GMAT vs LSAT: Picking the Right Test for Your Future


When choosing a path toward graduate education, many students face the pivotal decision of whether to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). These exams are gateways to specialized careers in business and law, respectively. This article provides an in-depth look at GMAT vs LSAT, revealing key differences and insights into their formats, scoring, and the roles they play in graduate admissions. Additionally, we’ll provide valuable advice on how to prepare for each test effectively. By the end of this discussion, students should feel better equipped to decide which exam aligns with their aspirations and how to approach their preparation journey.

The Purpose of GMAT and LSAT

Understanding the GMAT: Management Focus

Aiming for a future in business management? The GMAT is your stepping stone toward an MBA or similar graduate degrees. This test assesses your skills in analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal communication. Put simply, it’s looking for the kind of sharp thinking and problem-solving abilities you’d need in the corporate world.

Understanding the LSAT: Law Orientation

Conversely, the LSAT is the go-to for aspiring lawyers. This exam tests your abilities to think critically and reason analytically, reflecting the skills necessary for success in law school and in the practice of law. It’s all about discerning a candidate’s potential to thrive in the demanding environment of legal education.

Target Audience for Each Exam

Those heading for global business schools typically opt for the GMAT. Meanwhile, the LSAT is a must for law school applicants, especially in the United States and Canada. Your career targets are the compass here — the GMAT is your ticket into the business arena, while the LSAT sets the course for a legal profession.

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Exam Structure and Content

Breakdown of GMAT Sections

Diving into the GMAT, you’ll face four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. The design of each section targets specific abilities required in business studies, from dissecting arguments to crunching numbers and evaluating verbal material.

Breakdown of LSAT Sections

The LSAT layout is different, with five sections focusing on reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. Add to this a non-scored experimental section and writing sample. This exam evaluates how well you understand and analyze complex texts and how adept you are at thinking through arguments.

Differences in Question Types

Both tests feature multiple-choice questions, but the GMAT stands out with its computer-adaptive format that alters question difficulty as you proceed. Conversely, the LSAT challenges you with intricate logical puzzles. These contrasting question styles mirror the different skills that each test aims to measure.

Scoring Systems

How the GMAT is Scored

The GMAT scores range from 200 to 800, adapting to your answer accuracy as you go. This smart scoring method is all about pinpointing your true ability level. Your essay and data interpretation skills are scored separately, adding more layers to your overall evaluation.

How the LSAT is Scored

LSAT results fall between 120 and 180, based solely on how many questions you tackle correctly — no penalties for wrong guesses here. Your raw score gets recalibrated to a scaled score, evening out differences across various test versions. The writing portion remains ungraded but is nonetheless vital for law schools assessing your argumentative prowess.

Interpreting Scores from Both Exams

Making sense of your GMAT or LSAT scores involves looking at your percentile ranking, indicating how your results stack up against other candidates. Scoring in the higher percentile range can make a world of difference in your graduate school applications.

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Registration and Scheduling

Registration Process for GMAT

To sign up for the GMAT, you need to set up an account on its official website, choose a convenient test center, and select a date. The good news is that this test is available throughout the year, giving you the freedom to fit it into your schedule.

Registration Process for LSAT

For the LSAT, your journey begins at the Law School Admission Council’s doorstep, where you’ll register and pick from the available test dates. The LSAT is held only a few times annually, so planning ahead is key.

Availability of Test Dates and Locations

Both the GMAT and LSAT offer an array of dates and locations globally. That said, it’s wise to book in advance to secure your spot, as test centers fill up based on demand.

Preparation and Study Resources

Recommended Study Materials for GMAT

When preparing for the GMAT, it’s smart to use official guidebooks, take advantage of online courses, and practice with past exam questions. Some learners find that a tutor or prep course gives them an extra edge.

Recommended Study Materials for LSAT

If the LSAT is your target, look into LSAT Prep Books and the LSAC’s official PrepPlus subscription. Online resources that mimic the digital LSAT environment can also be incredibly helpful. Similar to the GMAT, personalized tutoring or prep courses may provide additional support.

Tips on Preparing for Each Test

No matter which test you’re gearing up for, begin your prep early and stick to a consistent study timetable. Focus on your weak spots to make your studying more efficient, and don’t skimp on timed practice tests, as they’re key for building endurance.

