If graduate school is in your future, there’s no time like the present to start researching deadlines and application requirements. Many programs require graduate entrance exams, which means you have to plan ahead.

For our Career Focus this month, let’s focus on preparing for graduate entrance exams since some graduate programs, including Chapman’s Attallah College of Educational Studies, have deadlines early next year.

Graduate School Entrance Exams

The purpose of a graduate entrance exam is to gauge your potential knowledge and experience in a future career. They do not measure your personality, values, or self-worth. Your scores are one of the factors admissions considers as it evaluates your whole application package.

Some graduate programs require the generalized GRE (Graduate Record Exam), whereas others require field-specific exams such as the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) for MBA programs, LSAT (Law School Admission Test), and CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test) and CSET (California Subject Examinations for Teachers) for California teaching credential programs. Refer to your prospective graduate programs’ admissions requirements to determine which exam(s) you need to take, the minimum or goal score(s), and the deadlines for reporting your scores(s).

Lastly, before going any further, note that graduate school admissions requirements are subject to change so recheck each respective program’s website periodically for any updates. 

Test Prep Guide

The purpose of the steps listed here is help you map out your study plan so you allow enough time to prepare for your exam. Everyone student is different though, and this is not meant to dictate what or how to study. Review the available resources before deciding what will work for you.

  1. Take a timed practice test (without studying) from the official testing service to get an accurate benchmark of how you’d currently do.
  2. Review your practice test results to see which area(s) you need to work on.
  3. Refer back to your program’s website to decide what would be an ideal score range for each section and the deadline to submit final scores.
  4. Decide how many times you can take your exam. About 2 to 3 times with a month buffer is a good rule of thumb. Keep in mind that most exams need 2 to 8 weeks to scan, grade, and send your scores.
  5. Once you’re ready, register for your first official test date (and testing accommodations, if applicable) and mark it on your calendar.
  6. Look over the most recent test prep resources and determine if you prefer to self-study ($0–$$) or sign up for a test prep course ($$$–$$$$).
  7. Select a test prep plan based on your needs, and create a calendar with your test prep schedule.
  8. Aim for realistic and manageable weekly and monthly goals (1–5% growth), and target at least 2 to 3 specific areas or concepts to improve on/master.
  9. Follow the plan, assess yourself every few weeks, and revise it as necessary.
  10. The night before your exam, briefly review the concepts and get a good night’s sleep. Cramming right before isn’t productive.

Throughout this process, make sure to pace yourself and practice self-care.

If you need to retest, no worries! Repeat steps 4 through 10.

Final Thoughts

For more tips and links to testing websites, check out the full Test Prep Guide. The full guide includes free and paid test prep resources, study schedules, and other relevant resources.

Earlier Career Focus and Attallah College articles also cover a range of topics that may be useful as you explore future career path, whether or not it includes grad school:

Attallah students and alumni looking for one-on-one assistance can contact Chapman’s Career and Professional Development Office for help exploring career paths in education, community organizations, and beyond.

We also encourage you to follow Attallah College on LinkedIn for regular career tips, job listings, and industry news.