Those of you who follow the PowerScore blog know that I most frequently write about the LSAT and law school related topics. However, PowerScore also offers GMAT books, GMAT courses, and GMAT tutoring, and so I spend time in the GMAT world as well. If you've ever studied the GMAT, you know that both the Critical Reasoning (CR) and Reading Comprehension (RC) sections of that test are very similar to the LSAT Logical Reasoning (LR) and Reading Comprehension sections. But whereas the makers of the LSAT have released thousands of questions that can be used for studying, the makers of the GMAT have released relatively few questions overall (there are just three Official Guides, and the GMAT Prep software contains basically two GMATs. Aside from three sets of "retired" paper tests, that's about it). Thus, GMAT students often run out of questions when studying, leaving them at a loss especially if they struggle with CR or RC. However, there is an excellent solution.
Because GMAT CR and RC are built in the same format as LSAT LR and RC, GMAT takers can successfully use past LSAT PrepTests and question collections for study purposes. The two question types have a large amount of overlap, and thus using questions from the LSAT gives you the same look and feel as if you were using GMAT questions. Aside from that, why are LSAT questions so useful? Because LSAT questions have been made by professional psychometricians and tested on thousands of students in a live, high-stakes environment. Plus, the logic behind a concept such as an Assumption is fairly universal and doesn't change from one test to the other. In other words, LSAT questions undergo a rigorous and expensive testing process, are psychometrically valid, and often feature the same concepts as GMAT questions. They are the closest thing to GMAT questions without actually being GMAT questions.
This does not mean that GMAT and LSAT questions are identical. There are some differences, and you should be aware of them prior to using LSAT questions for GMAT study purposes:
- LSAT LR and RC questions tend to be more difficult than the corresponding GMAT questions. This one can be an eye-opener if you aren't aware of it beforehand. The general difficulty level of the LSAT when it comes to LR and RC is higher than that of the GMAT, so you have to keep that in mind when using LSAT questions as practice. You may see your percentage of correct answers drop a bit because of it, but that's nothing to worry about. As it turns out, that higher difficulty is actually a desirable thing: it's always better to study with more challenging materials because then the real thing seems easier.
- LSAT problems tend to use language and ideas in a more precise way than the GMAT. This phenomenon often makes an appearance in harder questions, but I've always felt the use of language and the presentation of concepts on the GMAT is "looser" and less precise than it is on the LSAT. This makes some sense, because the law itself is built on the precision use of language, and while business certainly requires the same at times (especially in contracts, which are again in the legal world), language is not built into the process in quite the same way.
- The LSAT includes reasoning and question types that do not appear on the GMAT. This one is important in order to avoid wasting valuable study time. For example, the LSAT will occasionally test Formal Logic in Logical Reasoning problems but the GMAT never tests that reasoning type. In other areas, such as conditional reasoning, the LSAT tends to present a wider range of ideas, and to test those ideas in a more advanced form than the GMAT (which tests conditional reasoning only occasionally, and in a fairly rudimentary form). On the other hand, the GMAT tests Numbers and Percentages far more frequently than does the LSAT (again, this makes sense because business is much more about numbers than is law).
Because of the differences above, simply taking previously released LSATs in whole (which are called "PrepTests") can be challenging. One way around this is to use books where the questions are separated into groups based on question type. In these books, all of the Weaken questions are collected together, all of the Must Be True questions are in a different section, and so on. That helps focus your studying because you can avoid certain reasoning types, such as the aforementioned Formal Logic. Alternately, you can use the score analysis of each LSAT PrepTest (such as those found here), and then do only the questions that correspond to those found on the GMAT).
Now, if it makes sense to use LSAT questions when studying the GMAT, should you use GMAT questions if you are studying for the LSAT? The answer is No, and the reasons why not are the same ones listed above. In addition, there are so many LSAT questions available (over 8450 as of this writing) that very rarely do LSAT students run out of source material while preparing. Consequently, if you are studying just for the LSAT, don't worry about studying GMAT questions.
Lastly, what if you are taking both tests, perhaps in pursuit of a JD/MBA degree (or even if you are still trying to decide whether you should get a JD or an MBA)? In that case, which exam should you take first? The answer to this is quite clearly that you should take the LSAT first, then take the GMAT afterwards. Preparing for the LSAT first will give you a broader and deeper knowledge of Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension, and then when you get to the GMAT, the Verbal section of that test will seem easier (that said, GMAT Sentence Correction questions are no joke, and require serious study so take that into account).
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