GMAT vs LSAT: A Comparison

GMAT vs LSAT - image by Magoosh

These are two standardized tests with which folks have to wrestle if they want to pursue certain professional careers.  The GMAT is the standardized test required by virtually all business schools, for entrance to MBA programs; typically, the folks who take the GMAT wind up pursuing careers in management somewhere in the business world.   The LSAT is the standardized test required by virtually all law schools, for entrance into JD programs; typically, folks who take the LSAT wind up becoming lawyers of some kind.


Differences between the GMAT and the LSAT

The GMAT and LSAT themselves are quite different, and even if you are well-prepared for one, you may not be particularly prepared for the other.   Both have Reading Comprehension, the most basic and widespread of all standardized test questions (all professionals need to be able to read — even doctors!)  Both the GMAT and the LSAT have a writing section, a single essay.   Beyond those, they diverge.

Perhaps the most striking difference: there’s no math on the LSAT.  Apparently lawyers don’t need to understand math?  Folks who take the GMAT have a full 75-minute Quantitative section, loaded with math — and no calculator! —- as well as a largely math-y Integrated Reasoning section, which is all about interpreting various combinations of data.   Numbers and data are very important in the business world, but not important in the law?  If the lawyers need someone to manage the numbers in their firm, I guess they hire a business person.

The LSAT is largely “verbal” — in addition to Reading Comprehension, they also have “Logical Reasoning Questions”, which are quite similar to, but typically slightly harder than, GMAT Critical Reasoning questions — in fact, if folks preparing for the GMAT have already exhausted their practice CR questions, and they want harder questions to practice, the LSAT Logical Reasoning questions are an excellent practice source.

The LSAT also has a category “Analytical Reasoning Questions” —- these are the sort of confusing logic puzzles that math nerds usually think are fun.  For example,

There are four houses on a street.  Al, Bert, Charles, and Dave live in them, but not necessarily in that order.  There are cars of four different colors — red, yellow, green, blue — not necessarily in that order.  There are four pets — dog, cat, goldfish, and parrot — not necessarily in that order.  The man with the goldfish does not live next to the person with the blue car.  Charles does not have a dog or a red car.  etc. etc. etc.

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It’s no surprise that future lawyers have to untangle fiendishly complicated logical knots.  For whatever reason, apparently business folks don’t need to be able to do this —- the logic of business is simple: it’s good to make money and bad to lose money!  If it’s anything more complicated than that, the business folks hire lawyers.

The GMAT also has Sentence Correction, which is a rigorous check of grammar and syntax.  While this is clearly important in the business world, apparently lawyers ain’t must to talk good.  Surprising, because a lawyer’s world is 100% verbal — one would think good grammar would be essential, but for whatever reason, the LSAT does not test grammar.


The bigger differences  between the GMAT and the LSAT

If you are applying to some joint JD/MBA program that accepts either test or demands both, then I hope the foregoing helped and I wish the best of luck to you!

If you have landed on this page because you simply can’t decide which direction to pursue, business or law, it sounds as if you have more important things to decide than just which standardized test you prefer.

The difference between life as a lawyer and life as a business person is huge.   The choice of one’s professional path can be one of the most impactful decisions in one’s life.   Choosing which career path to pursue based purely on the differences between the GMAT and LSAT is roughly equivalent to deciding whom to marry based solely on the footwear this potential spouse is wearing today.   It would not be the most sound or well-informed decision.

If you are really stuck, trying to decide between a life in the business world or a life in law, I would say — forget the tests.  Talk to lawyers and talk to business folks — get some inside perspectives.  If you enjoy, or are inspired by, being around the people in either profession, then that’s an excellent indication that should become one of them (BTW, if you don’t like the majority of people in a profession, that’s often a stellar reason to avoid that profession like the plague!). 

Remember, whatever profession you pursue, you will spend most of your life in the company of others of that same profession. —— Look at the courses offered in typical business schools and the courses offered in typical law schools: if the content of either of those curricula looks particularly appealing, that’s a good indication that it will prepare you for a career you enjoy; by contrast, if everything you need to study looks boring, then it’s hard to imagine that it will prepare you for something you will find fascinating.


Making the big decision

Those are some perspectives that may help.  Since this is, potentially, a major life-altering decision, I will share a few more thoughts.  The head, one’s intellectual and analytical capabilities, is excellent in the fact-finding phase of an important decision, but it’s not really the right “tool” to make the decision. 

