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The “What” and “Why” of a Graduate Business Education

Think business is just about investment banking, consulting, or sales? Think again. Business is everywhere and woven into every aspect of our lives. With every transaction we make, we’re doing business. An M.B.A. or other graduate business degree will help you develop the leadership skills, business acumen, and networking opportunities that are valuable to today’s competitive landscape and your career.

With a graduate business degree, you’ll gain an edge in the job market, command a higher salary, and enjoy new and challenging opportunities. No matter your career goal—advancing or changing your current career, starting your own business, or helping those in need—a graduate business degree can help you get there faster.

Be the CEO of your career

The true value of an M.B.A. or other graduate business degree lies in what it means to you. It will go beyond the financial rewards to offer great potential for personal and professional development, satisfaction, and achievement. In fact, the majority of full-time M.B.A. alumni from the classes of 2000–2012 agree that their degree was personally, professionally, and financially rewarding. Just take a look at the numbers below.

  • More than four in five alumni across all graduating years strongly agree that they make an impact at their company (86%), are engaged with their work (85%), and have challenging and interesting work (85%).
  • 95% of M.B.A. alumni would recommend their programs to others, and 96% are proud to have attended their graduate business program.

No undergraduate degree in business? No problem

Not having an undergraduate degree in a business-related field will not put you at a disadvantage over students who did earn their undergraduate degree in business. The M.B.A. (or any other graduate business degree, i.e., master’s degree) is a professional degree that does not require an undergraduate foundation in a business-related field for admission.

Five reasons to get a graduate business or management degree

  1. Boost your career. Career advancement, satisfaction, increased earning potential, and preparation for leadership positions are a few career boosters.
  2. Add value. Progressively challenging and interesting work, developing managerial skills, and starting your own business are just a few exciting opportunities within your reach.
  3. Land a job. A higher percentage of business school graduates secured jobs before graduation.
  4. Earn more. In 2013 graduates of full-time one-year programs expected an average (median) pre- to post-M.B.A. increase in salary of 79%.
  5. Remain competitive. Demand for talent is strong and companies are hiring and recruiting graduate management students

My Dissertation Go Bag

I am a pretty creative person. However, my creativity reaches superhuman levels when it comes to avoiding my dissertation. I’m too cold; I’m too hot. Neither of my desks in my apartment feel right today, nor does my kitchen table or couch. I need more light; I need less light. Whatever comes up, I know I can justify skipping out on writing because of it.

In order to ensure I actually get writing done on a regular basis, I carefully plan my work schedule in advance, block out time and utilize work timers, set up workspaces in my home that I want to be in—all things that make working on my dissertation easier to do. Sometimes this means leaving my apartment completely and working for a while out in the world, like at the library, a coffee shop, or outside somewhere. Nevertheless, my propensity to avoid writing follows me.

That is why I keep my Dissertation Go Bag by the door. Like its namesake, the emergency go bag, this backpack is ready to go at a moment’s notice and has everything in it (except my computer) I need to survive a writing session at the library or coffee shop. This means that I am always prepared to get to work, which minimizes any excuses I might create to avoid writing.

Here is a list of items that I keep in my Dissertation Go Bag, items that make it easier for me to write:

Scratch Paper: Although I do most of my writing on the computer, sometimes I need to map out an idea, create a checklist, or scratch some sentences out by hand. Keeping an inexpensive spiral notebook in my bag means I am ready for any sort of form my writing will take. Also, I keep a stack of blank 3×5 index cards. Sometimes, when I am stuck, jotting ideas on the cards and physically moving them around the table helps me visualize a difficult section.

Pencil Pouch and All the Pens: In a similar vein, I store a stationary store’s worth of pens, pencils, highlighters, and erasers in my bag.  A few weeks ago, I actually left the library because I didn’t have enough highlighters to, in my mind, properly color code my notes. Having a variety of options easily accessible means I have fewer excuses like this. Plus it justifies having a cute pencil pouch, which definitely helps me be more productive.

Extra Power Cords: Let’s say you’re in the library or have just settled into a coffee shop, you’ve set up your computer, stacked some books up, and gotten your favorite pen out—you’re ready to work! Until, that is, you realize your computer is about to die. There is nothing worse! After forgetting to bring my computer cord a couple of times, I bought a new one specifically to keep in my Go Bag. Also, I added a phone charger, too. This way I’ve always got power when I’m ready to write.

Sticky Notes in Every Size: Do I need to remember to pick up something at the grocery store on my way home from working? I have a sticky note for that. Do I need to mark a passage in a book? I have a sticky note for that, too. Do I need to add something to a cramped page of notes? Yup, I have a sticky note for that. Keeping a load of different style sticky notes in my bag means that I can be 3-dimensional in my writing, making life easier and minimizing work-curbing distractions.

Earplugs/Earphones: Despite your best intentions, writing in public requires, well, a public. From noisy children to weirdly humming lights, there is a whole array of distractions out there that you can use as an excuse to not get any work done. In my Go Bag, I have anticipated this! I have several sets of earplugs, my preferred method for tuning out the word, and a pair of earphones (that I use with my favorite white-noise app). Like the computer cord, these are extras, meaning they always stay in my bag so they are always there when I need them.

Snack, Preferably Something Chocolate: Hunger (or the illusion of hunger) is an easy excuse to end a writing session early. That’s why I make sure to keep a couple of nut-heavy granola bars, preferably ones dipped in chocolate (duh!), in my bag. They give me a hit of protein and sugar to keep my energy up, a dose of chocolate to up my endorphins, and are easy to eat quickly in the library stairwell.

Empty Water Bottle: Like with the snack, you can’t let thirst put you off working. So keeping a water bottle in your bag insures you stay productive and hydrated. Plus refilling my water bottle is one of my favorite study breaks, because it only takes five minutes and reminds me to stretch and move around a bit.

$10 Cash: Coffee doesn’t buy itself, so I keep a little bit of cash tucked into my Go Bag for caffeine-related emergencies.

A Scholarly Sweater and Typing Gloves: Sitting in one place for a few hours, especially one as cold as a library, can be profoundly uncomfortable. To protect myself, I keep a sweater in my Go Bag. But it isn’t just any sweater. Oh, no! It is the perfect writing sweater: cozy and loose fitting with extra-long sleeves. If you are prone to getting cold, I would also recommend keeping a pair of fingerless gloves in your bag. That way you can keep your hands warm and type at the same time.

How to Be a Successful Grad Student: Insider Advice

Young man working on his computer wearing glasses and a beanie.

You want to be a rock-star grad student: Good grades. A scholarship darling. Future employers banging down your door. And you’re totally on top of your personal life and stress levels too…

Okay, first of all, we’re pretty sure that student doesn’t exist. But what do you need to do to get close? How can you be a successful grad student in general? A grad school expert shares his top tips from the inside.

Congratulations! You are getting ready to start your graduate program of study.

And you should celebrate the achievement of getting in and allow yourself to be excited about the eventual payoff when you graduate. But make no mistake—the path between now and then is arduous.

The graduate work load will be heavy, even daunting, at times. You will have numerous reading assignments, projects, papers, and more to complete, as well as other program requirements of which to keep track. And, of course, you will need to keep up with your financial and other obligations. All in all, there will be quite a bit on your plate. But, I assure you, you can rise to the challenge with a little preparation and determination.

Here are some tips for ensuring a successful and personally fulfilling graduate student experience:

Allow yourself time to adjust—and try to relax

Graduate school represents a major life change. And major changes, even good ones, carry with them a certain level of stress.

