Understanding Canadian Grad School Admission Tests
Discover what admission tests are common when applying to grad school, how you can study, and what scores to aim for.
Have you been thinking about the next phase of your life after your undergraduate degree? Are you considering going to grad school? The application process for grad school can be more complicated than when you applied to your undergrad. One of the steps you may need to take when applying to grad school is taking an admission test.
Find out what admission tests are common in Canada, which programs may require them, how you can prepare for your test, and what scores you may need to succeed.
The Educational Testing Service offers two test options for the Graduate Record Examination: the GRE General Test and the GRE Subject Test.
GRE General Test
The GRE General Test is commonly used for graduate, business, and law school programs, and is meant to measure your academic readiness for grad school by testing your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. The GRE General Test is composed of five sections of questions, which takes one hour and 58 minutes to complete.
You can prepare for the GRE General Test using the sample questions and strategies on how to succeed for each section: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. There are additional resources that can help you study for the test, like online practice tests, test prep video presentations, and strategies and tips. You can take the GRE General Test up to five times in a 12-month period. It’s recommended that you study for at least two to three months before the test.
If you’re curious as to what score you should aim for in each section, just remember that it can depend on the school and program you’re interested in. Every school has different standards, and what is considered too low for one program could be perfect for another. However, the average score test takers (pdf) have received is a 150.94 in the verbal reasoning section, 155.44 for the quantitative reasoning section, and a 3.56 for the analytical writing portion.
GRE Subject Tests
The GRE Subject Tests are designed to measure your knowledge and skill level in a specific subject. The Subject Test is available in the following fields of study: mathematics, physics, and psychology.
The mathematics test includes approximately 66 multiple-choice questions which you’ll have two hours and 50 minutes to complete. The physics test consists of about 70 five-choice questions, based on such materials as diagrams, graphs, experimental data, and descriptions of physical situations, which you’ll have two hours to complete. The psychology test has about 144 multiple-choice questions which you’ll be required to complete in two hours.
If you want some additional resources on how you can prepare for the GRE Subject Tests, check out the free GRE Subject Test Practice Books. It’s recommended that you spent two to three months studying in preparation for the test.
Your score will be presented as a total score based on the number of questions you answered correctly. The average GRE Subject Test taker received a score of 674 for mathematics, 715 for physics, and 620 for psychology. You can take a GRE Subject Test once every 14 days if you’re unhappy with your score.
The Graduate Management Admissions Test, run by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, examines your critical thinking and reasoning skills relevant for business programs. Currently, students can take the GMAT exam, but as of January 31, 2024, the GMAT Exam will be replaced by the GMAT Focus Edition. The GMAT Focus Edition is comprised of three sections: quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and data insights, which you must complete in two hours and 15 minutes.
The GMAT Focus Edition is scored based on your total performance of all three sections, with a range from 205-805. The average GMAT Focus test taker scored a 546.01. However, the higher your score, the more competitive of an applicant you’ll be. You can take the exam up to five times in a 12-month period to boost your score.
You can use additional resources, like practice exams, to simulate the exam experience, check out what types of questions will be asked, and receive answer explanations for questions you get wrong.
The Medical College Admission Test, run by the Association of American Medical Colleges, assesses your critical thinking and problem-solving skills in the field of medicine, as well as natural and social sciences concepts.
The MCAT is a multiple-choice exam which consists of four sections:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.
The MCAT is scored from a range of 472 to 528. The average MCAT score from test takers from 2020-2022 was 501.3. However, if you have a score in the middle range of the scale or above, then you’re likely to succeed in medical school.
You can prepare for the MCAT exam using prep materials from AAMC, Khan Academy, university courses, or other commercial prep courses. The AAMC offers free practice exams, and other paid practice products. Khan Academy offers free, online video lessons and test questions. It’s recommended that you spend no more than six months studying for the exam.
