Should You Take the MCAT or the GRE?

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Rebecca Nolan

Group Content Manager

Undergraduate students discussing with each other about MCAT and GRE

Choosing the right standardized test is crucial for students pursuing a career in healthcare or other fields. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are popular tests students opt for when applying for medical or graduate programs.

While the MCAT is designed for aspiring medical students, the GRE is taken by students applying to graduate schools in various disciplines. However, deciding which test to take can be challenging, with overlapping subject areas and varying requirements.

This blog post aims to provide an in-depth analysis of both tests, their similarities and differences, and factors to consider when deciding!


The MCAT is a standardized test that evaluates students’ knowledge in subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, and critical analysis and reasoning skills. It is primarily taken by students who want to pursue a medical career. 

On the other hand, the GRE evaluates students’ verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. It is taken by students who plan to pursue graduate studies in various disciplines such as engineering, social sciences, business, and humanities.


When looking at MCAT vs GRE, they do assess different skills, but there are some similarities between the two tests:

  • Firstly, both tests are standardized and computer-based.
  • Secondly, they are administered by the same Educational Testing Service (ETS) organization.
  • Lastly, both tests use multiple-choice questions to evaluate students’ knowledge and skills.
A girl stressing over her decision - she has to choose MCAT or GRE

Difference between GRE and MCAT

The GRE and MCAT have significant differences in terms of the test structure, content, and requirements:

  • Firstly, the MCAT has four sections, each lasting 95 minutes, while the GRE has six sections, including an experimental section, lasting about 3 hours and 45 minutes.
  • Secondly, the MCAT assesses students’ knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, and critical analysis and reasoning skills. In contrast, the GRE tests students’ skills in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing.
  • Thirdly, the MCAT requires students to have completed specific coursework, such as biology, physics, and chemistry, while the GRE has no specific course requirements.
  • Lastly, the MCAT is primarily taken by students who want to pursue a medical career. In contrast, the GRE is taken by students who plan to pursue graduate studies in various disciplines.
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Sections and Topics of MCAT vs GRE

Here’s a table comparing the sections and topics of the MCAT and GRE exams:

MCAT Sections

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological SystemsGeneral chemistry, physicsAtomic structure, periodic trends, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, kinetics, fluids, electrochemistry, circuits, optics
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living SystemsBiology, biochemistryMacromolecules, cell structure and function, metabolism, genetics, evolution, ecology
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of BehaviorPsychology, sociology, biologySensation and perception, cognition, emotion, motivation, social processes, personality, disorders, social structure, inequality, culture
Critical Analysis and Reasoning SkillsN/AComprehension, analysis, and evaluation of passages

GRE Sections

Analytical WritingN/AAnalyze an issue, analyze an argument
Verbal ReasoningN/AAnalyze and draw conclusions from discourse, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and among words and concepts
Quantitative ReasoningArithmetic, algebra, geometry, data analysisBasic arithmetic, algebraic expressions, equations and inequalities, functions, geometry, data analysis
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MCAT vs GRE: Factors to Consider

When deciding whether to take the MCAT or GRE, it’s essential to consider a few factors that can influence your decision:

Firstly, if you plan to pursue a medical career, the MCAT is required for most medical schools in the United States and Canada. The MCAT evaluates your knowledge and skills in subjects essential for a medical career, such as biology, physics, chemistry, and critical thinking. Therefore, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in medicine, you’ll need to take the MCAT and perform well on it to be considered for admission to medical school.

However, some medical schools may accept the GRE instead of the MCAT, although this is relatively rare. Before deciding to take the GRE instead of the MCAT, it’s essential to research the specific medical schools you’re interested in and find out whether they accept the GRE.

If you plan to pursue graduate studies in fields other than medicine, the GRE is the most widely accepted test and is a requirement for most graduate programs in the United States and other countries. The GRE assesses various skills relevant to graduate programs, including verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.

Medical Schools that Accept GRE

Here’s the list of medical schools that accept GRE scores:

  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University School of Medicine
  • Emory University School of Medicine
  • George Washington University
  • Harvard Medical School
  • John Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Midwestern University
  • Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
  • Stanford School of Medicine
  • University of Florida
  • University of Iowa โ€“ Carver College of Medicine
  • University of Southern California โ€“ Keck School of Medicine
  • University of Washington โ€“ Seattle
  • University of Wisconsin โ€“ La Crosse
  • UT Southwestern Medical Center
  • Wake Forest School of Medicine
  • Yale School of Medicine
A boy is reading a book in the library about MCAT and GRE

Bottom Line

In conclusion, choosing between the MCAT and GRE can be daunting for students planning to pursue graduate studies in healthcare or other fields. While both tests share some similarities, they differ significantly regarding the test structure, content, and requirements.

It is essential to consider several factors before deciding which test to take, including your career aspirations, program requirements, and academic background. Ultimately, the decision to take the MCAT or GRE should be based on your specific needs and goals.

If you are still trying to decide which test to take, consider taking practice tests for the MCAT and GRE. These tests can help you gauge your strengths and weaknesses and give you an idea of which test may better fit you. Additionally, you can seek advice from academic advisors, professors, an MCAT tutor or students who have already taken either test.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

โ†’ Is the GRE harder than the MCAT?

It is difficult to say whether the GRE or MCAT is more challenging, as they are designed to test different skills and knowledge. The GRE is primarily focused on assessing general analytical and verbal reasoning skills. At the same time, the MCAT is designed to measure knowledge and skills in specific areas related to the study of medicine. Both exams are challenging and require significant preparation and study to achieve a high score.

โ†’ What is the difference between MCAT and GRE?

The GRE vs MCAT distinction primarily lies in their targeted academic paths: the MCAT is tailored for prospective medical school students, focusing on biological and physical sciences, critical thinking, and social sciences, while the GRE is designed for a broader range of graduate programs, assessing verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. The MCAT is a longer, more specialized exam, essential for medical and other health-related fields, whereas the GRE caters to a wide array of disciplines, from humanities to engineering.

Scoring differs significantly between them, with the MCAT scored from 472 to 528 and the GRE’s verbal and quantitative sections scored from 130 to 170, plus an analytical writing score from 0 to 6. Essentially, choosing between the GRE and MCAT depends on whether a student’s postgraduate ambitions lie in medicine or another field of graduate study.

โ†’ Can I take both the GRE and MCAT?

Yes, it is possible to take both the GRE and MCAT. However, deciding to take both exams would depend on the individual’s academic and career goals. The GRE is typically required for graduate school admissions, while the MCAT is required for medical school admissions. If an individual plan to pursue both graduate and medical school, then taking both exams may be necessary.

It is important to note that preparing for both exams simultaneously may be challenging and time-consuming, so it is essential to plan and allocate sufficient time for studying and preparation for both exams.

โ†’ How long does it take to receive MCAT or GRE scores?

After taking the MCAT or GRE, it usually takes a few weeks to receive your scores. The exact timing can vary depending on a few factors, including the testing center and the date you took the test. However, MCAT scores are typically available 30-35 days after the test date, while GRE scores are available 10-15 days after.

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Rebecca Nolan
Group Content Manager
Certifications: BA History of Art, PGCE Education, PGC Advanced Educational Practice
Education: University: University of East Anglia
Lives in: London

Rebecca studied at History of Art at UEA before deciding on a career in education. Having worked with children from 3-18 years old, she has worked both in the UK and international schools including Dubai and Zurich, where she was Head of Primary. Rebecca has extensive knowledge in curriculum design and has worked with various curricular models including English National Curriculum and International Baccalaureate.

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