You see, if you have decide between A and B, then the head can construct a series of flawless arguments about why A is the best, why A is the worst, why B is the best, why B is the worst, etc.  You can drive yourself crazy chasing these arguments in circles.  The head is designed perfectly for simple problem solving, but not necessarily for life-altering decisions.   I believe the best way to make any important decision involves shutting the head off. 

What do I mean?  Wait until you have a moment when you are calm and relatively unstressed, but awake and alert.   Breathe deep and simply focus on being relaxed.  It will help if you have practiced some mindfulness, especially toward your own thoughts. 

It will help if you have called into question some of your own stories.   When you are calm, relaxed, passive, aware of your breathing, aware of your body, then you may well become aware of deeper feelings, some kind of signal or image or voice from the body.  Some people experience this in their hearts, others in their solar plexus or deep in their gut.  Some people get spontaneous images, some feel vibes, and others actually sense an “inner voice.” 

You see, if your head has been weighing sides in a momentous decision, chances are very good that other, more fundamental levels of who you are, are ready to “weigh in” on the big decision, and you need simply to make enough space for these “voices” to be heard.  Many times, folks who had been confused or conflicted at the head level find that just one clear experience of the feeling in their core, in their center, is more than enough to decide the issue for good.

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The GMAT and the LSAT are very different, and not surprising, they prepare you for careers that are very different.   Questions about the tests?  Questions about anything I have said here?  Let me know in the comments below.  🙂

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14 Responses to GMAT vs LSAT: A Comparison

  1. Roland October 30, 2017 at 9:37 pm #


    I liked your discussions here about GMAT and LSAT. But I am more interested about LSAT. Anybody who can provide me techniques and other strategies about LSAT? Where can I get or avail the online LSAT for free? Honestly, I am preparing to take up UP LAE this February 18, 2018. In my situation, I am 50 years old, do you think I can still make it for the LAE considering I have a well -strategized preparation using LSAT? I need your advice guys.Honestly, it is my dream to become a lawyer so I could help those people in need especially those who do not have access for legal assistance.Thank you and God bless.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 31, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

      Hi Roland,

      Thanks for reaching out! I’m so inspired to hear about your plans for becoming a lawyer to help those without access to legal assistance–that is certainly a worthy and admirable goal! I would recommend that you check out our LSAT blog: We have plenty of free resources and materials, including study guides, practice questions and strategy posts. We also provide you with some recommendations for free LSAT resources: If you are looking for a high-quality and low-cost prep option, I recommend that you check out the Magoosh LSAT Premium program: You can start with a 7-day free trial to see if our program might work for you 🙂

  2. Harry April 9, 2016 at 8:44 am #

    Dear Mike

    Sorry for reviving this old post! I am an freshmen engineering major at a Uni in Australia. I took my first GMAT 4 months ago, and I am currently thinking about preparing for the LSAT. Do you have any idea about the correlation between GMAT score and LSAT score? My GMAT score is 760, with 51Q, 41V. How long should I study for LSAT to get 175+, given my background. I plan to take the LSAT in the 2nd year of college.
    Thanks! 🙂

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 18, 2016 at 10:55 am #

      Hi Harry,

      Happy to help! 🙂

      The LSAT has similarities with the RC and CR portions of the GMAT–the logical reasoning on the LSAT is very tricky, but you have a head start since you already prepared for the GMAT! You will still want to spend a while working on LSAT-specific practice given your 41V score–don’t underestimate how tricky the logic can be on the LSAT!

      I would say you can properly prepare for the LSAT in 2-3 months, especially with a good base built through GMAT prep. 🙂

  3. Ajay G October 6, 2015 at 11:52 pm #

    Three concerns with this article:

    1. I disagree with your statement that says there are MUCH more important things to consider when deciding to go to business school or law school than if you’re better at writing the GMAT than the LSAT. I disagree with this because it is VERY important.

    Knowing your strength for taking each test is crucial. Since many people are confused whether to go to business or law school they should know this.

    For example, in the USA, if you don’t score more than a 155 (67th percentile) on the LSAT you are generally unlikely to get into a top 50 law school (unless a rare case exists where the student has other exceptional qualities such as a 4.0 undergraduate GPA to go along with the 67th percentile LSAT). Getting into a top 50 law school (out of a country total of 203) is undisputedly critical for your future earning potential. However, if this same person instead writes the GMAT and can get in the higher percentile range (85-95 percentile) this sounds like a strong indication / reason that business school is a better option for them because of the earning potential factor and also because of the correlation of how well you do on these standardized tests to how well you do in the law or business school itself.