Some graduate students move to a new city with very few, if any, friends or acquaintances. Some leave a full-time job, change their living situation, and/or dramatically alter their financial status. And, of course, there are the new responsibilities of graduate study. In the beginning it can be a bit rocky, which is why it’s important to have realistic expectations and carve out time for self care.

I remember when I started my master’s program: I had been out of college for two years, was a newlywed, and was moving away from my home/family/friends all at the same time. I took a job filling orders in a nearby warehouse while my wife worked as a secretary. We had one car, and at the beginning our work schedules overlapped to the point that I had to walk a mile to my wife’s job to pick up the car when I finished my shift. It was a lot to handle all at one time, and for several months I felt displaced and disoriented. Gradually I adjusted to my new home, graduate institution, job, and married life! But I have to confess, it probably would have gone a bit more smoothly if I had relaxed a bit more and gone with the flow.

Of course, this is easier said than done for most graduate students! But it’s important to take things one step at a time. Be thoughtful as you encounter new challenges. Time management and careful planning are essential to succeeding in grad school—but your attitude can make all the difference. Resolve to be calm, prepared, and patient with yourself, especially as you begin your graduate journey.

Fast forward to when I started my doctoral program: I had been out of graduate school for five years and for the first time in my life was taking classes on the quarter system (three academic terms per year), rather than the semester system (two academic terms per year), which was an adjustment. Also, I had left a well-paying full-time job and was back to working part time again—also quite the adjustment. However, being a bit more mature and experienced definitely helped me weather the changes. I was not as stressed as I had been years earlier. I felt more relaxed and, as a result, made the transition more smoothly and quickly.

Set priorities and stick to them

This is your graduate degree. And you need to determine what you want from this experience.

On one side of the spectrum, some graduate students will want to spend their time primarily reading, studying, and doing research, often independently. On the other end of the spectrum, some students may be doing their graduate degree for more pragmatic reasons, i.e., adding a credential to their résumé and networking. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, only you can and should set your priorities. There is no right or wrong answer; it is about what you want to get out of this experience.

However, keep in mind that graduate study offers a chance to delve into issues, ideas, authors, concepts, research, and debate in ways you may never experience again. While research is important and advancing your career is admirable, do not miss the amazing opportunities you will have to broaden your horizons by focusing solely on one or the other. Take advantage of what your institution, professors, and peers have to offer. That being said…

Don’t try to do everything at once

Very few people I know are able to do everything well all the time. As you set your grad school priorities, be careful not to set them so high that you end up being unable to maintain them, and as a result feel like you have failed in some way. Think realistically about what you can and cannot do.

As previously noted, I worked part time during my first year of master’s study; I then worked full time during my second and final year. I was newly married. And I had made friends with many of my graduate classmates and wanted to spend time socializing with them. In short, I did not expect to get straight A’s—a prescient realization. I ended up graduating with honors, but some of my classmates had a higher GPA than I did. That was okay with me.

Similarly, I worked part time during my first two years as a PhD candidate and full time thereafter. I went through a personal crisis in my second year of study and some other major life changes in the years that followed. I was not able to devote 100% of my time to my academic program, so I lowered my expectations in that area and ended up with a few B’s. However, I still graduated with honors, having made some wonderful friends along the way—and maintaining my sanity.

Know what to do when things get frustrating

There is no perfect graduate school. As you become part of your institutional community, you will likely encounter some less-than-thrilling experiences and notice some “rough spots” that could (or should) be addressed by your school. These could come from inside or outside the classroom.

In these instances, be careful not to be a doormat and just let things happen around you that you have the ability to help to change. At the same time, resist the temptation to respond in such a way that you are perceived as argumentative, unreasonable, a complainer, or a troublemaker. Work to find realistic solutions with various stakeholders.

Here are some examples of how to deal with some challenging grad school scenarios:

  • If something happens that you believe is wrong (abuse, harassment, unfair treatment), report it. Document your experiences in writing whenever possible. Refer to your student handbook for policies governing appropriate conduct, abuse, and harassment. Follow the procedures set forth in these policies, and remember that your confidentiality will be maintained.
  • You have observed poor customer service somewhere on campus, or you are personally affected by a policy or procedure that does not seem to make sense. This may be the time to share your experience with school administrators. They welcome feedback from students when it is honest, sincere, respectful, and carries with it a realistic suggestion for improvement. They want to know when things are not working and usually will take steps to correct the situation.
  • You have an idea that you believe would help make things better at your institution. Share it with appropriate individuals, perhaps with several of your fellow graduate students. If there is a consensus that this idea would help, send a letter to the president or chief academic, financial, student affairs, marketing, admissions, alumni, etc. officer. Volunteer to help put the idea into action if at all possible.
  • You receive a grade you do not believe is fair. Again, remember that faculty members are not perfect. They may make a mistake or simply overlook something. If you feel you know the faculty member well enough, speak with them directly about your concerns. If not, you can consult with an academic advisor or someone on campus who is identified as a student advocate (sometimes called the student ombudsman). They will keep your conversation completely in confidence and provide helpful input.
  • You have a class that you believe is poorly taught or managed, and/or in which the professor exhibits arrogance, weak interpersonal skills, lack of knowledge, etc. You believe the class is a poor investment of your time and money. Low-hanging fruit: if there is survey at the end of the class, be sure to respond. Your comments will be kept in strict confidence. If you know other students share your views, encourage them to complete the survey too. If you believe the issues deserve more time and attention, go to the academic or students services office and ask what options you have in reporting the matter to the chief academic officer.

If you need help, ask for it

Do not be too proud to ask for help when you need it. That is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Do you believe you need some academic help? Talk to your professors. Are you struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression? Reach out to advisors and campus health center staff. Are you experiencing financial difficulties? Contact the financial aid and bursar offices at the first sign of trouble. Holding things in and not addressing growing issues will only result in more difficulty down the road.

Toward the end of my doctoral program I took my very first accounting course. It was extremely challenging for me. I asked the professor if I could attend both sections of the class—mine and the one he taught on weekends. He said yes. I sat in the front row, joined a study group, and in the end got an A in the class. When I encountered some major financial struggles during the second year, I connected with a wonderful staff in the financial aid office and over time things worked out.

Emotional and/or psychological struggles can be particularly draining in grad school. While it is sometimes hard to admit you need help or act on once acknowledged, do not berate yourself. Speak with a trusted member of the faculty or administration at your institution, a loved one, and/or your physician. Get the help you need, including professional help, if warranted. If finances are an issue, there are many therapists whose fees are based on income. Many universities offer free counseling services for up to a certain number of visits. Be assured that just as with academic and medical information, any discussions about therapy and the session itself remain totally and completely confidential.

Get comfortable “adulting”

While this advice may not apply equally to all graduate students, the point here is not to look at graduate school as a re-visitation of college. Keep in mind that graduate school is not undergrad 2.0. (In fact, it just might be better…) You will be expected to behave as an independent and responsible adult.

While you may receive reminders from time to time from the registrar’s office, student financial services, or other campus administrators, faculty and staff will not be checking in with you. Do not rely on others to remind you about your academic requirements, your financial responsibilities, or other policies that govern your student experience.

So take the initiative. Read the fine print. Ask for clarification if you need it. And take ownership of your graduate school journey.

Believe in yourself

It may be clichéd, but it’s true: believe in yourself.

Joining a community of graduate students can be intimidating. Cohorts are small, and the admission process is most always more selective than at the undergraduate level. This means you are now rubbing elbows with some very capable, driven, committed, intelligent, enthusiastic, motivated, opinionated, and goal-oriented fellow students who are ready and willing to do what it takes to succeed.

