Grace Nasri

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How to Ace the GMAT, LSAT or MCAT Without Spending a Fortune

By Grace Nasri | For

In a tight economy, a graduate degree from a top school is often essential for landing a great job. But getting into a prestigious graduate program isn’t easy. Regardless of what you want to study—whether it’s business or medicine—getting top scores on your entrance exams is key if you hope to get accepted into any of the top ranked programs.

Luckily, there’s a lot you can do if you’re unsatisfied with your scores on practice exams. There are dozens of test prep courses on the market today; but that doesn’t mean they’re all alike. Choosing the right course could mean the difference between acceptance and rejection – and if you’re operating on a budget, you have to choose strategically.

For those planning on applying to business school, medical school, or law school, the information that follows will help you choose a prep course that fits your needs.

Business Schools

business school

The job market for business school graduates is on the upswing, and an MBA from the right institution opens up executive opportunities in professional fields across the board. Last year, more than half of business school graduates had a job in hand when they received their degree. And while the average B–school grad can expect to pull in an average of about $91,500 their first year on the job, there is a lot more money on the table for graduates of a top ten MBA program. For instance, the average Stanford MBA brings in a base salary of $125,000 their first year out, according to Stanford’s own reports.

A graduate degree from one of the top 10 business schools is one of the best ways to ensure a high paying job at a Fortune 500 company. But if you want to secure a spot at a top school, you first need to distinguish yourself with your GMAT scores. Although the total number of MBA program applicants decreased in 2011, the academic quality of those that did apply is higher than ever.

While a typical top program usually has between 600-800 openings, a truly elite program like Stanford only has about 230 openings per year. Considering more than 250,000 people take the GMAT every year, very few applicants have a realistic shot at a top 10 program. No matter how many people take the GMAT, only the brightest and most prepared will do well enough to land one of those spots.

The average GMAT score for Harvard MBA students is around 730. The number goes up to the 740 range for Stanford students. In fact, you need at least a 710 on the GMAT just to keep up with the competition at the tenth highest rated business school, UC Los Angeles.

But those numbers are no reason to panic. There are plenty of high quality, and relatively cheap GMAT classes out there, especially for the disciplined student. The Revolution self-study program only costs $249.00. This package includes 25-plus hours of recorded lessons, five practice tests, and 10 section-length quizzes. It’s also possible to land a great deal from one of the larger test prep companies. Kaplan Test Prep is currently offering their GMAT Advantage − On Demand course for only $400.00.

Law Schools

law school

A law degree from just any school is no longer enough to guarantee employment once you graduate. The numbers indicate that while there are 45,000 new law school graduates every year, there are only about 30,000 actual jobs in the legal field waiting for them upon graduation. Although this trend actually caused the number of applicants to dip 11.5% to just over 66,500, this underscores the importance of graduating from a top program in the current job market. And while around 63% of law school applicants do find a spot somewhere each year, the top programs accept less than 10% of their applicants. This places added importance on scoring high on the LSAT.

The average LSAT score is around 150, but you'll have to do significantly better than that to be accepted into one of the best law schools. It takes around a 173 to get accepted to law school at Yale. And you will most likely need to score above a 165 to get into a top 15 school such as the University of Michigan or the University of Minnesota.

If your scores aren’t yet in that range, and you don’t have a lot to spend, cheap LSAT classes, such as the Nova Press LSAT Online Course, start out at only $49.95. And even highly-touted test prep options, such as The Princeton Review LSAT Online Course, can be found for under $500.

Medical School

medical school

There are few fields of study more competitive than medicine. To earn a spot in one of the nation's best medical schools, you'll need both excellent grades and a high score on the MCAT. Last year, nearly 44,000 students applied to medical school, but less than 20,000 were accepted. And naturally, it gets even harder to find a spot in a top ranked program.

Health care legislation and a decrease in federal funding for teaching hospitals in 2013 are leading to profound changes in the job market for medical school graduates. There is a growing need for qualified physicians, but only the best will break into specialty areas. And that cannot be done without conquering the MCAT first.

While the average student scores in the range of eight on each of the three sections of the MCAT, students who go on to apply to medical school earn around a 10 per section. And if you want to gain acceptance to a highly coveted program, such as the University of San Francisco School of Medicine, you'll have to do better than that.

MCAT classes tend to be expensive relative to other test prep courses, but there are some relatively cheap MCAT classes. At $499.00, The Princeton Review's MCAT Verbal Accelerator online is the cheapest course available. After that, there is a significant price jump, but both The Princeton Review and Kaplan Test Prep offer a variety of options for under $2,000.

Grace Nasri received her BA in Political Science and Global Studies at UC Santa Barbara. She then went on to receive her MA in International Relations from New York University. After graduating, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she worked as an Assistant Editor at an international Iranian newspaper. Grace currently lives in New York City, where she works as the Managing Editor at Her articles have been featured in The Huffington Post, Reuters, VentureBeat, Technorati, Women2.0 and other publications. Visit to see a full list of her work.