to a 780. What factors make a 200 point increase more possible?

  1. Score breakdown tilted heavily to verbal. Generally the more asymmetrical the better.
  2. Low starting score. The lower the score the easier it will be to climb those 200 points. From 400 to 600 is generally much easier than 550 to 750 or the near impossible 600 to 800.
  3. Having plenty of time to approach the preparation in stages.

 

 

 

GRE vs LSAT: Law School Test Title Fight!

GRE vs LSAT

Here's the newest addition to our standardized test comparisons: GRE vs LSAT (the generalist vs the verbal assassin). Why bother with GRE vs LSAT? The LSAT has nothing to do with the GRE! Or does it? Ivy league law schools now accept the GRE, along with the GMAT and the LSAT for law school admission.

Yep, it's a whole new world out there. And to add to this standardized test fever dream we've got: digital LSAT (LSAT administered on a computer). So now all the major players have ditched paper.

Should you take the GRE or the LSAT? For law school take the LSAT, if you are considering applying to a general masters program take the GRE, or if you are applying to a joint degree program take the: GRE. LSAC, creators of the LSAT, are very upfront about what they think about the GRE vs the LSAT:

GRE vs LSAT image from LSAC page

Agree, disagree? Comment with any thoughts or questions!

Summary

-GRE vs LSAT debate is heating up since Harvard Law School announced it would accept the GRE

-The LSAT is harder than the GRE

-LSAT has more of a verbal reasoning focus and has no quant section

-The GRE has both verbal and quant

-The GRE allows to you apply not only to Law school but a range of other masters programs. It is the default masters school test.

-For Law school the LSAT is your best option.

-For joint degree programs GRE may be the easiest option

GRE vs LSAT Comparison Chart

GRE vs LSATGRE | 80 q's | 2 Essays | 3 hours 10 minutesLSAT | 125 q's | 2 hours 55 minutes
What’s it for?GRE = the definitive test for admission to general masters programs but is now also gaining traction for Law School and Business School.LSAT = the definitive test for Law School admissions
# of test takers?559,254 (2016). Only a tiny % for Law.62,931 (2018). All for law school.
What does it test?Verbal and quantitative reasoning skills.Verbal and Analytical reasoning skills.
Cost$205 (USA)$190
# of times per year5 times per rolling 12 months. 21 day gap between test. Unlimited per lifetime.Unlimited retakes. However, the LSAT is only offered 9 times per year on fixed dates.
Quant40q/70 min (2 sections)

5 answer multiple choice
-select one choice
-select multiple choices

Numeric Entry
-Test taker inputs answer

Question Types
-Problem Solving
-Quantitative Comparison
LSAT has no math.
Verbal40q//60 minutes (2 sections)

5 answer multiple choice

Question Types
-Text Completion (vocab)
-Sentence Equivalence (vocab)
-Reading Comprehension + Critical Reasoning
2x Critical Reasoning (22-25 questions, 35min)
1x Reading Comprehension (22-25 questions 35min)
1x Experimental (22-25 questions, 35min. Could be any of the three)
Logic GamesNew GRE has no logic games (Old GRE had them)1x Logic Games (22-25 questions, 35min)
ScoringQuant: 130-170

Verbal: 130-170

Essay: 0-6

The GRE has no composite score.
An overall score determined by combing all subsections. 0-180.
Score ReportingLSAC Credential Assembly Services (CAS) charges a one time fee of $195 to report your LSAT scores to as many schools as you like.GRE score select allows you to report any or all GRE scores. No fees apply. However, Law Schools have requested that ALL GRE scores be submitted.
ReschedulingMust be done at least 4 days in advance. $50 fee.$125. Must be done two weeks out from your test give or take a day or two (LSAT has specific cut off dates that change with the test administration).
CancellingMust be done at least 4 days in advance. 50% refund ($102.50).Refund: $50 (out of $190). Must be done two weeks (give or take a day or two. LSAT has specific cut off dates that change with the test administration).
Which is harder?All things equal: the LSAT is more difficult than the GRE.
Easier to study for?There is comparatively little official GRE study material to practice on. The LSAT is the tougher test but it is the easier to test to study for. Why? Tons of official LSAT practice questions available.
Tell me which test to take!!!!!!-Take the GRE if you have a great academic profile and really special application that would make it so a school was looking for a way to admit you even with lower test scores. The GRE doesn't factor into law school rankings.

-And: are you applying to other masters programs besides Law School? You may need to take the GRE.
Want to gold plate your app with the reigning monarch of Law school admissions tests? Take the LSAT.

On LSAT's page they do a hard sell:

"It is advisable for students who want to maximize their chances for admission to take the LSAT."
GRE vs LSAT score for top Law SchoolsLSAT Range for Top 10 is 163 to 175. Corresponding GRE scores below.