But always remember: you were admitted to that stellar academic community too. The admission committee saw in you what it did in your classmates. Do not be intimidated. Be confident of your talents and abilities, as well as your ideas. Learn from those around you, but do not allow yourself to feel inferior or that you do not also have something to contribute. Stay true to your goals and to following what is important to you—and you’ll be successful in grad school by any measure.

Continue to look for financial assistance

Do not stop looking for scholarships, grants, and other funding opportunities. Check with your academic department once each quarter/semester/term to see if any additional fellowships or assistantships have been approved. Ask the financial aid office if there are any new scholarships available. Find out if any work-study positions have opened up on campus that are conducive to your schedule. Search online for outside funding opportunities. You may want to schedule a specific time every few weeks to research this.

Take advantage of the career placement office

Some graduate students may already have their future employment confirmed when they begin their studies. Most do not. That is why there is a career placement office on campus. Take advantage of its resources right from the start. Do not wait until six months before graduation to reach out. The staff is ready, willing, and able to assist you with a host of services, including résumé preparation, mock interviews, information on potential employers, “meet the recruiters” and job fair events on campus, and so much more. Take this service seriously. After all, you are paying for it.

Resist the temptation to *ahem* cut corners

With the demanding schedule of grad school, it can be tempting to be unethical in some way—plagiarizing, embellishing, lying. You do not need to do this! And it’s certainly not worth risking your future over.

Your success in life ultimately depends on conducting yourself with honesty and integrity. Early on in my career someone said to me, “Don’t do something today that you’d be uncomfortable reading as a news headline tomorrow.” This advice has served me well. It has been sad for me to watch students with great promise throw their futures away because of a momentary lapse in judgment, making a decision to cheat, embellish, or falsely cite someone else’s work as their own. The temptation is definitely there, so do not be hard on yourself if you experience a thought about being dishonest. You are human. Anyone with an ounce of integrity would readily acknowledge that they have been tempted to engage in some sort of wrongdoing. But as they say, “Just say no!”

One other piece of advice: if you do engage in wrongdoing and are found out, come clean right away. Own up to what you did and admit that you were wrong. There will be a consequence, but whoever has to decide that consequence will be far more sympathetic toward the student who comes clean than the one who refuses to acknowledge the truth about their actions.

Do not stop having fun

As previously noted, the pressures of graduate school can be great. There is endless studying, numerous deadlines, a desire to get good grades, preparation for career next steps, financial concerns, and more. But it is important—critical, even—that you take time to relax and do things that are fun and enjoyable.

Take a break. Go out for a bite to eat. Take in a movie or theater performance. Attend a sporting event. Do some volunteer work. Get away for the weekend. There were times in my graduate school journey when just taking a walk along Lake Michigan was extremely beneficial. The bottom line is, do not forget that all work and no play is not a good way to operate.

Do not forget important relationships outside the classroom

Similar to the point above, take time to maintain, strengthen, and build personal relationships. Perhaps you have a spouse, partner, significant other, children, or even a close circle of friends who are part of your graduate school experience. Remember that they too are affected by all of this. Be appreciative of their willingness to support you and make sacrifices so you can do what you are doing. Make time for these important individuals. Let them participate in your student life experience, perhaps by bringing them to a social event at the institution. And be mindful of not taking advantage of them.

Be willing to sacrifice as well. I know whereof I speak: I was a newlywed when I started my master’s degree program. There were times when my marriage needed to take precedence over my life as a student. Balancing things was not always easy, and I did not always get it right. But that did not stop me from trying to balance my academic and personal life.

Do not obsess about grades or the ranking of your institution

Success in life is not directly correlated with one’s grade point average or with the ranking/prestige of his/her institution. Employers are going to be most interested in who you are and how strong a match they believe you are to what they are looking for. Believe me, while academic performance is a consideration, it is not the final deal maker or breaker by any means.

Also, grad school rankings will definitely fluctuate; they rarely stay the same. Again, what you bring to the table and the prerogative you show in gaining relevant experience outweigh your school’s slot in the “best of midwest” rankings. Focus on doing your best work, and do so with integrity. Work hard and be confident of yourself and of your abilities.

Change things up if you need to

Do you need to take some time off from grad school? Move from full-time to part-time or visa versa? Stop your program of study entirely? Life is unpredictable and can take us down unexpected paths without warning. Attending graduate school does not prevent the vicissitudes of life from occurring.

There may be times when you are forced to think about changing your grad school plans. These situations could include a financial crisis, medical emergency, academic difficulties, loss of loved one, a relationship change, new job opportunity, etc. In my case, I deferred my enrollment at both my master’s and doctoral institutions because of an unexpected employment opportunity. I changed my date of completion while enrolled at both institutions, once again, due to unexpected employment offers. My doctoral course completion plan was also affected when I went through an unexpected personal crisis.

If you need to change your plans, do so. It may result in having to take a longer period of time to complete your degree. But do not lose focus. Be patient and do what you have to do to take care of yourself and manage your responsibilities. The administrators at your institution have worked with many graduate students whose plans needed to change. They will work with you to help determine the best way to proceed.

If grad school isn’t working out…

You may be considering withdrawing permanently from your graduate program. Perhaps it’s not what you wanted or expected, despite your best attempts to make sure it was. Or your personal situation has evolved in such a way that grad school is simply not an option. Or you discovered that your course of study is just not a match.

This can be quite disappointing. You were moving in one direction, feeling confident that grad school was the right thing to do, and now you are coming to believe that it is not. You may have even made drastic changes in your personal and professional life to facilitate your goals. But please realize that this is a common occurrence and nothing to be ashamed about.

As you consider withdrawing from grad school, speak with any loved ones who will be affected. In addition, speak with the administrators at your institution and perhaps a trusted friend and/or therapist. Make sure you have covered all the bases and thought things through clearly and carefully before making your decision.

If you do withdraw permanently, you do so with the knowledge that you started graduate school believing it was the right thing. When you realized it was not, you did what you needed to do. You can also withdraw knowing that many others have done the exact same thing—and have been just fine. Finally, you will never have to wonder, “What if I’d taken the chance and gone to grad school?”

Always remember: this too shall pass.

For better or worse, nothing lasts forever and no condition is permanent. There will be days when you will have second thoughts about your decision to pursue graduate study. You will encounter difficulties along the way. People will challenge you. Your personal life will have its ups and downs. You will feel tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged at times. But know this: you are not alone. This is normal. It is part of the graduate school experience, and it too shall pass!

I know of very few who look back on their graduate school experience with regret or even with a sense that it took too long. When I sat with my fellow students on graduation day, I could not believe how fast the time had gone. All the hard work had paid off. It will for you too. Hang in there, do not lose heart, and do your best to follow that age-old suggestion to take things one day at a time. I often say, “Just today.” That is all you have. You cannot go back and you cannot fast forward. Just take each day as it comes. You will get though this without a doubt.

You can do it; I did

Upon learning of my decision to pursue graduate study, a family member expressed major concerns that I was making a big mistake. However, the complete opposite occurred. Master’s and then doctoral study literally opened my eyes and my mind. I learned to think for myself, to trust and express myself intellectually, to carry on a debate, to disagree, to speak my mind, and to step outside my comfort zone.

Starting graduate school was exciting, yet, at the same time, daunting. For the first time in my life I was interacting with students and faculty members who were challenging me to think, learn, and be comfortable with the idea that there may not be an answer for everything…or that there may be more than one answer for the same question. I felt like a sponge, asking the question “Why?” more than anything else. At times I felt empowered, confused, discouraged, angry, and exhilarated. But most of all I felt free. The world of knowledge lay at my feet, and I took hold with everything I could muster. What a ride!

