MCAT. LSAT. GRE. GMAT. Just when you thought standardized tests were behind you, just a few letters seem to stand in the way of you and your dream career. Especially in these months of social distancing, take advantage of some of your extra time and focus on preparing for life AFTER quarantine. If you’re a rising college junior or senior beginning to think about what’s next, now is the time to make the most of your studying for these graduate level exams.
The good news is that each of these exams can be deconstructed and unlocked using intentional, targeted strategies for success. Sure, you may need to memorize a few flashcards or brush up on some math skills, but at its core, each test has its own unique language: the key is to become fluent in all of its nuances.
At Carnegie Prep, our test prep experts are here to help. We asked: What do students need to know about each test when crafting their study plan for this year, and how is this year different from past application cycles?
Your gateway to graduate school! Required by virtually all masters and PhD programs, and sometimes viewed as an “easier” version of the GMAT for aspiring business school students, the GRE is a popular test for postsecondary education. And although it doesn’t test anything beyond high school math and English, the GRE can be frustratingly slippery in the way it words its questions and answer choices.
Pro tip: do as many practice questions as you can get your hands on!
This year, the GRE is offered as an at-home, online exam that is identical to previous years’. The at-home version allows students to access an unofficial score at the end of their test, and students can cancel on the spot if they feel that it’s necessary. The use of an erasable whiteboard is allowed during the exam.
Another exam that doesn’t test anything beyond high school math and English, the GMAT is nonetheless extremely challenging. Its curve is notoriously difficult, particularly on the quantitative section, where missing just a few questions can drop you below the 90th percentile. Your preparations will require an optimal mix of content review, practice problems, and full-length diagnostic exams.
Pro tip: best to start early!
Under the current circumstances, the GMAT is offered as an at-home, online exam. This year’s GMAT also does not include an Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section. Otherwise, the timing and length of each section remains the same. Unlike the GRE, the use of an erasable whiteboard is also not allowed on this year’s exam.
In a way, the LSAT feels like two or three different tests wrapped in one, and this variety can make studying for the LSAT feel daunting. While some parts of the test may come naturally, other parts, most likely, will not. However, learning and internalizing the most effective strategies for attacking each of the LSAT’s sections makes it completely possible to turn test-taking weaknesses into strengths.
Pro tip: start early and practice!
Due to coronavirus, the LSAT is being administered as an online version of the test, called the LSAT-Flex. The LSAT-Flex is shorter, removing two sections (one of the logical reasoning sections and the experimental) from the full LSAT test. However, the number of questions per section, the amount of time to complete each section and the types/difficulty of the questions on the LSAT-Flex are identical to the in-person LSAT.
The MCAT used to be a “simple,” five-hour affair. Then, in 2015, it became a seven-hour behemoth that incorporates not only the physical sciences but also psychosocial topics and critical analysis. And now, things are changing again. The USMLE Step 1 board exam (which is taken in medical school) will be pass/fail starting in 2022, making it more difficult for medical students to differentiate themselves in their residency applications. As such, where you go to medical school matters even more, which means the MCAT takes on an outsized role in your path to becoming a doctor. It’s not enough to be “above average” — the overall acceptance rate to medical school is ~40%, and many students with above-average test scores end up on the waitlist.
Pro tip: this is one of those rare tests that you structure the rest of your schedule around!
This year, the MCAT has shortened the overall length of the test and reduced the time for its lunch break but has not reduced the scope of information covered! For tests administered between May 29 and September 28, 2020, the total length of the test is 5 hours and 45 minutes. More importantly, the pacing (time per question) has not been altered. Because of these factors, it is even more important than usual to take a structured approach to your practice tests.
From test prep to applications and essays, our team at Carnegie Prep is happy to guide you through the graduate school process.