    Now one might be thinking that it seems improbable for the same person to get a 155 high score on the LSAT which beats 67 percent of the people but then gets a 90 percentile on the GMAT. This is not true. The tests ARE different as you stated – markedly in the amount of time given for the reading comprehension sections (45 seconds longer on the GMAT and the questions are generally easier than the LSAT up until you get up to the hardest level).

    Furthermore, significantly, the LSAT mainly tests how fast you can read and understand something with NO math. If someone has stronger math skills than linguistic ones then maybe they are more suited to the business world and thus doing well on the GMAT is a strong indication for them to pick up on that fact.

    2. The LSAT and the GMAT do both have writing sections but you have failed to note that they DO NOT count towards your score unlike the most popular standardized test – the SAT for undergraduate college admissions in the USA.

    3. I am not sure why throughout the article you refer to life after business or law school as professions. To most readers that will confuse them into thinking both will lead you to become a professional. Only after going to law school and passing the bar in a given state can you practice law and thus be a professional. Sure some definitions of profession define it to be your job or career. But a professional is someone who has occupational closure. This is the sociological term given to the process whereby a trade or occupation transforms itself into a true profession by closing off entry to the profession to all but those suitably qualified. For example, it is illegal to call yourself a lawyer if you’re not one. The same goes for being an architect or a doctor. You must pass an exam to be qualified for the profession. However, this is not true in business as there are countless businessmen and women who did not go to business school.

  4. Sandy June 9, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    Hello Mike,

    I am 21 one years old, about to graduate from college. For most of my life, I have had an eye set to take the GMAT to pursue an MBA. However, I have spoken to a few colleagues of mine in one of the top global insurance companies in the world, and they have mentioned obtaining a law degree in business would be huge considering the advantages that comes with understanding and working out contracts. I eventually want to work for a private equity or a hedge fund and understanding contracts would be imperative. What are your thoughts about a law degree in business? Thanks!

  5. Jane Iroagalachi December 2, 2014 at 11:16 pm #

    Thanks a million, the article was helpful. Pls, where can I find LSAT questions online?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike December 3, 2014 at 10:53 am #

      Dear Jane,
      You are more than welcome, my friend! 🙂 I’m glad you found it helpful! Unfortunately, I am not aware of any LSAT questions online, except for an odd few scattered in the GMAT forums. I think the best way to get LSAT questions is to buy one of the books, such as this one. I hope this helps. Best of luck to you!
      Mike 🙂

  6. Arm May 13, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    Hi Mike, Really nice article. I have 99% percentile on GMAT verbal. In general I liked GMAT verbal more than GMAT Quant. Do you think I will do equally well on LSAT if I work equally hard for it too? Thanks!

    On a different note, have you done any article on mindfulness meditation? If not I would be really interested in one. Thanks again! 🙂

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike May 14, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

      Dear Arm,
      I’m happy to respond. 🙂
      I must say, I am not nearly as familiar with the LSAT as I am with the GMAT, but I would say that if you scored 99% on GMAT Verbal, I would suspect that any Verbal test would be pretty straightforward for you, and of course, the LSAT is all Verbal. I would ask you: are you taking standardized tests recreationally, or do you have a goal? FWIW, I don’t believe any business schools accept the LSAT.

      Here are a few articles in which I touch on things about mindfulness meditation:
      Those articles are warm-up, but I don’t really go into great detail about how to begin a meditation practice. I would recommend books by Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Thich Nhat Hahn
      Good luck to you in all things, my friend.
      Mike 🙂

      • Arm May 15, 2014 at 4:40 am #

        Dear Mike,
        Haha! No I am not taking standardized tests recreationally. Though I must admit I love standardized tests. It would be a dream to be paid to do just that. But I am afraid I not good enough yet.:) It is a long term goal to go to a law school. Hence I asked.

        Thanks also for those article links and book recommendations. A friend also suggested a book recently: 10% Happier by Dan Harris.

        Thanks and all the best!

        • Mike MᶜGarry
          Mike May 15, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

          Dear Arm,
          Well, you are quite welcome. I am glad you found this helpful. Best of luck to you in your journey to law school!
          Mike 🙂

  7. caroline March 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    HI there,

    Which LSAT books do you recommend for more practice in reading comp? I am using Magoosh and studying for GRE, but want the harder questions to improve on honing in on more challenging portions…

    Thanks very much!

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike March 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      Dear Caroline,
      I would say your first choices for more RC practice should be the GMAT OG and the LSAT OG. For either of those books, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an earlier edition (which would be much cheaper) — you don’t need the most up-to-date OG of a test you aren’t taking! If you go on the two GMAT forums (, you also will find many free collections of further RC passages.
      I hope this helps.
      Mike 🙂

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