Upon applying for both graduate and postgraduate study, I had to do some extra work to get admitted. In the case of my master’s degree, I was asked to complete extra undergraduate course work in math and science. In the case of my doctoral program, I was initially denied admission. However, I contacted the admission office and was given a chance to provide additional information to the committee, which resulted in my being admitted. How grateful I am for the opportunities that were given to me to pursue educational goals and prove myself.

These opportunities emerged because I sought them and worked hard. Today I have over 35 years of successful and rewarding work in higher education as part of my life experience. I did it, not without difficulty, pain, loss, disappointment, or unexpected delays. But I did it, and you can too. If I can, anybody can!

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” — Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States, 1872-1933

Orientation for New Graduate Students

Welcome to Tennessee Tech University!

For those of you who are going to be graduate students here at Tech, this post is full of resources to help guide you along the path of graduate school.

First of all, make sure to come to the New Graduate Student Orientation on August 19th in Derryberry Hall Auditorium (Second Floor) from 4pm to 6:30pm.   If you haven’t already, please RSVP for orientation HERE.

During orientation, you will not only be able to meet fellow grad students in the program, but you will also meet the faculty and staff who will help support you on your journey. The orientation is designed to help familiarize you to campus and student resources as well as Cookeville as a whole. Come and learn about the resources available to you as grad students, ask questions, pick up your parking passes, meet your classmates, and eat great food.  If you’re new to Tennessee Tech or not, you will be glad you came!

The following information covers all of the important links and reminders for new graduate students.

Checklist and Reminders for New Students

Things to Do

  1. Financial Aid: Make sure all paperwork is in order.
  2. Graduate Assistantship: Applications can be found at https://www.tntech.edu/graduatestudies/stipend.php
  3. Student Email Account: Sign in, it’s the main method of contact by the university.
  4. Advisement: Contact the person listed on your Certificate of Admission.
  5. Register: Login to Eagle online and register for courses.
  6. Parking permit: Get a permit if you will be parking on campus. (You can pick these up at orientation.)
  7. Complete Admission Requirements: If you lack any requirements for admission, it will be indicated on your Certificate of Admission. All admission requirements must be meet by the end of the first semester or a registration hold will be placed on your account.
  8. Advisory Committee: Start thinking about which faculty members you want.
  9. Forms & Calendar: Go to the Graduate Studies website and click on the Online Forms link and Graduate Student Calendar link to familiarize yourself with important forms and dates.
  10. International students: Check in with the International Education office.

Things to Be Aware of

  1. Permissible Loads: There are limits in some situations.
  2. Grades: Know what grades are required to avoid dismissal or probation.
  3. Program of Study and Admission to Candidacy forms: You’ll need to file one by the end of the semester in which you will earn 15 credit hours of graduate level courses. Failure to turn in your program of study by this time will result in a registration hold.
  4. Admission to Candidacy: Find out what the process is for your degree.
  5. Changes: Learn how to make changes and the proper forms to use.
  6. Degree Completion Time Limits: Six consecutive years to complete a master’s or specialist in education; eight consecutive years to complete a doctorate.
  7. Comprehensive Exam: Learn about your department and degree’s comprehensive exam (when, where, and how).
  8. Thesis/Dissertation: TTU has a specific format for theses and dissertations. Attend a workshop before you begin writing.
  9. Graduation: You must apply for graduation in the semester you plan to complete your degree. All applications are due by the published deadline posted on our Graduate Student Calendar by semester.

Other Academic Links:

Graduate Student Handbook

Student Affairs

Graduate Student Calendar

Graduate Studies Faculty Contact Info

Tennessee Tech News

Campus Resources

Campus Map

Tennessee Tech Library

Health Services

Dining Options

Fitness Center

Other Student Resources

Cookeville Links

Restaurants

Recreation

Cookeville Events

Graduate School Survival Guide

A guide for entering graduate students written by Wanda Pratt, University of Washington

Getting the most out of the relationship with your research advisor or boss

Meet regularly. You should insist on meeting once a week or at least every other week because it gives you motivation to make regular progress and it keeps your advisor aware of your work.

Prepare for your meetings. Come to each meeting with:

  • List of topics to discuss
  • Plan for what you hope to get out of the meeting
  • Summary of what you have done since your last meeting
  • List of any upcoming deadlines
  • Notes from your previous meeting

E-mail him/her a brief summary of EVERY meeting. This helps avoid misunderstandings and provides a great record of your research progress. Include (where applicable):

  • Time and plan for next meeting
  • New summary of what you think you are doing
  • To-do list for yourself
  • To-do list for your advisor
  • List of related work to read
  • List of major topics discussed
  • List of what you agreed on
  • List of advice that you may not follow

Show your advisor the results of your work as soon as possible. This will help your advisor understand your research and identify potential points of conflict early in the process.

  • Summaries of related work
  • Anything you write about your research
  • Experimental results

Communicate clearly. If you disagree with your advisor, state your objections or concerns clearly and calmly. If you feel something about your relationship is not working well, discuss it with him or her. Whenever possible, suggest steps they could take to address your concerns.

Take the initiative. You do not need to clear every activity with your advisor. He/she has a lot of work to do too. You must be responsible for your own research ideas and progress.

Getting the most out of what you read

Be organized.

  • Keep an electronic bibliography with notes and pointers to the paper files.
  • Keep and file all the papers you have read or skimmed.

Be efficient. Only read what you need to

  • Start by reading only the conclusion, scanning figures and tables, and looking at their references.
  • Read the other sections only if the paper seems relevant or you think it may help you get a different perspective.
  • Skip the sections that you already understand (often the background and motivation sections).

Take notes on every paper you find worth reading.

  • What problem are they trying to solve?
  • What is their approach?
  • How is it different from other approaches?

Summarize what you have read on each topic. After you have read several papers covering some topic, note the:

  • Key problems
  • Various formulations of the problem they are addressing
  • Relationship among the various approaches
  • Alternative approaches

Read PhD theses. Even though they are long they can be very helpful in quickly learning about what has been done in some fields. Especially focus on:

  • Background sections
  • Method sections
  • Your advisor’s thesis

This will give you an idea for what he/she expects from you.

Making continual progress on your research

Keep a journal of your ideas. Write down everything you are thinking about even if you think it is stupid. It will help you keep track of your progress and keep you from going in circles. Do not plan to share it with anyone, so you can write freely.

Set some reasonable goals with deadlines

  • Identify key tasks that need to be completed.
  • Set a reasonable date for completing them (on the order of weeks or months).
  • Share this with your advisor or enlist your advisor’s help in creating the goals and deadlines.
  • Set some deadlines that you must keep (e.g., volunteer to give a student seminar on your research, work toward a conference paper submission deadline, etc.).

Keep a to-do list. Checking off things on a to-do list can feel very rewarding when you are working on a long-term project.

  • List the small tasks that can be done in about an hour.
  • Pick at least one that has to be completed each day.

Continually update your:

  • Problem statement
  • Goals
  • Approach (or a list of possible approaches)
  • One-minute version of your research (aka the elevator ride summary)
  • Five-minute version of your research

Discuss your research with anyone who will listen. Use your fellow students, friends, family, etc., to practice discussing your research on various levels. They may have useful insights, or you may find that verbalizing your ideas clarifies them for yourself.

Write about your work.

  • Early stage: Write short idea papers and share them with your advisor and colleagues.
  • Intermediate stage: Find workshops and conferences for submitting preliminary results. This can also help you set deadlines.
  • Advanced stage: Target relevant journals.