The best time to take the exam is the year before you apply to medical school. So, if you want to start in the fall of 2025, then you’ll take the exam in 2024. If you think you may retake the test, then the earlier in the year you take it, the better! You can take the MCAT exam up to three times in one testing year.
The Law School Admissions Test, run by the Law School Admission Council, assesses the skills most needed for succeeding in law school: critical reasoning, reading comprehension, and persuasive writing.
The LSAT consists of a multiple-choice and written section, which takes approximately three hours to complete. As of August 2024, the LSAT will have changes to the multiple-choice format. The new version of the LSAT’s multiple-choice section will have two logical reasoning sections, one reading comprehension section, and one unscored section of either logical reasoning or reading comprehension. The current LSAT’s multiple-choice section includes one logical reasoning section, one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and one unscored section of any of the above section types.
Your LSAT score will fall into a range between 120 and 180. Most schools don’t require a minimum LSAT score to apply, but some may share the average score of their successful applicants. For example, the University of Ottawa says that most of their successful applicants earned a score of at least 158.
You can study for the LSAT using practice tests and tutorial videos offered by LSAC. You can also use free lessons and practice questions from Khan Academy. It’s recommended that you spend at least three months studying to prepare for the LSAT.
If you want to apply for a fall start, then you’ll need to have taken the LSAT by January of that year at the latest. You can retake the exam up to three times in a single testing year, so if you think you might retake the exam, then get started earlier in the year.
The Dental Aptitude Test, run by the Canadian Dental Association, measures your academic ability, scientific understanding, and perceptual ability. The DAT is an online exam with 210 multiple-choice questions that takes three hours to complete. It consists of three tests: Survey of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability Test, and a Reading Comprehension Test.
You can prepare for the DAT by purchasing the Canadian Dental Association’s preparation manual which includes details on what the tests cover and sample tests. It’s recommended you spend three to four months studying to prepare for the exam.
Your DAT score can range from 1 to 30. You’ll want to aim for a score around 19-20 or higher, as many schools have minimum requirements around there. For example, in the past, UManitoba’s minimum DAT average for 2022 was 19.5 for Manitoba applicants and 22.5 for out-of-province applicants, and Dalhousie accepts a minimum score of 19.
You’ll need to register for the exam six to eight months before dental schools need your scores, and write the test at least eight weeks before you need your scores. You can take the DAT exam up to three times in a 12-month period.
The Casper Test, run by Acuity Insights, is used by schools to get a better idea of your personal competencies. This is a situational judgement test used to measure your social intelligence and professionalism.
The Casper Test takes approximately 90 to 110 minutes to complete and is divided into two response sections: video and typed. For the video response section, you’ll be presented with six scenarios — both word and video-based — which you’ll have 30 seconds to reflect on, 10 seconds to read the question, and one minute to record your response. The typed section includes eight scenarios — both word and video-based — which you’ll have 30 seconds to reflect on and five minutes to type your response.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see what score you’ll receive. You’ll only receive your quartile scores, which means you’ll see where you placed in relation to everyone else who took the test at the same time as you. You should aim to score in the fourth quartile so that you’re a competitive applicant. The higher your score, the better!
One of the best ways to prepare for the Casper Test is by familiarizing yourself with the test format and complete a practice test. But, since this test analyzes your situational judgement, it can be difficult to study for. Acuity Insights recommends not using third party prep courses as it can actually worsen your test performance. You can only take the Casper Test once each admission cycle.
These admission tests are the ones you’ll most likely come across. There are no alternatives to these tests, so when a school asks for the LSAT, they mean the LSAT administered by the LSAC. Keep in mind that each one of these tests will require a registration fee.
With the right amount of preparation, admission tests shouldn’t be that scary! In some cases, you may even need to complete more than one admission test. For example, many medical schools ask for their applicants to complete the MCAT and Casper exams. Just remember that every school and program will have different expectations and requirements for your test scores. What could be considered a low score at for one program could be a competitive score for another. Do the best you can!
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