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The GRE vs LSAT Comparison

gre vs lsat

How do the GRE and the LSAT compare? In the classic match up of the GRE vs LSAT, a few important differences and similarities quickly emerge. For starters, the GRE and the LSAT have very different objectives. A person taking the GRE could be doing so for a variety of reasons: going to a master’s program, a PhD program, or even business school. They could be studying anything from Shakespeare to nuclear physics! The LSAT, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as broad in its goals. Anyone taking the LSAT is doing so for one reason alone: attending law school.

But in other ways, the GRE vs LSAT comparison leads to a handful of similarities. Both involve reading difficult passages and drawing conclusions from them, for example. Let’s look more closely at some of the differences and similarities between GRE and LSAT.

GRE vs LSAT: The Similarities

Reading Comprehension

Both the GRE and the LSAT include a reading comprehension component, and the two exams are very similar on this point. On the LSAT, just like on the GRE, you’ll read a passage (or two), and then answer a series of question about the passage(s). It’s really very nearly identical to the GRE’s Reading Comprehension questions. In fact, if you’re studying for the GRE, it might be worthwhile to use some LSAT resources to enhance your studying!

Logical Reasoning

The LSAT has a specific section called “Logical Reasoning,” while in the GRE logical reasoning-style questions are merely a subset of the Reading Comprehension section. In style, though, the two exams are very similar: you are asked to logically evaluate an argument. The only difference is in quantity. The LSAT includes a much greater proportion of this type of question than the GRE does.

Writing

Both the LSAT and the GRE ask you to write at least one essay as part of your exam. The similarities between the two exams really stop there, though, because the style and content of the two writing assignments are very different.

GRE vs LSAT: The Differences

Writing

You’re not seeing double here — writing has both similarities and differences in comparing the GRE to LSAT. The GRE, for starters, has two essays: the argument and the issue essays. Each is also scored. On the LSAT, however, you only have one essay, and it isn’t scored, but it is sent to universities along with your score. The LSAT essay requires coming up with a solution to a complex scenario.

Scheduling

You can take the GRE at virtually any time of the year. Besides holidays, you can almost always find a spot to take the GRE at your local testing center — assuming you register in advance. The LSAT is only available on a much more restricted schedule. In most locations, it’s only available four times per year.

Paper vs Computer Administration

If you’re a fan of the old-school, paper-based, fill-in-the-bubble-style test, then you’re in luck with the LSAT, but not the GRE. Unlike most standardized exams, the LSAT is still a paper and pencil exam. This has implications beyond small issues like screen viewing and hand-cramps from too much penciling. Because the GRE is on a computer, it’s able to be an adaptive exam. (Surprised to hear the GRE is taken on a computer? Review our complete guide to the GRE to learn more of the nitty gritty GRE details.) The difficulty of the questions varies from section-to-section based on performance on an earlier section. Obviously, the LSAT is a static exam that can’t change mid-way, because it’s on paper.

Vocabulary

Knowing vocabulary won’t hurt for the LSAT, but vocabulary is a major difference in the GRE vs LSAT comparison. While the GRE explicitly tests your knowledge of difficult vocabulary, the LSAT does not. You can put away the flashcards if you’re studying for the LSAT.

Math

This one is simple — the GRE has entire sections of math questions. The LSAT has no math at all.

Conclusions

Overall, the GRE vs LSAT side-by-side reveals that the two exams are quite different. A student who does well on the GRE’s reading comprehension section is likely to enjoy the LSAT, and vice-versa. But the similarities stop there. The vocabulary section of the GRE and its math components bear no resemblance at all to the LSAT. Even the basic logistics of the exams differ, with one being paper-based and the other computer-based.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2013, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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7 Responses to The GRE vs LSAT Comparison

  1. Deeksha October 6, 2015 at 5:42 am #

    Hey.
    I am a law student and next year will be my last year. I am really confused regarding what i want to do next. I am thinking of pursuing the field of cyber law and the same time i want to improve my writing skills. What should i go for?

    • Siddharth October 8, 2017 at 9:57 am #

      I am a cyber risk management professional , trying to get back to school [Law] for career advancement. I have two graduate degrees, One is Computer Science and Another one in Management Information Systems, Will I be in disadvantage in the application process as i don’t have any Law background? Also, I am not sure where to and how to start. I thought Magoosh was a great point to initiate the discussion since you guys helped me in my last grad school admission. Please let me know your thoughts.

  2. Justine B November 3, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    Do you recommend formal test prep or is self study sufficient for either or both tests?

  3. E October 22, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    How similar are the RC passages and questions on the LSAT to those on the GRE. I’m mostly wondering if using LSAT RC passages to practice for RC on the GRE would be helpful.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 22, 2013 at 11:46 am #

      Hi E,

      Yes, I think LSAT passages and questions def. overlap well with the GRE, esp. on the one long passage you will get test day. There will be question types that are different on the GRE, though there are few such questions. You’ll also get a smattering of shorter passages on the GRE. Otherwise, the logic and approach you use on both tests is very similar.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Shannen Spiess July 19, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Hi, I’m going to be a senior in September and I dont have an exact plan to go to grad school as soon as I graduate, I just want the scores in case things dont go the way I plan when I graduate.

    I’m trying to decide whether to take the GRE or the LSAT. I’m majoring in English so needless to say i SUCK at math and I’m really good at words, reading comprehension, and verbal stuff. Does that mean I should take the LSAT instead?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

      Hi Shannen,

      Taking the LSAT, though it might play more to your strengths, severely limits the grad programs you can enter. Basically, the LSAT is only valid for law schools. Sure, the GRE math will be tough–at least at first–but with a good GRE score your options are wide open: anything from b-school to just about any field of grad study that is not medicine or law.

      Hope that helps!


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