Avoid distractions. It is easy to ignore your research in favor of more structured tasks such as taking classes, teaching classes, organizing student activities, etc. Minimize these kinds of activities or commitments.

Confront your fears and weaknesses.

  • If you are afraid of public speaking, volunteer to give lots of talks.
  • If you are afraid your ideas are stupid, discuss them with someone.
  • If you are afraid of writing, write something about your research every day.

Balance reading, writing, and hacking. Often research needs to be an iterative process across all of those tasks.

Finding a thesis topic or formulating a research plan

Pick something you find interesting. If you work on something solely because your advisor wants you to, it will be difficult to stay motivated.

Pick something your advisor finds interesting. If your advisor doesn’t find it interesting he/she is unlikely to devote much time to your research. He/she will be even more motivated to help you if your project is on their critical path.

Pick something the research community will find interesting if you want to make yourself marketable.

Make sure it addresses a real problem.

Remember that your topic will evolve as you work on it.

Pick something that is narrow enough that it can be done in a reasonable time frame.

Have realistic expectations.

Don’t worry that you will be stuck in this area for the rest of your career. It is very likely that you will be doing very different research after you graduate.

Characteristics to look for in a good advisor, mentor, boss, or committee member

It is unreasonable to expect one person to have all of the qualities you desire. You should choose thesis committee UCLA Graduate Student Orientation Handbook 21 members who are strong in the areas where your advisor is weak.

  • Willing to meet with you regularly
  • You can trust him/her to:
    • Give you credit for the work you do
    • Defend your work when you are not around
    • Speak well of you and your capabilities
    • Tell you when your work is or is not good enough
    • Help you graduate in a reasonable time frame
    • Look out for you professionally and personally
  • Is interested in your topic
  • Has good personal and communication skills
    • Lets you talk freely and easily about research ideas
    • Tells you when you are doing something stupid
    • Is patient
    • Never feels threatened by your capabilities
    • Helps motivate you and keep you unstuck
  • Has good technical skills
    • Can provide constructive criticism of papers you write or talks you give
    • Knows if what you are doing is good enough for a good thesis
    • Can help you figure out what you are not doing well
    • Can help you improve your skills
    • Can suggest related articles to read or people to talk to
    • Can tell you or help you discover if what you are doing has already been done
    • Can help you set and obtain reasonable goals
  • Will be around until you finish
  • Is well respected in his/her field
  • Has good connections for the type of job you would want when you graduate
  • Willing and able to provide financial and computing support

Avoiding the research blues

When you meet your goals, reward yourself.

Don’t compare yourself to senior researchers who have many more years of work and publications.

Don’t be afraid to leave part of your research problem for future work.

Exercise.

Use the student counseling services.

Occasionally, do something fun without feeling guilty!

Other resources

Books

Getting What You Came For by Robert L. Peters. This book contains a lot of helpful advice on getting the most out of the Ph.D. process. The sections on writing and giving presentations are particularly helpful.

The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil Fiore. Since one of the biggest problems in finishing a PhD is procrastination, this book should be helpful to those of you who actually get around to reading it.

Web sites

How to Succeed in Graduate School, by Marie desJardins; the best source of advice! www.cs.umbc.edu/~mariedj/papers/advice-summary.html

Graduate Student Resources on the Web, pointers to lots of other good web pages related to graduate life in general. www-personal.umich.edu/~danhorn/graduate.html

How to Create the Best Living Situation in Graduate School

Many students fret over their classes and professors, but forget one very important variable: if you’re unhappy at home, you’ll be unhappy in the classroom. This part of the higher education equation was easier during undergrad because the school did much of the thinking for you: they chose your tiny room and roommate in the campus dormitory. In graduate school, you are encouraged to think about which living situation would be best for you: a house or apartment with roommates, living alone, or living with family.

Calculate your budget early so you know what your living expenses will be. This number may dictate whether you have roommates and where you can live.

If the cost is too great and your family is located near your college or university, you may opt to live with them during your graduate schools studies (especially if you cannot work while going to school). This is a good option for those who have a solid relationship with their family, where there is mutual respect of space and time. You will need a place to complete assignments without distractions, so if your younger brother drops down from the top bunk onto your bed while you’re working, you may want to find an alternative.

It’s important to really understand yourself and your preferred lifestyle. At this point in your life, you have likely lived alone and with others. Which did you find more fulfilling? Some students crave the interaction with other students, so they choose to find roommates within their program. Others prefer to live with someone who isn’t even a student, so when they return home from classes they will not hear any school talk. Others know that they will not be tolerant of roommates, so they choose to live alone.

Consider living solo. Graduate students keep erratic schedules, sometimes working before sunrise or long after a reasonable bedtime. Teaching assistantships require patience and flexible schedules for students who need extra instruction. You may be called on to complete some kind of research in a short amount of time, meaning you’ll be working non-stop until it is finished. When you live alone, you don’t have to worry about inconveniencing others with your schedule. If you do choose to live with others, keep your workload in mind as you look for roommates. If and when you are finding people to live with, make sure they understand your schedule and work out a way to live and study that everyone, including you, can tolerate.

If you’re choosing to live in an apartment while you study, start the hunt for your place early. Be diligent about checking online for new listings and reply immediately when you find a possible fit. Ask your campus housing office about the on-campus possibilities, whether the school lists available off-campus apartments, and if there’s a roommate finder service.

In the end, your housing should work well with your lifestyle and complement your studies. Create a situation that will help you ace your classes.

20 Reasons to Go to Graduate School

In some disciplines, having a graduate degree is a necessity for getting a “career” job. That does not mean you should dive right in immediately after completing your undergrad degree. Just make sure you have a good reason for going. Some of the reasons below are more valid than others, but they are all common reasons for which people attend grad schools.

1.  Greater earning power. This is a popular reason why people go to grad school. However, it should not be the only reason, since getting a grad degree is a very serious commitment.

2.  Advance your career. A grad degree can open up a wider array of career opportunities: in psychology, social work, healthcare, for example.

3.  Career change. Many people are finding their current careers unrewarding. An advanced degree can help transition to another career—whether out of desire or necessity.

4.  Enhance your education. Graduate schools can provide opportunities to explore theories you may have about a topic.

5.  Get community recognition. If you explore your theories and discover something new, you will get recognition for it.

6.  Get international recognition. Carry that recognition further. If your discovery is truly groundbreaking, you may receive international recognition, not to mention awards. Who knows? Maybe you have a Nobel prize within you.

7.  Get research opportunities. Even if you do not get to explore your own theories, there are other opportunities to participate in funded research.

8.  Upgrade your education. Your knowledge of your field is outdated and you find it difficult to keep up with advancements without following up and getting an advanced degree.

9.  Enjoy travel opportunities. Some programs, such as archaeology, require studying abroad for research purposes. For those who like to travel, this is a bonus.

10.  Find teaching opportunities. Not everyone is suited to teaching, but for those who are, getting a PhD can lead to a tenured position at a university or college, with a nice salary, a teaching or research assistant to help with workload, consulting opportunities (partly shared with your department), and a nice pension upon retirement.

11.  Work on advanced projects. For example, the computer scientists who delved early into computer graphics set the standards for much of the CGI technology used in movies today.

12.  Access to advanced equipment and tools. In a similar vein, entering a grad program could mean having access to advanced equipment on campus—such as the astronomy lab, supercomputers, rare books, and even great minds.

13.  Higher potential for future promotion. While obtaining a graduate degree does not necessarily always lead to a high-paying job right away, it can open up opportunities for future promotions.