LSAT 163 Converted to GRE
GRE V152 Q170
GRE V152 Q169
GRE V153 Q168
GRE V153 Q167
GRE V154 Q166
GRE V155 Q165
GRE V155 Q164
GRE V156 Q163
GRE V157 Q162
GRE V157 Q161
GRE V158 Q160
GRE V158 Q159
GRE V159 Q158
GRE V160 Q157
GRE V160 Q156
GRE V161 Q155
GRE V162 Q154
GRE V62 Q153
GRE V163 Q152
GRE V163 Q151
GRE V164 Q150
GRE V165 Q149
GRE V165 Q148
GRE V166 Q147
GRE V167 Q146
GRE V167 Q145
GRE V168 Q144
GRE V168 Q143
GRE V169 Q142
GRE V170 Q141
GRE V170 Q140

LSAT 175 Converted to GRE (there is no 175 converted GRE so these represent 174)
GRE V166 Q170
GRE V167 Q169
GRE V167 Q168
GRE V168 Q167
GRE V169 Q166
GRE V169 Q165
GRE V170 Q164
GRE V170 Q163
For top 10 Law schools the LSAT range in 2016 was from 163 to 175.

Format

Now that the LSAT has moved into the modern age with a computer delivered exam, the LSAT and GRE have similar test structures. They're computer tests but behave as classic paper tests. You're not "locked in" after confirming an answer as you are on the GMAT. On the GRE and LSAT you can skip questions and go back to them. The GRE is slightly adaptive but not by question. So while you're working on a section there's no adaptivity. If you do well on an entire section then the next section will be tougher (vice versa if you don't do well on a section).

Starting in July 2019 the LSAT will be administered 9 times a year. That's it? Yep. If you have a bad day guess what? You have to wait about 5 weeks to retake. That's far better than the 3 months you used to have to wait pre-2017 (the LSAT was only given 4 times per year). The GRE, like the GMAT, is offered 365 days a year and can be retaken every two weeks an infinite number of times. Also, the GRE is by appointment so scheduling is much more flexible. The LSAT has 9 fixed days/times per year it will be offered. Overall, because of the stress associated with a somewhat rigid LSAT schedule, I'd say the LSAT format is more difficult. The GRE's flexibility makes studying easier.

Critical Reasoning

The LSAT critical reasoning blows the GRE CR out of the water. No contest. The LSAT is much tougher here. The questions are dense, the wrong answers are horribly tempting, and the timing pressure is unnerving.

Reading Comprehension

Again, it's a one punch knockout here for the LSAT. The LSAT reading comprehension can be absolutely bruising. Not that the GRE RC is a walk in the park but it seems like it compared to the LSAT. Like LSAT critical reasoning questions, LSAT RC q's can fog your brain and kill your score.

LSAT Games vs GRE Quant

We might have a draw here. If you're not a math person then you might find the GRE quant challenging. You need much more baseline knowledge to succeed on the GRE quant than the LSAT games. That said, the LSAT games logic can be quite challenging and in general the games require you to think more flexibly and creatively than the GRE quant which is a bit more content based.

Essay

The LSAT no longer has an essay. Well, actually, it does, BUT it's a take-home-essay. So you or someone you know can knock it out within a year of taking your exam. Pretty nice huh? It seems LSAC is trying to shed that old, dusty, archaic, we're running around in white whigs (in the UK), vibe. At some point it's going to be: score your own LSAT.

The essay's themselves are similar. GRE and LSAT essays do count for law school admission but less so than the rest of the score. And now that the LSAT essay is a homework assignment I can only assume it will be de-emphasized further. Do write some practice essays but essay prep should be secondary.

Scoring

Both the GRE and LSAT employ scaled scores and percentile scores. So you get a number that represents your absolute skill (scaled score) and then a percent representing how many people are above or below you (percentile score). The GRE sub-section scaled scoring is out of 170 which is confusingly similar to LSAT scoring which is out of 180. Why the GRE went its own way but also didn't really go its own way says a lot about the test itself. On the GRE there is no overall score. You only get subsection scoring. The LSAT is the opposite with no sub-section scoring (only an overall score).

GRE to LSAT Conversion

GRE to LSAT conversion is a mess. Why? The GRE has no overall score. The LSAT has no subsection scores. So it's very tough to compare GRE and LSAT scores. That said, ETS, makers of the LSAT have created a tool for LSAT conversion. Read the fine print and you find that conversion comes with a potential plus or minus 5 point error. That's a big swing. A 160 and a 170 are very different LSAT scores. That said, this conversion tool is what we've got and what admissions people are using to evaluate applicants for law school.

