Applying to medical schools? Unlike most students, you then have a choice. You can take either MCAT or GRE, as both are used for admissions.
But which one is better—or easier? And which should you take?
To determine that, we’ll compare the two tests and list their key differences.
MCAT vs GRE: Introduction
The MCAT (The Medical College Admission Test) is the holy grail of testing for medical schools but isn’t accepted by other programs for grad students. 
The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) is a more general test accepted by most graduate programs. 
MCAT and GRE: Overview of similarities
|MCAT and GRE: Similarities|
Both are standardized tests. This means all test-takers are given the same questions. Their answers are also evaluated using the same criteria.
Both are also used as entrance exams, i.e. committees use them to decide which students should get into their graduate school.
Lastly, the two exams are computer-based. They’ll be administered to you through a computer system and adapted according to your abilities—just like the GMAT.
MCAT and GRE: Overview of differences
The main difference between the MCAT and the GRE is that the GRE is a general admission test that can be submitted to most schools. The MCAT is for individuals aiming to become Doctors of Medicine (MD), but it's not valid for other masters or Ph.D. programs.
|MCAT and GRE: Differences|
|Administered by||AAMC (American Association of Medical College)||ETS (Educational Testing Service)|
|Test dates||Offered around 30 times during the year (January-September)||Offered year-round|
|Purpose||Medical college admission test||Graduate schools admission test|
|Length||7 hours and 30 minutes||3 hours and 45 minutes|
|The validity of the scores||3 years||5 years|
|How many times you can retake the exam||3 times a year, 7 times in a lifetime||3 per year|
“Nine-tenths of education is encouragement.”
– Anatole France
What’s a Good Score for MCAT and GRE?
A good MCAT score is 508 points for all four sections.
Since the GRE is split between three subject areas, you’ll also get three separate scores. Here’s what good GRE scores look like:
- Writing section score - 4.0
- Verbal section score - 155
- Quant section score - 156
Which Test Should You Take?
It depends on these four things:
1. The degree you want
Before you make your decision, consider the degree you want to earn.
The MCAT is valid only if you’re applying to a medical school, while the GRE can be used for any graduate school.
If you’re determined about pursuing a medical career and becoming an MD or DO, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take the MCAT
But, if you’re having second thoughts, take the GRE. You can use it to apply to more programs.
2. The test length
The MCAT is almost twice as long as the GRE, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems - 1 hour, 35 minutes
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems - 1 hour, 35 minutes
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior - 1 hour, 35 minutes
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills - 1 hour, 30 minutes
Let’s see how the time’s divided on the GRE:
- Quantitative Reasoning - two 35-minute sections
- Verbal Reasoning - two 30-minute sections
- Analytical Writing - 1 hour
The length of the MCAT is both an advantage and a disadvantage for test-takers.
While it gives you more time to think about the questions, it’s also draining and kills your focus. Which type of test-taker are you?
3. Your content knowledge and ability
While the two tests have some similarities—for example, they both evaluate your reading comprehension skills—there’s a big difference between their content:
- The GRE evaluates your abilities and is similar to the SAT.
- The MCAT tests your knowledge—which is partially why you don’t have to do any writing on the MCAT.
In both cases, you’ll have to brush up on your reading comprehension. But, if you’re taking the MCAT, you can mostly rely on your background knowledge.
4. The test dates
How much test prep do you need? Because you can take the GRE year-round, while the MCAT is only available from January to September.
You don’t want your test prep to be an unnecessarily stressful experience. You’ve already got enough to worry about—obtaining your master’s or PhD degree.
If you’re like most people, you learn better under stress-free circumstances, so make sure you have enough time to study by choosing an appropriate test date.
Read More: GRE Format Explained
The Key Takeaway
Deciding which exam to take comes down to the school you want to attend and the career path you want to pursue. If you’re only applying to a medical school, take the MCAT. It shows the program that you have relevant knowledge and skills.
The GRE can serve the same purpose but is more general. It contains two sections that aren’t really relevant to a medical school: the analytical writing and the verbal sections.
However, many programs do treat the MCAT and the GRE as equals. Then the GRE might be a better option. It’s cheaper, shorter, and less difficult.
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