14.  Not being stuck behind a desk. If you have the necessary education to qualify for a high-ranking position in your chosen industry, it means that you often have the option of not sitting behind a desk all day. You might go meet colleagues or clients, travel, or even play golf in the afternoon on a nice day.

15.  Employer incentives. Some large corporations have funds set aside that will pay partial or full fees for qualified employees.

16.  Be part of a chain of knowledge. This doesn’t tickle everyone’s fancy, but just imagine that the knowledge handed to you by your professor came from another professor who learned it from someone who learned it from a famous scientist or philosopher. You become part of a chain of knowledge.

17.  Because you want to. To learn, to think critically, to accept the academic challenge.

18.  To stand out. By attending grad school and completing a degree, you join an elite segment of the population.

19.  Free tuition. In some cases, grad schools might not only waive your tuition, but also give you a stipend for living expenses in return for taking on the work of a teaching assistant or research assistant.

20.  Realization of interest. Not everyone realizes during undergraduate studies that they are suited for grad studies. Some of your professors might recommend it to you and offer to supervise—with tuition waived and a research assistant position to cover expenses.

Expert Grad School Financial Aid Tips You Need to Know

Worried about paying for grad school? Read this first. A grad school insider shares his top tips for making smart financial decisions.

Of all the challenges graduate students face, paying for grad school is right up there.

When I served as a Dean of Enrollment and Dean of Students, many of the issues students brought to me during my weekly open office hours centered on their grad school finances. Many had simply not taken time to think through the financial responsibilities they were assuming in pursuing a graduate education.

While graduate school is expensive, it can be made affordable by taking time to plan, conduct research, and think outside the box.

Here are a few tips for grad school financial aid tips and best practices that have been extremely helpful to students over the years.

Ask yourself the right questions about your finances

Before you even start your grad school search, you need to ask yourself a few critical questions about the financial implications:

  • If you already have some debt, how comfortable are you taking on more? If you have no outstanding debt, how much are you comfortable borrowing?
  • Should you spend another year or two paying down your debt and/or saving money for grad school—and giving yourself more time to prepare for grad school and really check out all of your graduate school options?
  • Have you researched the potential ROI of your graduate degree, including the job prospects and estimated salaries for your intended post-grad career?
  • Have you considered the financial consequences of going to grad school in their totality, including both the estimated costs of the program and potential loss of income if you need to take any time off from work?

Research your grad school’s financial aid options—ASAP

When researching graduate school, spend as much time looking at the financial aid each program offers as you do any other facet of the school. Do not wait until you are admitted to find this information. Why? Because some institutions offer scholarships or fellowships you apply for when you submit your application for admission. If you wait to research graduate financial aid until you are admitted, you have lost out on the opportunity to be considered for these scholarships and fellowships—not to mention impaired your ability to make more informed application decisions.

Check your credit score

Much like with other big-ticket purchases, like a house or car, your credit score can have a serious impact on your ability to pay for grad school. Check your credit score before submitting your grad school applications and try to amend any issues. Problems with your financial record might delay your ability to receive graduate financial aid and/or qualify for student loans, if needed. And by the time things are resolved, it could be too late.

Explore job opportunities at your grad school

Consider working at your graduate school, part or full time, if at all possible. You could even work with/for a faculty member in your department. (I did this for both my master’s and doctoral programs, and the experience, not to mention the financial help, was invaluable.)

Working for your grad school, you can help defray the costs with your earnings, improve your employability by adding relevant work to your résumé, or, depending on the position, perhaps even take advantage of an employee tuition discount. Another tip for you: grad schools love to hire their students!

Don’t stop after you enroll

Keep asking for financial assistance and searching for graduate grants and scholarships after you enroll. There could be additional sources of financial aid that become available once you are there. Toward the end of each term, stop by the graduate financial aid office and ask if there are any new scholarships available; if so, ask what you can do to apply for them and be a competitive applicant.

There is a major myth that graduate school is always too expensive and, therefore, impossible to attain. This is usually not the case. With adequate planning ahead of time and a dedicated pursuit of funding opportunities once admitted and enrolled, it is possible to finance your graduate education.

How to Study for the GRE

You can’t cram for the GRE test. By and large, the exam is a test of patterns, not facts, so if you want to raise your GRE score, you will need sufficient time to practice. We suggest you devote between 4 and 12 weeks to GRE preparation.

1. Find your baseline

Your baseline score is the score you would receive if you took the GRE today. Before you make a study plan, take a full-length GRE practice test under the same testing environment as the real thing. The results will guide your prep by showing you which content areas you need to focus on the most.

2. Determine your target GRE score

You’ve probably started making a list of the graduate programs that interest you. Compare your practice test score against the average GRE scores of the most recent incoming class to each program (find this information on the school website or in our grad school profiles). Your target score is one that would put you at or above the average for the schools on your wishlist.

3. Make a plan to close the gap

Whether you choose a prep courseonline program, or a test prep book, you need a smart prep plan that will hold you accountable and give you the results you need. With a little research you’ll find the right environment for you.

4. Practice for technique

Focus on how you approach each question while taking practice tests and drills. If you focus on just the results, you do nothing more than reinforce the way you are taking the test right now. The techniques you use and the way you solve a problem are what help you get better at taking the GRE.

5. Mimic real GRE conditions

Paper-and-pencil tests can help you practice concepts and test-taking strategies, but they do not adapt to your performance like the real GRE. Make sure you budget online practice into your study schedule to help prepare you for the computer-based test experience.

6. Review your results

Always review your performance after taking GRE practice exams. What kinds of questions do you consistently miss? What question types do you tend to ace, and which ones slow you down?

This is where access to a GRE tutor can really give you a leg up. Test prep is only partly about mastering content—it’s also about your pacing and test-taking skills. To be completely prepared, sit down with a coach to review your performance on practice exams and make a smart plan to meet your GRE score goal.

7. Build up your GRE vocabulary

Vocab is still an important part of the GRE Verbal sections. You can absorb many of the words that will show up on the GRE by reading respected publications such as academic journals or some of the more highbrow newspapers and magazines. When you come across new words on practice tests or practice problems, add them to your list. They have been used before on the GRE and they may very well be used again. Check out our GRE Power Vocab  book for lists and drills.

8. Practice with and without a calculator

A calculator is provided for you on the GRE as part of the on-screen display, and can be a huge advantage if used correctly! But the calculator can also be a liability. Figure out when using a calculator makes you more accurate, and when you’re better off learning the rules of a key math concept.

MAT vs. GRE: Which Should You Take?

The GRE and MAT are both exams taken by people who plan on attending grad school, but the GRE is significantly better known. If you’ve heard of the MAT, you may know that it’s a shorter and cheaper grad school admissions test that includes only one type of question you need to study for. Is the MAT your solution to a less stressful and cheaper test-taking experience? Don’t get too excited just yet — there’s more to know about the MAT.

In this guide, I’ll give an overview of what the MAT is and what its questions are like then compare and contrast that information with the GRE. I’ll then explain which exam is considered easier and walk you through the MAT vs. GRE decision so you can be certain you’re making the best choice for grad school.

What Is the MAT?

There are multiple exams with the acronym “MAT” so before we go any further, let’s first be clear on which test we’re talking about. In this guide, “MAT” refers to the Miller Analogies Test. The Miller Analogies Test is the exam most closely related to the GRE, and it’s the exam likely being discussed in any article with a title like “MAT vs. GRE” or “GRE or MAT.”