Test-Taking Strategies

Strategies for Mastering GMAT Questions

To conquer GMAT questions, build a strong foundation in the basics and get comfortable with making educated guesses when needed. It’s also critical to get the hang of the computer-adaptive format and manage your time wisely to answer every question.

Strategies for Excelling on the LSAT

For the LSAT, hone your logical and analytical reasoning skills, practice reading dense materials, and become adept at diagramming logic puzzles. And remember, pacing yourself to deal with the tight time limits is just as important as mastering the material.

Time Management for Each Exam

Effective time management can make or break your exam performance. On the GMAT, keeping a steady pace from the start is key. With the LSAT, allotting time wisely and knowing when to move on from tough questions can help you cover more ground and boost your score.

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Relevance to Admissions

Role of GMAT Scores in MBA Admissions

In the MBA admissions arena, your GMAT score can be a tipping point, showcasing your quantitative and verbal skills. If other parts of your application are less remarkable, a stellar GMAT score could be your golden ticket.

Role of LSAT Scores in Law School Admissions

Similarly, a robust LSAT score is a cornerstone of your law school application, acting as a universal yardstick of your reasoning abilities. It’s often a decisive factor for entry into prestigious law programs.

Comparing the Weight of Exam Scores in the Application Process

GMAT and LSAT scores are vital components of your application, but they aren’t the end-all-be-all. They’re part of a broader picture that includes your GPA, work history, personal statement, and recommendations. The emphasis on test scores can vary widely between schools and programs — some may rely on them more heavily than others.

Choosing Between GMAT and LSAT

Factors to Consider When Deciding Which Test to Take

Deciding between GMAT vs LSAT requires weighing your career goals, the requirements of your preferred institutions, and where your academic strengths lie. Reflexive consideration of each exam’s demands and your own abilities will guide you to a well-informed choice.

How the Exams Influence Career Paths

Your test choice maps out your career trajectory, with the GMAT leading to business opportunities and the LSAT to legal professions. The competencies highlighted by each test shape your academic and vocational journey.

The Case for Taking Both Exams

Taking both the GMAT and LSAT is an unconventional route that may be considered by those straddling the fence between business and law or for unique programs that value interdisciplinary backgrounds. This path, however, requires a considerable commitment of time and effort and should be weighed carefully.


As we have seen, the GMAT and LSAT are pivotal for entry into graduate programs in business and law, each with distinct focuses and assessments. Prospective students should recognize the impact of these tests on their educational and career pursuits. Making the right choice between GMAT vs LSAT, along with thoughtful preparation, will set students on a course to achieve their career goals. With the right information and a strategic approach to study and test-taking, graduate school candidates can face these exams confidently and navigate toward their chosen professions.

Frequently Asked Questions about GMAT vs LSAT

What are the main differences between the GMAT and the LSAT?

The GMAT is designed for prospective business school students and includes sections on analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal communication. It uses a computer-adaptive format where question difficulty adjusts based on performance. The LSAT, aimed at law school applicants, tests critical thinking and analytical reasoning through reading comprehension and logical puzzles, without computer-adaptation.

How are the GMAT and LSAT scored?

The GMAT scores range from 200 to 800 and adapt to your answer accuracy, with separate scores for essay and integrated reasoning. The LSAT scores fall between 120 and 180, based on the number of correct answers. Both use percentile rankings to compare your results with other candidates.

Can I choose when to take the GMAT or LSAT?

Yes, the GMAT is offered throughout the year, and you can select a test date that fits your schedule. The LSAT is held only a few times a year, so you need to plan ahead and register for one of the available dates.

What are some effective preparation strategies for the GMAT and LSAT?

Begin preparing early, maintain a consistent study schedule, and focus on weak areas. Use official study materials and consider a prep course or tutor for both exams. Practice timed tests to build endurance and familiarize yourself with the exam format.

Should I consider taking both the GMAT and LSAT exams?

While most students choose one based on their career goals—business for GMAT, law for LSAT—taking both could be an option if you have interdisciplinary interests or are considering programs that value a diverse educational background. However, this requires significant dedication and resources.

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