Dedicated studying key to passing grad school entrance exams

By Kendra Loh

Graduate school entrance exams such as the Graduate Record Examinations, Graduate Management Admissions Test and Law School Admission Test are often intimidating to undergraduate college students who are confused about which of these to take and how to prepare for them.

“The GRE is the primary entrance exam for graduate programs, ranging from the field of theology to social work,” said Justin Phillips, special assistant to the vice president for Student Services.

He said some programs at the master’s level and nearly all doctoral programs require one of these entrance exams.

However, Phillips said the GMAT is primarily for earning a Master in Business Administration degree, while the LSAT is a law school entrance exam.

Phillips, who has experience helping past Union students gain entrance to graduate school, said every school and program has different requirements on each exam, and some schools will tell the applicant explicitly the minimum score they expect of their entering class.

“Guides like U.S. News and World Report’s annual graduate school report will typically have the average scores for a number of schools,” Phillips said. “You have to take it seriously. Too many students tell me, ‘I have the GRE in two weeks, so I need to start preparing.’ This is a recipe for a mediocre to bad score, unless you happen to know what words like ‘obsequious’ mean off the top of your head. The GRE is vocabulary-heavy and also requires you to brush up on high school geometry.”

Phillips also added that the LSAT “games,” as they are referred to, are like a new language to students.

Phillips recalled studying with note cards while waiting for the bus, during lunch and walking to work, and he suggested students do the same. He also advised Union students to make an appointment with Career Services and explain their goals so they can get help.

Hannah Clardy, junior biblical languages major, has taken the LSAT and said she prefers to study for graduate school exams by buying books such as Baron’s, Princeton Review and College Board, which offer study guides. She also said taking practice tests helped her better pace her timing for the examination. Clardy took the free GRE practice test offered by the Hundley Center on April 2.

“I will most likely repeat the GRE to try and raise my score, no matter what it is the first time,” Clardy said. “Like it or not, graduate schools rely heavily on test scores, and obviously the higher the score, the better the school.”

She said studying for graduate school exams is never fun but school breaks are a great time for studying. Standardized tests measure test-taking skills, so practicing the questions is crucial to being prepared for the exams.

The Hundley Center partners with Kaplan to offer GRE and GMAT preparatory events during April. Interested students can register by sending an e-mail to

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.