The MAT is a standardized test that measures your ability to solve analogies, and it’s used mainly for graduate school admissions. The MAT was created about 50 years ago as an IQ test to measure the test taker’s analytical thinking skills. It’s administered by Pearson Assessments. In the following sections, we’ll dive more in-depth into the format and content of the MAT, as well as the GRE.

An Overview of the MAT

The MAT contains 120 questions and is 60 minutes long. The MAT is designed to test higher-level thinking skills, analytical thinking, and general academic knowledge accumulated over years of schooling. All of the questions on the MAT are partial analogies that you must complete.Below is a set of five sample questions so that you can get a sense of what to expect from this exam.

MAT questions
The correct answers are 1.b, 2.a, 3.d, 4.a, and 5.d

There are no separate sections on the MAT, and you’ll take the entire exam in one sitting, without breaks. Twenty of the questions (you won’t know which ones) are unscored questions used only for research, so you’ll only be graded on 100 questions. Like many other standardized tests, the MAT is computer-based, so you won’t take it with pencil and paper.

An Overview of the GRE

Like the MAT, people take the GRE as part of grad school admissions. The GRE has three major sections: Analytical Writing, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning.

  • Analytical Writing consists of two essays, each of which you’ll be given 30 minutes to write.
  • Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Reasoning each have two 20-question sections, for a total of 80 multiple-choice questions.
  • The GRE will also include one 20-question research section which won’t be included as part of your score. This will be either a Verbal or Quantitative section, but you won’t know which section is the research section.

You can learn more about the GRE, its format, and what it tests by checking out our complete guide to the GRE.

MAT vs. GRE: 12 Key Differences

Even though they are both used for grad school applications, there are numerous differences between the MAT and GRE. Below are 12 of the main ways in which they differ, and at the end of this section is a chart showing key differences between the GRE and MAT.

#1: Length

The MAT is significantly shorter than the GRE. The GRE lasts 3 hours and 45 minutes and includes six sections for a total of two essays and 100 multiple-choice questions. The MAT, in comparison, lasts 60 minutes and includes 120 questions.

#2: Sections

The MAT also has fewer sections compared to the GRE. The GRE includes six sections covering three main topic areas. You’ll begin by writing two essays, then alternate between Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections for the rest of the exam. All the Verbal and Quant questions will be multiple choice. The MAT has only one section with questions on different subjects ordered randomly within it.

#3: Structure

Both the MAT and GRE contain multiple types of questions, although only the GRE separates these questions into multiple sections. There are three types of sections on the GRE: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning.

  • Analytical Writing tests writing and critical reasoning skills.
  • Verbal Reasoning measures your skills in analyzing and drawing conclusions from written excerpts, identifying main points in texts, summarizing passages, and understanding the meaning of words, sentences, and complete passages.
  • Quantitative Reasoning tests skills in algebra, arithmetic, data analysis, and geometry.

As mentioned above, all the questions on the MAT are analogies that you need to complete; however, the analogies test your knowledge of a variety of topics such as humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and mathematics. There are four main analogy types.

  • Semantic: Focus mainly on word definitions.
  • Classification: Focus on the hierarchy of words and concepts.
  • Association: Deals with relationships between two distinct ideas.
  • Logical/Mathematical: Include equations or other math-related problems to solve.

#4: Time Per Question

The MAT is shorter and has fewer questions, but you’ll have to move through those questions faster. You’ll have an average of 30 seconds for each MAT question. GRE questions, on the other hand, are usually more involved and can involve solving complicated math problems or reading passages that are several paragraphs long. You’ll have an average of about 1 minute and 40 seconds to answer each multiple choice question.

#5: Emphasis on Verbal vs Math

The MAT is more heavily weighted towards verbal questions, so you’ll have fewer math questions to answer compared to the GRE. Of the four MAT question categories only one, Logical/Mathematical, asks math questions, so over half the exam will focus on Verbal questions. The GRE, on the other hand, has two sections each of both Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning questions, and scores from the two areas are weighted the same, so the GRE has more of an emphasis on math compared to the MAT.

#6: Verbal Passages

The verbal questions of the two exams test some similar skills, but on the GRE you’ll need to read and interpret multiple short passages, while on the MAT you will only have the analogy questions with no additional reading.

This means that verbal questions on the GRE focus more on critical reading skills, and your ability to analyze and summarize written passages, while verbal questions on the MAT focus more on “smaller picture” topics like word definitions and analyzing phrases compared to long passages.

#7: Essays

You won’t need to write any essays on the MAT, although you will be asked questions that relate to parts of speech and forming clear sentences. On the GRE you’ll need to write two complete essays: Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument. You’ll have 30 minutes to plan and write each essay.

#8: Calculator vs No Calculator

On the MAT, you won’t be able to use a calculator, but you can use one on parts of the GRE.On the GRE, you’ll have access to an on-screen computer during the Quantitative Reasoning sections. To learn more about how to use the GRE calculator, check out our in-depth guide. You won’t have access to a computer during the MAT, and all questions can be solved without one.

#9: Availability

Because the GRE is much more popular, it has many more test centers and dates available than the MAT does. To register for the GRE, you’ll first need to create an account on the ETS website. Once you do that, you can find the test centers closest to you and choose a location, date and time to take the exam. The GRE is offered year-round at numerous test centers in the US and around the world.

There are approximately 500 test centers (mostly in the United States) that offer the MAT, and you can see the full list of them on Pearson’s website. Each test center sets its own schedule for the MAT, and many only offer it a few times a year or less, so it can be more difficult to find a location and time that work for you if you take the MAT. You’ll need to contact test centers directly to learn when they are offering the MAT.

#10: Cost

The MAT will typically be cheaper than the GRE, although you’ll have to do some research to figure out exactly what the MAT costs. It costs $205 to take the GRE, and this fee includes four free score reports to send to schools. Nearly all grad programs accept GRE scores. Each test center sets its own price for the MAT, so you would need to figure out where you’d want to take the test before you know when you can take it and how much it will cost. In order to register for the MAT, you’ll need to contact the specific test center directly (you can expect to pay around $100). The fee includes three free score reports.

#11: Scoring

After you take the GRE, you’ll receive three scores. The score range for Analytical Writing is 0-6, in half-point increments. Both of Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning are scored the same way. Their score range is 130-170, in one-point increments. The three section scores are generally reported separately and not combined into a single composite score. After you take the MAT, you’ll receive one score, between 200 and 600. The average score is 400.

#12: Schools That Accept Scores

The GRE is much more widely accepted than the MAT. The vast majority of grad school programs in the US and abroad accept GRE scores, so it’s likely that you can take the GRE and it’ll be accepted by all the schools you’re applying to. In comparison, the MAT is accepted by far fewer schools. These schools are mostly in the US and typically in humanities and social science programs. STEM grad programs usually don’t accept MAT scores.

 

MAT vs. GRE Comparison Table

MAT GRE
Length 60 minutes 3 hours and 45 minutes
Number of Essays 0 2
Number of Multiple-Choice Questions 100 + 20 unscored research questions 80 + 20 unscored research questions
Number of Sections 1 6 (Including an unscored research section)
Composite Scoring 200-600 Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning each have score ranges of 130-170 for a total score of 260-340
Cost Varies by test center $205
How Long Are Scores Valid? 5 years 5 years

 

Is the GRE or MAT Easier?

If you’re trying to decide between the MAT and GRE, a key question you’re probably asking is, which exam is easier? In this section we discuss the difficulty of the two exams.

3 Ways the MAT Is Easier

In the GRE vs. MAT debate, the MAT can seem like the obviously easier test; here are three factors that support that viewpoint.

