GRE vs. MCAT (Meaning, Similarities, Differences, Scores)6 min read

Selecting the right organized test for post-graduate studies is an important step towards one’s future career. However, graduates will need to decide between “GRE vs. MCAT,” as both are used for admissions.

GRE and MCAT are tests for students wanting to further their education or, in other words, add another degree to their bachelor’s. If you are applying to medical schools (for both MD and DO), you must pass the MCAT.

At the same time, if you choose to go to a post-graduate school to get a Master’s or doctorate, you will most likely be required to get the GRE.


What is GRE?

GRE stands for Graduate Record Examinations. The GRE test is a more generalized test approved for various master’s and doctoral programs. It is recognized worldwide as the most widely accepted post-graduate entrance test.

The exam checks students’ abilities in verbal thinking, mathematical reasoning, and analytical writing. However, it is regulated by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and has been in operation since 1949.

Every year, over 700,000 graduates write the GRE. The test is computer-based, although paper-based testing is available in places where computer testing is not available.


What is MCAT?

MCAT stands for Medical College Admission Test. MCAT is a top-rated test that applicants into healthcare professions are expected to write before admission into a medical school.

It is monitored by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and has played a central role in post-graduate school admissions for more than 90 years.

The MCAT comprises four sections:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Critical analysis
  • Reasoning.

First Section:

The first section, biological and biochemical foundations, tests the student’s ideas of elements such as cells, organs, and complex tissue systems.

Second Section:

The second section highlights the chemical foundations of living organisms. It consists of questions on complex chemical interactions and molecular dynamics.

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Third Section:

The third section explores the psychological and sociological foundations of human behaviors. It covers questions about biology, how culture, and influencing behaviors of society.

Fourth Section:

The fourth section assesses the student’s mastery of science-related research projects and higher analytic skills.

However, students should better understand scientific principles, reasoning, problem-solving, and research design. However, it will cover statistical reasoning and research-based mathematical concepts.

To date, almost all medical schools in the United States and Canada require students to take the MCAT as part of their application process.

Subsequently, other schools of health professions have also begun accepting MCAT scores in graduation applications.

GRE vs. MCAT: Similarities

  • The GRE and MCAT are standard tests. This means that the same questions are asked to all applicants. Their answers are also graded according to the same criteria.
  • The two tests are used as entrance exams; administrative use them to decide which students should enter their graduate school.
  • Both exams are computerized– meaning they will be written via a computer system.

GRE vs. MCAT: Differences

The differences between the exams can be analyzed in terms of purpose, duration, format, and cost.

  • MCAT tests everything from problem-solving and critical thinking to written analysis skills. Students will need to have a broader understanding of basic and advanced scientific concepts and principles.

Conversely, the GRE only contains similar cognitive examinations that test students’ verbal, analytical and quantitative reasoning.

  • A good number of business schools request GRE scores for admission acceptance. In contrast, the MCAT is a compulsory test for all potential medical students.
  • The fees for the GRE test change depending on one’s location; in most parts of the world, it is $205.

If students fix their test in advance, the MCAT costs $320. If they wait up to eight days before the test date to register, that price goes up to $375. Some test participants may incur an additional registration fee of $115, depending on their location.

What’s a Good Score for GRE and MCAT?

A good MCAT grade is 508 points for the four parts. Good GRE scores look like: Writing section is graded 4.0; Verbal section grade is 155; Quantitative section grade is 156.

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A “poor” grade on the GRE or MCAT score is below the program’s threshold in which one wants to enroll in. The bottom 10% of GRE test takers get less than 139 in the verbal part and less than 141 in the quantitative section.

The bottom 10% of MCAT test candidates score between 488 and 491.

Is the GRE or MCAT easier?

Compared to the MCAT, the GRE is generally seen as easier. It does not require special knowledge in any particular area but covers a wide range of less demanding questions.

It assesses cognitive and reasoning skills more than specific prior knowledge. There’s also a writing area in the GRE that requires candidates to write two analytical essays.

Students planning to take this exam should practice writing GRE-style essays based on sample prompts.

Do medical schools need the GRE?

In most cases, medical schools do not require incoming students to take the GRE. The MCAT is the standard test that most applicants must take for admission.

Which test should you take?

After covering the MCAT vs. GRE argument in great depth, anyone should be able to recognize the entrance exam required for their next steps. This depends on the four following criteria:

Your desired degree: 

Before deciding which degree you would like to acquire, think about it. If you are pursuing a medical career, there is no reason not to write the MCAT.

But, if you start having any doubts, then it is advisable to write the GRE. You can use it to apply for other programs.

The test duration:

The MCAT is almost twice as long as the GRE, which is not necessarily bad:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems takes 1 hour and 35 minutes.
  • Chemical and Physical Basis of Biological Systems takes 1 hour and 35 minutes.
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior takes 1 hour and 35 minutes.
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills takes 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Time in GRE:

Quantitative Reasoning into two 35-minute sections; Verbal Argumentation is two 30-minute sections; Analytical Writing is 1 hour.

The MCAT’s length is both a benefit and a hindrance to test takers. It gives you time to think, but it also takes away your focus.

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Content knowledge and skills:

While the GRE and SAT share some similarities, such as testing reading comprehension skills, their content is vastly different.

The MCAT tests your knowledge, so you don’t always have to write. However, you’ll need to brush up on your reading comprehension for both assessments.

At the same time, when you are completing the MCAT, you can greatly depend on your previous knowledge.

Exam dates: 

You can take the GRE year-round, while the MCAT test is only available from January to September. However, you don’t want your exam preparation to be an unnecessarily stressful experience.

If you are still unsure about applying to medical school, it may be worth taking the GRE and delaying the MCAT prepare for the time being. GRE scores are valid for five years, while MCAT scores are valid for only three.

So you can take the GRE first and see if you want to take the MCAT. However, this could be a good idea if, in the end, you decide to go into a healthcare-related field like public health rather than going straight to medical school. 


The GRE tests a student’s thinking and analytical skills. The MCAT does this too but goes further by examining complex medical and scientific findings.

Deciding which exam to apply to depends on which school you want to attend and what career you want to pursue. If you’re only applying to a medical school, write the MCAT.

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