LSAT GRE Correlation

Does a GRE score correlate with an LSAT score?According to a study by ETS: "The correlation between the GRE scores and the LSAT score is quite high at .85". We answered a similar question in the GMAT vs GRE and GMAT vs LSAT comparisons from a test preparation perspective. At the upper end of the scale: yes. If you're annihilating the LSAT then it's not unlikely you'll do the same on the GRE and vice versa. The nuances are different. The LSAT is more verbal and logic. The GRE is more content and a mix of verbal and quant. Still, if you have great reasoning skills and generally do well on standardized tests you'll likely do well on the GRE and the LSAT. If you don't have an amazing track record with standardized tests then the official particulars of the test itself may matter more. In that case there won't be as much LSAT, GRE correlation as the details of each test start to matter more.

GRE vs LSAT Preparation

Here's where the LSAT is easier than the GRE: LSAT study materials are plentiful. There's an almost unlimited number of official practice questions to sharpen your reasoning skills to equal a fine Japanese chefs knife. GRE materials are scarce especially since the test has changed half a dozen times making older materials less helpful. If you are willing to commit your life to LSAT studying there's enough LSAT study material for a year of non-stop preparation. And, now that the LSAT has become the champion of test innovation, there's free Khan LSAT prep. Yes, you've read that correctly. LSAC and Khan have teamed up to do what Khan does best (well, not best, but he does it) provide free lesson videos.

No GRE Score Choice for Law School

The GRE offers score choice which allows you to select exactly which scores you'd like to send to schools. (sigh of relief). Not so fast! Harvard law school says "we want to see everything from the past five years". This is repeated about 5 times throughout their admissions FAQ. So, you can ping the GRE as many times as you like but beware that you are required to send all of those scores, duds and all, for consideration. And they claim that they do consider all of them. It's even recommended that if you believe one (or more) of the scores doesn't represent you in some that you provide an explanation.

How will they know if you don't submit all of your scores? Who knows. I don't think they can find out. But, if they do, don't expect to be admitted and they could report you to whatever governing body there is. I'd send them all of the scores and be done with it.

Something else to consider. If you've also taken the LSAT you must submit both your LSAT and your GRE scores. These guys are total control freaks. Makes sense that this is for law school. They want allllllll the evidence.

Is the GRE or LSAT better for Law school?

This is very similar to the GMAT vs GRE debate for business school and I think the answer is the same. The LSAT is the gold standard for law school. A top shelf LSAT score is the best thing for applying to law school in the same way that a stellar GMAT score is the best thing for an MBA. That said, there could a few reasons to go for the GRE over the LSAT:

  1. You just took an LSAT, panicked and failed, but need a better score for upcoming applications. The GRE may be your only option to polish up your application. Better a good GRE score than a crappy LSAT score.
  2. You're a quant whiz but not great at reading or critical reasoning. Why are you applying to law school?! Ok - moving on. In this case, it will likely be easier for you to get a much higher GRE score than LSAT score.
  3. You've been accused of a testing irregularity on the LSAT. GRE may be your only option.
  4. You're applying to other masters programs or a joint degree program. If you can get away with just taking one test then the GRE is a fantastic choice. Whereas there could be some bias towards LSAT for standard law school admission I doubt there is for the joint degree programs (part of the reason why GRE and GMAT have been brought into the law school fold).

What about the GMAT for Law school?

Here's our GMAT vs LSAT breakdown weighing the challenges presented by each test.

GRE vs LSAT Conclusion

With the GRE added to business schools and now the GRE and GMAT added to Law schools these are turbulent times in test prep. The motivations behind these decisions seem to point to money and power but the outcomes, I hope, will help give people options in what tests they can take for admissions and make the process easier.

For admission to law school I'd still recommend the LSAT. It's tough to believe that a GRE score will be given exactly the same consideration at this point. The LSAT is the standard so I would stick with it. Also, even though it it the more challenging tense there are tons of study materials and helpful LSAT books to get you closer to your ideal Law program.

If you're planning on a joint degree and both programs accept the GRE then go for the GRE without any regrets. I don't think a joint degree program would weigh one option as better than the other. Again, it seems that this is the big reason for the GRE (and GMAT) entering the law school market.

GRE vs LSAT FAQ

What GRE score do I need for law school?

That's unclear at this point. We don't have much information on the GRE scores of people admitted to law school.

Should I take the GRE or LSAT for law school?

Just for law school? The LSAT is the best choice but there are reasons why the GRE will be better for you.

Do I have to submit all of my GRE scores? What about GRE Score Choice?

GRE Score Choice is great. You can pick and choose what GRE scores you send to schools. However, some Law schools are requiring that you send all scores. So regardless of score choice, if you want to stay on the right side of things, you'll need to send all of your GRE scores.

What law schools accept the GRE?

Here's the list of law schools that accept the GRE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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