Shorter Length

Most people find the format of the MAT to be easier than the GRE’s format. The MAT is a fraction of the length of the GRE, and there’s only one question type, analogies. The GRE lasts about four hours and includes multiple types of questions, even within individual sections. Many people find testing that long, as well as jumping between different question types through the test, difficult because it requires more concentration.

Easier Math Questions

The MAT places less of an emphasis on math, and its math questions are often easier to solve than most GRE Quantitative questions. You don’t need a calculator to solve any of them, and there are no complicated, multi-step math problems like there are on the GRE. Therefore, people who struggle with math will likely find the MAT’s math questions easier.

No Essays or Reading Passages

You don’t need to write essays or read long passages for the MAT, so people who have difficulties with that, such as non-native English speakers, may find the MAT easier.

 

3 Ways the GRE Is Easier

Despite its greater length and greater variety of question types, the GRE is easier for many test-takers. Here are three benefits of the GRE vs. MAT.

More Familiar Question Format

The way the MAT words its questions—as analogies—can be challenging for many people to understand, even if they know the material being tested, since many people are not super familiar with analogy questions and how to approach them.

GRE questions, on the other hand, are likely to be much closer to the questions you’ve had in school in terms of their format. This can make people feel more comfortable and confident answering them, even if they actually test more advanced skills, since it’s easier for test takers to understand what they’re asking and how to solve them.

Easier to Register For

Most people find the logistics of registering for the GRE faster and straightforward for the GRE compared to the MAT. The GRE has a very streamlined registration process, and it’s pretty much the same no matter where in the world you’re taking the exam. You can easily see where and when GREs are available and sign up quickly. Also, if you have questions, it’s easier to find the answer on ETS’s website or find the right place to contact.

The registration process for the MAT is much less centralized. Each test center has its own MAT policies so you’ll have to contact each center individually to find out when they are offering the MAT and how much they charge. This information is difficult to find online for most test centers, so you’ll likely need to find their contact information and call them. If there’s a problem with your registration or you have a question, you’ll again have to deal with the test center directly since Pearson doesn’t have a lot of troubleshooting help available for the MAT online.

More Schools Accept GRE Scores

Since the GRE is much more popular than the GRE, more grad programs accept GRE scores. The majority of grad programs don’t accept MAT scores, and there is no comprehensive list of the programs that do accept MAT scores available, so you’ll need to check with each program you’re interested in to see if they take MAT scores.

Also, while both tests allow you to choose a few schools to send scores to at the test center, it’s much easier to send additional score reports later on if you take the GRE since all you need to do is sign into your account online and follow a few steps. For the MAT, you’ll need to contact the test center where you took the test and follow their instructions for sending additional score reports.

1 Major Toss-Up

Despite the tests many differences, it’s not especially easier to prep for either the MAT or GRE.

How much you should (or even can) prepare for the two exams varies quite a bit. Preparation time for the MAT is often shorter than for the GRE, simply because it’s harder to study for the MAT. The MAT is an IQ test designed to test knowledge you’ve accumulated over years of schooling. Some studying can help, especially if you aren’t familiar with analogies, but it likely won’t make a massive difference in your score. The MAT is designed to test what you already know, and cramming for it won’t help a lot.

The GRE, on the other hand, is easier to study for, and a smart and targeted study plan can really raise your score from where it was initially. There are also far more GRE study materials available than MAT study materials.

So which is easier? Well, it depends. Test takers happy with their initial MAT score and/or those who don’t have the time or desire to study a lot will likely find the lack of preparation needed for the MAT easier, while those who want to raise their score and have the time to do so will find this easier with the GRE.

Should You Take the GRE or MAT?

Now it’s down to the big question: GRE or MAT? For nearly everyone, it’s best to take the GRE instead of the MAT. The GRE is much better known, it’s easier to find a test date and location that work for you, and it’s accepted by far more schools. In fact, most people applying to grad school probably won’t even have a choice between taking the GRE and the MAT since the majority of grad programs don’t accept MAT scores. This is especially true if you’re applying to STEM programs. However, there are a few situations where it may be better to take the MAT, which we discuss below.

Before You Go Any Further: Do the Programs You’re Applying to Accept MAT Scores?

Before you sign up for the MAT, you need to make sure that every grad program you’re applying to or thinking about applying to accepts MAT scores. If even one of them does not (which is likely), you should just take the GRE in order to avoid taking two completely different exams to apply to grad school. It’s accepted and understood by far more schools than the MAT is, so you’re not putting yourself at a potential disadvantage by taking a lesser-known test, which can be the case if you take the MAT.

As mentioned above, there is no master list of programs that accept MAT scores, so you’ll need to search the admission page for each program you’re interested in individually. Look under “Test Scores” or “Application Requirements.” If the program doesn’t mention MAT scores, that probably means it doesn’t accept them, but you can always contact someone in admissions to confirm it.

Potential Reasons to Take the MAT Over the GRE

Below are two reasons that may make you consider taking the MAT vs. GRE.

Reason 1: You’re Really Good at Analogies

Analogies are a tricky question type that some people understand right away and others never really feel comfortable with. If you’re one of the people who excel at analogies, you may score higher on the MAT than the GRE. You should check this by taking practice tests for each exam. There are free practice GREs available and Pearson offers practice MATs for $30 each.

Because the two exams use different scoring scales, you’ll need to compare them using percentiles (which tell you what percentage of other test-takers you scored above). Your practice MAT will give you percentile data, and you can check your GRE percentile here. Only if your MAT percentile is significantly higher than your GRE percentile (10 points or more) should you consider this a good reason to take the MAT.

Also remember that most people who take the GRE study beforehand to improve their score, so you’ll likely be able to raise an initially low GRE score.

Reason 2: You Strongly Prefer Shorter Tests

The MAT is both significantly shorter than the GRE and only has one question type. If you really struggle to focus for four hours and/or jump from writing an essay to solving a math problem to reading a passage of classic literature, you may score poorly on the GRE even if you know the information you’re being tested on. Like the first scenario, you should first confirm this through multiple practice tests before assuming that you can’t handle the GRE’s format.

One Last Thing to Consider

Even if every program you’re applying to does accept MAT scores, and you fit one or both of the situations described aboveyou should still think hard before taking the MAT over the GRE. There isn’t any data on how many people take the MAT each year, but in any case it’s only a tiny fraction of the number who take the GRE. Grad programs simply know and understand the GRE, what it tests, and what a particular score means much better than they understand the MAT.

If you submit MAT scores instead of GRE scores, admissions officers will likely have a much weaker understanding of what that score means about your skills and knowledge compared to if you’d submitted GRE scores. This can put you at a disadvantage, even if you scored well on the MAT. Your final step, before you decide to take the MAT, should be to contact someone from the admissions office of each of the grad programs you’re interested in and ask them if sending MAT scores instead of GRE scores will put you at a disadvantage. Only after you’ve gone through all the steps above and understood any potential drawbacks from individual programs should you decide to take the MAT over the GRE.

Summary: GRE vs. MAT

The MAT and GRE are both exams taken by people applying to grad schools, but there are a lot of differences between the two tests. The MAT is an IQ test that only includes analogy questions, and it’s much shorter than the GRE.

Many people may find the MAT easier since it’s shorter than the GRE and only contains one question type, but the GRE is easier to register for and includes questions more similar to those you were tested on in school. Additionally, the GRE is much more popular than the MAT and is accepted by many more grad programs.

In the MAT vs. GRE decision, the GRE is the best choice for almost everyone. You should only take the MAT if it’s accepted by all the programs you’re applying to and practice tests have shown you’ll score significantly higher on it.